[Update 9/16/2021] I’ve been banned from Steam’s KB2 forums because I said negative things about the game. This totalitarian, censorious behavior on 1C’s part is yet another reason to not buy this game, or anything else developed by them.
Can I just start off this article by asking a question? (Well I guess I already did with the previous sentence, but:) What’s with this trend of reviving an old series, only to ruin it and piss off every long-time fan? Fire Emblem did it with FE13. Langrisser did it with its gacha game, and to a lesser extent with Reincarnation Tensei. Shining Force has steadily been doing it for the past 20 years, and is set to release a monumentally terrible gacha game next year. Disney has “brought back” Star Wars and quickly ruined the franchise. They’ve also been doing all those pointless live action remakes like Lion King, Mulan, Aladdin, and soon, Little Mermaid… you know, the one with a black Ariel, because that totally makes sense within the context 19th-century Denmark where there were probably all of, like, FIVE black people in the entire country. (Then again, it’s indisputable that the 1989 Little Mermaid movie already bastardized the fairy tale, so whatever – I don’t really care either way; live action Little Mermaid will be a shitty, pointless movie regardless of what ethnicity Ariel is.)
Anyway, I guess the folks over at 1C Company decided it was King’s Bounty turn on the chopping block. Because that series wasn’t yet ruined, and we can’t just let a beloved series die in peace now, can we? Nope – better mutilate, vivisect, lobotomize, and sodomize all the classics because nostalgia can make you a quick buck, no matter how horrendous your game is! In short, considering its release year, King’s Bounty 2 ranks as one of the worst SRPGs ever made.
I wanted to like this game. I really did. My good memories with King’s Bounty go way back to the Sega Genesis. More recently, I played and deeply enjoyed all of the Katauri King’s Bounty games that were released from 2008-2014. Considering that 1C Company had produced all of the Katauri games, and were themselves involved in developing Warriors of the North and Dark Side, I wanted to give them a chance with King’s Bounty 2. Many others were skeptical of 1C Company and didn’t even give the game a chance because of it. Meanwhile, my optimism prevented me from writing off the game; I wanted to give it a fair shake.
Now, I regret that I did.
On the positive, King’s Bounty 2 does one thing well: its graphics. The whole world of Nostria is fairly pleasant and pretty. On another note, the combat in this game did have potential. Having parts of the overworld transform into your battlefields was a neat way of handling things. This, however, is where my praise for King’s Bounty 2 ends. The game is irredeemably bad in every other respect.
Even when it comes to the combat, the game is riddled with so many flaws that it’s simply not enjoyable:
- Weird difficulty balancing. There’s a brief segment in the earlygame which is unnecessarily difficult. Once you get past it, everything else is laughably easy, to the point that there’s almost zero strategy in KB2 at all.
- Also on the subject of difficulty, there’s no way to adjust difficulty in KB2. Despite KB1 having this option 31 whole years earlier, in 1990.
- Barely any troop diversity. The Katauri games had at least twice as many troop types as KB2 does.
- Preorder units trivialize the entire game. Despite being tier 2 units, Flaming Eagles are better than most tier 4s and will be useful for >70% of the game. KB2 thus boasts the dubious distinction of being the only single player game I’ve played that’s Pay2Win.
- Morale is a stupid RNG-fest now. Previously, morale would offer flat bonuses, like +20% attack and +20% defense (and +% critical too, in fairness). In King’s Bounty 2 though, morale gives you a % chance of taking an entire additional turn. What on earth were they thinking when they decided to completely change morale into a dumb gamble? The whole game feels a LOT more luck-dependent because of this one crucial change.
- Spells are borked. It’s possible to learn a spell and then be unable to cast it because you’ve unequipped an item that gives you “Arcane Knowledge.” It’s also not possible to “de-level” spells: for example, let’s say you’ve learned level 2 Meteor. You’re now unable to cast level 1 Meteor, unlike in the Katauri games. This can be very annoying because some situations call for less firepower. Or sometimes you won’t have enough mana to cast your higher level spells. More importantly, does it make any sense that a wizard can’t cast a level 1 spell even if she’s mastered it and can cast level 2 spells? No, of course it doesn’t.
- Taunt is so atrociously overpowered. Any unit with taunt can effectively neuter the entire enemy party by preventing them from attacking for an entire two turns. It affects all opposing units, there’s no way to avoid it, and there’s no way to dispel it.
- Scryer Trials are supposed to strategic challenges, but they end of being boring, gimmicky bouts of trial and error. Just as with the rest of the game, Scryer Trial difficulty is all over the place. The final two are inexplicably the easiest, while trials 3 and 4 are excessively obtuse. There’s one Scryer Trial which is needlessly tedious in its execution.
