By Alec Meer on November 18th, 2009 at 4:30 pm.
Well, I’d hoped to have loads to tell you by now. Remember the zombie bride, the battle inside my own belt, the dragon with a toothache? Last year’s King’s Bounty: The Legend was splendid at generating absurdist anecdotes. I’m a few hours into its addon/sequel Armored Princess, and I haven’t hit anything like that yet, to my chagrin. I met a drunk guy at one point. And a bartender hit on me, until I threatened to pull his arms off. That’s about it, though. However! I am not having anything like a bad time. Quite the contrary – I’m enjoying myself, and I wish I was playing it now. But I can’t because I’m on a train. Oh look, there goes Battersea Power Station. And the man opposite me has eyes that look in different directions. I need the toilet, but I can’t quite be bothered to get up and trudge over to a small, smelly metal room. And… oh yes. Sorry. Armored Princess may not have given me any anecdotes for you yet, but what it has done is make me enjoy KB’s complicated battle mechanics a fair bit more.
With the exception of some over-enthusiastic lore that goes on and on and on and on and on, it feels significantly slicker than KB did in most every regard. It’s less fun narratively, but more fun, more liberated as a strategy/roleplaying game. Remember how quickly you got roundly beaten in that first area, how you’d be running desperately away from roaming griffons and archers for ages? Yeah, none of that. AP eased me in a lot more gently. I guess knowing the ins and outs of its combat helped a fair bit, but it was a while until I hit something tagged as essentially unbeatable at my current strength.
There’s a lot to learn, but the surfeit of shops, units and gold means the early islands (for AP’s world is divided so, with an instant-travel network that releases the dread grip of KB’s excessive backtracking) are places you can afford to be a little slapdash in. There’s enough stuff around to restock your armies, or to experiment recklessly with unit and spell combos. Plus, the really funny units for my army haven’t turned up yet – but they’re hinted at by the forces I’ve been fighting. The teleporting/vanishing assassins are looking particularly tasty. So I’m more than happy to lose all my swordsmen and archers and bears and snakes. I know it’s only going to get better.
There are also welcome tweaks such as weaker foes trying to leg it when, upon chasing you down, they realise you’re going to have them – so you don’t have to fight every battle going now. And you have a couple of reserve unit slots by default, so don’t end up wasting free fighters because, say, a tomb you nosed in contained friendly skeletons rather than gold, and your army was currently maxed out. It’s not KB 2, but it is KB Redux – many of the parent game’s roughest edges sanded smartly off.
This greater accessibility coupled with the legacy buzz grown around KB, means I have a sneaking suspicion AP could go quite big. Hell, Ken Levine just Twittered about it. More tomorrow – specifically, about my pet dragon, Lord Ragington IV.