I took a look at a game called King's Bounty. It wasn't a long look though; in fact I only made it to four screenshots before I realised that it wasn't my kind of thing and turned it off. I think I just wanted to show off the character select screen really and that was about the limit of my interest.
But since then I've learned that this game is actually a precursor to the long running Heroes of Might and Magic series as well as a new King's Bounty franchise. It even got a PS2 remake called Heroes of Might and Magic: Quest of the Dragon Bone staff. I know even less about HoMM than I do about King's Bounty so it's not like I can compare the games, but it's triggered my curiosity now; I want to know what this actually is.
So I present to you an idiot's guide to playing King's Bounty. Uh, I mean a guide to how an idiot plays King's Bounty. The game came out on PC, Genesis/Mega Drive, C64 and Amiga, and I'll be playing the Amiga game as I've heard that it's the better looking one.
But do I pick the bloke with the beard, the man with the moustache, the badass barbarian with black bin bags on his feet, or the dude with the dress?
I have no idea which one I went with the first time around but this time I'm choosing... 'D'. The Sega version gave each hero a predefined unchangeable name like Sir Crimsaun the Knight and Tynnestra the Sorceress, but on the Amiga version I can call them whatever I like, so I'm going to name my barbarian 'Christopher J. Axslaughterer III'.
I don't know if I should be relieved or concerned that they're performing godlike actions to make the game playable. I mean sure I love playable games, but the fact that it takes the intervention of the gods to make the thing even work is definitely raising a red flag.
Okay, I'm going to try something right now that apparently didn't even occur to me back in 2011, an advanced trick that I've picked up over my three years of being a rogue game critic. I'm going to CLICK on the buttons and see what they all do.
- The first one tells me that I have no contract, which seems to be something I'd want to have.
- Second button tells me that I command an army of 20 Wolves. Better than 0 Wolves for sure, but I think that's something I want to expand upon.
- Third button informs me that I have no magic and that I need to go visit the Archmage Aurange at 11,19 to learn spellcasting. Hopefully I'll be able to travel more than two steps without being told I need to learn horse riding as well.
- Fourth option brings up a grid of animated faces. I may never know why.
- And the last option shows my stats. I have leadership 100, 7500 gold, and I've got a current score of 0.
I requested an audience with the King to try to get some information about this whole '600 days left to save the Kingdom' thing, but he's refusing to help me until I catch a villain.
Well I can't afford the siege weapons any more after splashing out on troops, I can't cast spells and I've got no need of a boat, but I sure would like to get a nice new contract.
Alright then, a 5000 gold bounty sounds awesome. That's almost as much cash as I just spent on troops! Hey if this guy's wanted for treason, maybe this is the King's bounty. Well I don't see how capturing this guy is going to help me save the Kingdom, but it's something to do.
Walking into him triggered a yes/no screen asking me if I'd like to attack and giving me some info on his forces. My scouts assure me that he's got many Sprites, a few Wolves and a few Zombies. I'm hoping 'a few' is less than a hundred or else this fight is going to be kinda one-sided.
But in a shocking turn of events, my Pikemen then retaliated during the enemy's turn, killing ALL TWENTY SPRITES in one hit. It wasn't even my move! I'm going to have to think very carefully about who I send my men to hit if it always leads to a instant free counter-attack like this.
Well the town here is pretty similar to the last one I found, so that's not much use to me, but the wagon is offering me 100 peasants for 10 gold each. Hmm, 100 troops for the price of 3 Pikemen? Why I'd be mad to pass up such a deal! Wait, what's the opposite of mad? I meant sane... I'd be sane to pass up such a deal, because those soldiers will probably have the less combat effectiveness than a pile of 100 Styrofoam cups. At least those could contain scolding hot coffee, or bees, or something.
Though if I could convince them to march out into the battlefield, then drop their pitchforks on the ground as a line of morale-destroying comedy traps and make a run for it, I think that could work. It'd be like a cross between Lord of the Rings and that episode of The Simpsons where Sideshow Bob keeps walking into rakes. Epic.
BUT THEN, A FEW STEPS ACROSS THE WORLD MAP LATER.
I've got 20 free Peasants and 2325 gold to buy other troops, which means I can afford a fighting force less than half as powerful as my last one. So basically just 8 Archers then.
LATER, IN THE NEXT FIGHT.
My Archers are far more resilient than peasants, but they're getting hammered by three enemy units at once here and they can't fire arrows when an enemy is in an adjacent tile. They have a backup melee attack though fortunately, so I'm not out of the fight.
Unfortunately the enemy army this time contained four Dwarves, who weren't quite as unstoppable as the Trolls, but were more than a match for my handful of Archers. The King wasn't happy when he found me back at the castle without my army again, but he reissued my commission regardless, the dumb fool.
