by William Thompson
reviewed on PC
Ice and Fire
The King's Bounty series has been around for some time now, and the latest iteration - Warriors of the North - was a reasonably good title. Ice and Fire is a downloadable expansion to the Nordic campaign where the undead have taken over the Viking isles. Olaf's father the King has set his son - the player - on a mission to prove his worth in an attempt to eradicate the undead plague. Strangely, Olaf's elder brother Eric seems disinterested in conquering the evil that has taken over their lands. This leads Olaf to believe that he may be better suited to rule the lands when their father ultimately hands over the reign of the kingdom. Completing the daring mission, may just work in his favour.
Warriors of the North: Ice and Fire continues to take the form of two different beasts. The first is an RPG style game where you explore the lands, find gold and various loot scattered throughout the countryside, speak with the locals and accept quests, and then chase down evil-doers. The second is as a turn-based strategy which occurs during encounters with the said evil-doers. The turn-based strategy is small scale, much like a game of chess with half the pieces on a board at one time. The pieces can be interchanged though, depending on the units that you currently have in your repertoire. The small number of units in play means that battles are not long affairs. During combat, units that defeat enemy units are granted experience points. Gaining enough points allows them to level up, granting bonuses to their attributes. For example, melee fighter will gain added defence. Enemy units vary quite a bit, with new units added in the DLC. But despite that, battles do suffer from a sameness as you progress, as you seem to fight similar units from one conflict to the next.
I also had an issue when travelling the countryside. The camera angle can be rotated, but I still felt that the camera angle did not allow me to move my avatar where I wanted. Instead, I often ended up directing my avatar to a different path, due to the camera angle. In the end, I simply gave up and moved the character only short distances at a time so that there was no mistake. It was not a big issue anyway, as moving in the path of an enemy unit was not very dangerous. The strength of the enemy squads level up as you progress, so you rarely fight squads that are overpowered compared to your own. Indeed, if your army is too strong, the enemy will flee from your character in the hope that you'll leave them alone.
When exploring, there are a number of resources that Olaf can collect. Gold is readily available. Gold can be used to purchase units to head into battle with, although the availability and number of units will depend on the leadership score of your avatar. Gold can also be used to purchase scrolls (for spell-casting) and equipment such as shields, helmets and weapons. As with most games of the type, better weapons and protective equipment become available as your progress through the story and meet new traders. But I found that a lack of gold was never an issue.
Olaf can also discover three variations of runes - Might, Spirit and Magic. These are used to increase the skills of Olaf and his squad. A skill tree is available that requires combinations of the runes to unlock the skills. Skills can include better defence or attack for particular units, or can be used for the entire squad. The runes can be found through exploring, but are also granted to Olaf once you level up.
Visually, there doesn't seem to be any improvements from Warriors of the North. Although the visuals are quite a bit dated, they work admirably. The world is full of wonderfully designed lands. Each particular area has it's own look, from ice covered mountains to forested valleys, to nice seaways. The interface is clear and simple to navigate, allowing gamers to view all the required details in a well presented manner. The audio is wonderfully presented as well, with orchestral pieces fitting the Nordic scene amazingly well.
For fans only
As a whole, King's Bounty: Warriors of the North is a worthy game, but unfortunately the Ice and Fire DLC really doesn't bring a whole lot new to the table. Yes, there are definitely new areas to explore and new creatures to battle, and new items to collect, but the gameplay itself remains largely unchanged. I really would have thought that issues with the camera angle might have been addressed prior to release of the DLC. But if you're a fan of the series, and Warriors of the North in particular, Ice and Fire may well be a worthy addition. The DLC does add a further 15-20 hours of gameplay to a game that already contains a lengthy story. This is probably one for the hardcore King's Bounty players though.
Nothing much has changed
Extra locations and more quests have been added