by Sergio Brinkhuis
previewed on PC
Evolution, not revolution
Just when they thought that no one was looking, publisher 1C released their fantasy Turn-Based Strategy title King’s Bounty: The Legend, a colorful, refreshing take on the Heroes of Might & Magic formula. We fell in love with it and have been following the franchise closely ever since. King’s Bounty: Warriors of the North is the fourth game in the series, and while it does not bring anything revolutionary to the table, it does evoke the “one more battle” syndrome just as effectively as its predecessors.
You play as Olaf, the second son of the Northling King, and somewhat of a misfit. Your brother, Eric, has led armies into battle, is the hero of the kingdom and heir to the throne. Strangely enough, Eric cannot be bothered when the undead hordes threaten to invade his father’s lands so it falls onto you to organize the defense. You will soon learn that there is more to Eric’s reluctance to fight the undead and embark on a quest to uncover a secret conspiracy.
A little nippy
Warriors of the North explores Viking lore and adds a whole new roster of bearded barbarians to the franchise’s already impressive bestiary. For the new race, the game does not stray from its tried and true setup of offering a mixture between ranged, melee and magical units. Slingers hurl rocks at enemies and have a special attack that does area damage, Berserkers are strong melee units that can do double damage in Berserk mode, and Jarl are able to mass-bless friendly units or mass curse the enemy ones. Despite not treading any new ground, the new race feels fresh and unique which to me is an impressive feat, especially if you consider that the original six races feel just as unique.
Equally impressive is the makeup of the newly added school of Rune Magic. As one might expect from a ‘dialect’ of magic that has its roots in the cold lands of the Viking, Rune Magic focuses on using snow and ice to one’s advantage on the battlefield. Ice Spikes quickly became one of my favorite spells, as it is perfect to cast when enemies surround one of your units. Large shards of ice blast up from the ground in a circle, leaving the middle tile unscathed. Obviously you don’t have to wait until your unit is surrounded, but it is without doubt the most satisfying application for the spell.
If Rune Magic isn’t your thing, then perhaps Combat Runes are. You start each battle with three runes: one for offense, one for defense and one for luck. You can assign these runes to your unit stacks, giving them a boost that fits snugly with the specific role you intend them to have. While I haven’t tested it yet, it is possible to delegate the assignment of runes to your companions, which come in the shape of attractive looking Valkyries this time.
Hang loose with the camera
Perhaps the most eye-catching addition is the new engine. You may not immediately notice the difference, but King’s Bounty is now fully 3D with an adjustable camera to boot. In the preview version the camera was still a little twitchy and the field of view felt a little cramped at times, but it is easy to see the potential in not having a fixed isometric view on the campaign map. That being said, it doesn’t offer much extra during the game’s frequent turn-based battles but it doesn’t hurt either.
King’s Bounty: Warriors of the North is a solid continuation of the series. As before, the story isn’t going to win any awards but the gameplay is as entertaining as ever and will keep you playing for weeks. While the icy north should leave anyone chilled, a return to King’s Bounty’s fantasy setting with its colorful graphics is like settling into a nice warm bath. It’s the same bath you had the other day, but it is exactly the right temperature and everything else is merely a bonus.