I spent my last few coins on four Militia, ran back out, got them slaughtered, then quit the game. Ain't no glory left in Murray the Barbarian's future.
A FEW MINUTES LATER.
He's even found a Ring of Heroism and a piece of the map to the stolen sceptre! Though I have to admit, this is the first I've heard about a sceptre being stolen.
Hang on, I think the map piece has gotten me something at least.
I've held onto my three starting units a lot longer with this character, so I'm still commanding 10 Archers, 20 Wolves and 10 Pikemen... well almost. I'll need to remember to backtrack to the castle after this to
Generally speaking, the enemy units with less soldiers (like Dwarves) are the tougher ones, so I've been moving my tough Pikeman up to engage them, while my fragile Wolves keep the Peasants and Sprites away from the Archers. If I can get rid of these Barbarians, that'll free my Archers up to start taking shots at the enemy Orcs firing at me from the other side of the map. Then they can try (and probably fail) to help the Pikeman take down the Dwarves. It's gonna be a long slugging match between those guys.
1525 gold for winning though!
Oh fine I'll take the points. I've always wanted to bribe peasants to respect me more.
Right, back to town then lads, I'm gonna spend all my precious money in one go like an idiot.
ONE TRIP TO THE TOWN AND BACK AGAIN LATER.
Now where was I? Oh yeah, sieging a castle. The 'Gather information' option in towns gives me some advanced knowledge of what I'll be facing in one of the castles, but I don't think anyone's told me about what's in this particular one. As long as it's not Trolls though I'm sure I'll be fine.
My Wolves are first up, so I'll move them next to the enemy Wolves with my first two action points, then spend the final one engaging them in combat. 14 vs 5 seems like something I'll likely be walking away from. Then I'll shoot the Gnome wizards on the left with my Archers and send my Pikemen up to stand next to both them and the Orc archers, blocking them both from using ranged attacks.
Then my Wolves will inevitably get wiped out, while buying a little time for my Pikemen to kill everything else single-handedly. Either that or those two Ogres with the clubs will destroy the Pikemen and then it's over for me.
My arch-nemesis Murray wasn't here, but I did get 1450 gold for my trouble and a shiny new castle. No bloody clue what the castle gets me though. I'm starting to get the feeling I just threw away 3k and 20 soldiers for a 1.5k return.
I have the option to garrison some troops here, but I'm done with throwing good cash away on things I don't understand yet. I'll hold onto my 1800 gold's worth of Pikemen and 2500 gold's worth of Archers thanks.
Hmm, I'm at X=13 and Y=16 huh? What were the numbers for the Archmage again? X=11, Y=19... hey, I'm practically standing next to him.
Oh fine I'll say yes. I didn't want all that hard earned money I've been saving up anyway.
SEVERAL HUNDRED MOMENTS LATER.
But that doesn't mean I can't break out some of my new sorcery to make things interesting!
I mean okay I can probably make a educated guess at what Bridge might do, but who needs to waste a spell to cross a lake when I could just hire a ship? Actually there's a thought...
Look at those poor sailors row their little hearts out. I should probably give the raise anchor command already before they drop from exhaustion.
King's Bounty isn't really my kind of game, but I can see the appeal. If I didn't have to run back home after every fight or so to replace my dead soldiers I probably would've liked it more, but that's probably my own fault for lacking the numbers to crush my foes immediately. It also doesn't help that you really can show off this game with only four screenshots after all. There's the title screen, the town/castle, the world map, and the battle screen, and that's 90% of what you'll be seeing for the rest of the game.
The battles all take place on a similar 6x5 grid and that doesn't take long to get old, especially when there's no XP reward for success. I figured out that increasing my leadership stat lets me field more troops in each unit, but leadership is gained through finding treasure chests (or completing bounties apparently), so individual battles are only about money in the end, which I get automatically each week for doing absolutely nothing. Plus I ended up spending most of my victory earnings on replacing the troops I'd lost in the fight anyway, so most battles really were pointless.
At least the music isn't bad, though that's only because there isn't really any, not in the computer versions anyway. The Sega version has a soundtrack and listening to it again (youtube link) makes me realise why I quit so soon first time around.
For what it's worth I personally didn't dislike the game, but it didn't exactly draw me in either. I give out 'Gold Star For Not Being Crap' awards for games that I'd want to keep playing and this comes close to qualifying... but it fails at the cookie test. If someone offered me just one single chocolate chip cookie to quit the game forever and never turn it back on again, I would take the cookie and run. Sorry King's Bounty.
(I would also vow to quit the game forever for a Bounty chocolate bar).
There you go, another 32 hand picked screenshots and a hundred words for each, what more could you want? I mean that seriously, so leave a comment, let me know what you think about King's Bounty, the King's Bounty/Heroes of Might and Magic series, my site, etc. All feedback will be processed by a vast computer network and saved in a virtual data-safe for future generations to study and learn from.