Despite all the numerous issues with the combat though, it’s still by far the best part of the game. And that’s just because everything else is even worse.
The music sucks. KB2’s entire soundtrack spans less than 40 minutes, and never even begins to approach the stunningly beautiful quality of Lind Erebros’ work for the Katauri King’s Bounty games. I recommend “Home Lands,” “Ride Unicorn,” “Under the Shadow of the Oak,” or pretty much anything in the Warriors of the North soundtrack. (Battle music in that game was written by Dmitry Petyakin, and it’s also great.)
Exploration in the game sucks, which is all the worse because there’s so damn much of it. The game can accurately be described as “25% actual King’s Bounty, 75% doing pointless shit like walking around, talking to brainless, generic NPCs, and solving dumb puzzles.” Speaking of which…
Puzzles are dumb. All of them (except one, which is intentionally misleading) are pedestrian affairs that can easily be solved by five year-olds. Puzzles never advance beyond the simplicity of things like push these runes in the right order or step on these tiles in the right order or take this lever and put it somewhere else! Gaming has seriously devolved: back in the 90s, Nintendo was expecting kids to solve complex puzzles in The Forest Temple or Stone Tower Temple. Nowadays… we have King’s Bounty 2.
The writing in KB2 sucks. Whereas the Katauri games were self-referential, witty, and campy, KB2 plays the whole medieval fantasy thing completely straight. I can’t recall a single detail about the plot, nor can I remember a single character in the game aside from my main character. And even then, I only remember him because he’s the main character – it’s not that he’s well-written or memorable for any other reason.
The worldbuilding in KB2 sucks. Nostria is a soulless, bland, and totally forgettable world which offers us nothing of interest. It’s a far cry from what we’ve seen before. Even if Nostria looks nice, it contains nothing of substance. It’s not even as geographically diverse as any of the other King’s Bounty games. 90% of Nostria is A) forest, B) plains, or C) a town. No elven lands, dwarven mines, demonic underworlds, undead wastelands, pirate havens, or anything else like that. Nostria is generic, but it doesn’t even do generic right. This is made even worse because…
Walking anywhere in KB2 is a tedious and infuriating bore. The walk speed in King’s Bounty 2 is unbelievably and unacceptably slow. What should take 15 or 20 seconds instead takes an entire minute. It’s utterly perplexing that anyone at 1C thought the walk speed was okay, and that the game should be released in its current state. Moreover, horse travel isn’t any better. For some reason, your horse doesn’t seem to go any faster than you do… and there’s a lengthy mount animation, so you’re probably losing time by using the damn horse. Send that fucker to the glue factory.
Loading screens are wtf-tier. Spending 40-50 seconds in a loading screen will be a common occurrence in KB2. This is another aspect of KB2 which is simply unacceptable.
Combat animations are extremely slow. There’s none of the crispness that previously defined the series.
If there’s one prevailing problem with KB2, it’s that everything just takes too damn long to happen. Because of the loading screens, combat animations, and most importantly, the walking speed, you’ll spend most of your playthrough simply trying to get from point A to point B. Quests are needlessly far apart from each other – especially once you reach the Mage Tower – and, like everything else in the game, serve to needlessly pad out your play time. In essence, what you have is 10 hours (if that) of King’s Bounty gameplay, and 25 hours of pointless shit that shouldn’t be in a King’s Bounty game. And bear in mind: that “25 hours” figure is roughly what I spent after skipping most cutscenes and dialogue after the starting area. If you actually want to torture yourself by listening to all the cutscenes and dialogue, expect that figure to go up far higher.
King’s Bounty 2 is a game which will wear your patience thin. Initially, I somewhat enjoyed it and wanted to give it a chance. With each passing minute though, I slowly came to realize how terrible the game truly is. It wasn’t the 6/10 I initially thought it was. Nor is it the 3/10 I was thinking it was once I was about halfway through. No; considering it was released in 2021, and considering how large a company 1C is, I’d hesitate to ascribe even a 2/10 to it… if I were in the business of giving numerical ratings, which I don’t normally do.
I’ll just end with this: King’s Bounty 2 is easily one of the worst SRPGs I’ve had the misfortune of playing. I can only think of two SRPGs worse than King’s Bounty 2 (and they were both directed by Yasumi Matsuno… go figure.) It’s an utter embarrassment to the King’s Bounty name, and stands as a sick insult to the sensibilities of every King’s Bounty fan.
Go play Armored Princess instead. Coming anywhere near King’s Bounty 2 is just setting yourself up for heartbreak.
Console: Steam, Switch, PS4, XBox 1
Developers: 1C Company
KB2’s page on Steam in case you’d like to torture yourself