When I was given the opportunity to review King’s Bounty: Warriors of the North, I had no idea what to expect. I had read about the earlier iterations of the game, in King’s Bounty: The Legend and King’s Bounty: Armored Princess, two games that fell under-the-radar for most but received great remarks from critics and a cult following. Games like these contain some of the best experiences as these studios may not have the capital to go all out on graphics and voice-acting, but make up for it in the most important element in my opinion: game play. And King’s Bounty: Warriors of the North is no different.
KB:WotN is a tactical RPG set in Viking/Nordic lore. You play as Olaf, son of Tormund the Fierce, who leads his army to fight against the undead that infest the Northern Lands. You will find out quickly that this is no easy task, and you will need to gain the trust of other Kings and important people, like a bomb-making alchemist and a crazy old Soothsayer, in order to defeat the undead. The story does a good job of moving you along in your journey, albeit in a predictably linear fashion, but as the story develops, you quickly forget about the places you visited previously as you focus on helping those in immediate need. Your home of Nordlig even becomes a distant memory. Being able to travel by boat really opens the world up, but the story pushes you along to the next island that needs help, and you quickly forget about that side quest about collecting some guys pants from an abandoned shipwreck.
As with most RPGs, the game starts with the character creation screen, where you can choose your class and difficulty settings. Here you can choose to be a Warrior, Skald or Soothsayer. I chose to be a Skald, in which my power is derived from the eddas (or songs) that appear at the beginning of a battle that allows me to choose specific bonuses or buffs to my units based on my enemy’s units or who I have on the board at that specific time. For instance, I come across an enemy army consisting of all undead units. I choose the edda that gives my army a special ability that when they attack an undead enemy, they cast Holy Shackle, a curse that lowers the undead units attack and defense. I felt the Skald class really puts the emphasis on balance, relying on my army’s strength to take out the enemy, while I am there to provide support through eddas/buffs and occasional attacks on unsuspecting victims. The Warrior class makes your character a heavy damage-dealer in the field of battle, with less emphasis on your armies ability. This means getting your Rage up early and often, which will allow Olaf to take the field and attack the enemy head on, while your troops pick off wandering zombies and ghosts. The Soothsayer class allows you to fill your spell book with all kinds of spells and scrolls to aid your army in defeating the enemy, while taking a hit in bonuses that may help your troops defense or morale.
As this is an RPG, defeating enemies and completing quests earn you experience. Your character levels up, and receives skill runes and leadership points. Leadership determines the number of troops you can have in your army. You can also find flagstaffs littered around Endoria that will give you permanent boosts to your leadership to help get those troop numbers up. Skill runes are spent on new skills of your choice in the skill tree. There are 3 different skill trees: Might, Mind and Magic. Each skill requires a specific number and type of runes, mainly based on the skill tree in which they are found. I found that it was good to spend most in your class tree (in my case Mind), and any extra runes in other trees on rudimentary elements like increasing attack (Might) or numbers of spells you can carry (Magic). I am sure there are hybrid characters you can make by mixing and matching different skills together from the different trees, but for this play through I stuck mainly to Mind.
Olaf can also purchase and equip items. These items can give bonuses to base stats or specific bonuses to troops, like +10% attack to Vikings and Beserkers. You will also gain items, along with gold, through the spoils of victory. Eventually, you will gain the ability to forge new items as well. Another really cool aspect is that some items are upgradable, but in order to upgrade it, you must defeat the guardians of the item. These can turn into some epic battles, and are always generally tough in order to dissuade you from attempting to overpower yourself early in the game.
The units in KB:WotN come in all shapes and sizes. Units include anything from Beserkers and Vikings to Wolves and Spiders. A troop I relied on early were the Beserkers, who can become enraged in the field of battle, packing some heavy damage while sacrificing defense. Wolves can fear all humanoid opponents, resulting in a loss of initiative, while Spiders can snare nearby opponents, hindering their movements for several turns. Some of these creature units, like Spiders and Snakes, can be found as loot in the form of eggs, which you can simply ‘use’ to make them into units for your army. This helps tremendously when you are in a dungeon and in need of a quick replacement for those Vikings you lost before the boss battle. Each island you travel to contains new and different units that you can purchase that may be better suited for the enemies of the region.
Something that I found out quickly in my journey is that your units are the name of the game here. When a member of a unit is slain on the field of battle, they are gone forever. Shops and garrisons contain only a limited number of troops, even more so for powerful units, so once they are bought out, that’s it. And there will be battles where you walk away with a fraction of the troops you started with. Developing key strategies early for troop movement and attack styles will be very important to preserve these precious commodities. It also pays to avoid enemies when you can, as engaging every enemy on the map will really takes its toll on your army. I really wish that I could field more than 5 different sets of units in a battle. It is easy for a unit to become a bit overwhelmed when the number of enemy units doubles yours. This can be alleviated slightly by troop arrangements that keep your units closer together. It also doesn’t help that you have a limited number of reserves to plug into your army that may aid in taking on specific enemy armies through strategic manipulations of who you send out into battle.
This leads me to the battle system. This is the first time I have played a tactical RPG like this, and I really enjoyed the battles. This is by far the best part of the game. From sizing up your opponents, to determining the best positions for troop movements based on the layout of the board, this is the special sauce to the ‘King’s Bounty sandwich’. This is also where you get to use all those great skills you have been dumping runes into on the your characters skill tree. Olaf can also join in the battle, by spending Rage points earned by units taking damage and converting them into devastating attacks. You will also encounter and gain the aid of the Valkyries, who have their own set of abilities useful in battle. They can summon bolts of lightning to damage enemies or walls of ice that block your enemy’s movement on the board. Upon meeting my first Valkyrie, she bestowed upon me power to use in the field of battle at the cost of increased Rage costs. These new powers came in handy quickly, as enemies become much tougher as you progress in the story.
Graphically, KB:WotN is nothing impressive, but gets the job done. The environments are colorful and the style reminds me a lot of World of Warcraft. The character models look good on the battle screen, and some of the effects of spells and scrolls provide some additional visual candy. The Valkyrie’s spells looked especially great. The music is a mixed bag, and the sounds effects become pretty generic.
Unfortunately, this game came with a fair share of bugs and annoyances. As the story is mainly told through text, some of the English translation from Russian are a bit off, but can yield some funny and enjoyable banter. I encountered a boss battle that appeared to have ended my play as it kept crashing my game before the final blow. I somehow managed to work around this by gaining another level before fighting him again, as if there was a level check or something involved. The camera can also be tricky, as the angles provided do not always show everything on the map, and you may find yourself surprised by an army that attacked you from behind a tree that would have been easily avoided had the camera been tilted differently. And lastly, everything in the environment is clickable. That means if you are clicking to run down a path, and you accidentally click the top tree in front of the path, your character will attempt to run to where you clicked… at the top of the tree. This becomes even more frustrating when trying to outrun a strong enemy army that’s hot on your trail.
At $29.99, King’s Bounty: Warriors of the North is a fun tactical romp through the land of Endoria, but suffers from some predictably repetitive elements and annoyances that keep it from being a really great game.
7.5 out of 10