King’s Wordcounty: Armored Princess Pt.2

By Alec Meer on November 20th, 2009 at 12:35 am.

Let me tell you about my dragon.

If I were to name one change Armored Princess has made to its predecessor’s structure, it’s the pet dragon. Other than that it’s pretty much the same game, but with new locations and beasties (not that this is a bad thing). Under the hood, there have been a fair few small refinements, but the dragon is that ethos of polish and tweaking made corporeal. Well, pixeloreal. In both King’s Bounty and Armored Princess, there are three essential things you’re doing in any given fight.

First up, you’re biffing an enemy army with your own army – each unit type of which has its own special abilities. This is the meat of the game, turn-based strategic combat between beyond-asymmetrical forces.

On top of that, you’re casting a few spells to soften the enemy up, buff your guys, add new friendly troops to the field or to just generally rain down death and destruction. Combining spells with unit powers is increasingly key to success. For instance, greasy mist increases damage taken from fire attacks, and human archers can shoot flame arrows once per battle. It’s very much a game that rewards experimentation in that regard.

Then, on top of that, you’ve got the Chest of Rage (King’s Bounty) or the Dragon (Armored Princess). These are, essentially, a collection of uber-spells, only they’re not linked to how much mana you’ve got left, which spells you’ve learned or have one-shot scrolls for, whether you’ve found enough runes to level up your Order, Chaos or Distortion magic… You get the picture. Magic is a pretty complicated business from afar, though I promise it all makes perfect sense a few hours in. The Chest of Rage only made things more complicated – splitting these uber-powers into four separate skill trees, each of which levels up individually depending on how much you used them. All a bit much, really – though the effects of the four godlike creatures performing these acts of destruction for you were mightily impressive. In AP, you just get a cute dragon – all the Rage (a recharging resource used solely for these special attacks) mechanics distilled into one set of abilities, as carried out by said dragon. It’s a lot more straightforward, but it doesn’t decrease the depth of the combat in any way – it just takes out some of unnecessary between-fights fuss by consolidating the Rage resource/abilities into one place.

Maybe it’s a bit too cute, too. It’s a baby dragon, all giant feet and eyes, it falls asleep after its cast one of its powers, it picks apples from a nearby tree that seems to travel everywhere with it while it watches you fight, and it keeps cuddling up to a mysterious snail. I would love it if said snail turned out to be the game’s ultimate big bad. It’s up to something, I’m sure of it. Its inital powers involve a bicycle kick to the face of an unsuspecting enemy and digging up treasure chests like a puppydog retrieving an old bone. It’s cute. Cute-cutey-wutey-cute. I’ve called it Lord Ragington IV in the hope of making it seem a bit less cute, but somehow that’s only made things worse. Well, not worse. Just… cute.

In other words, I’m not entirely sure what this silly, frilly thing is doing in a very nerdy game about beating up fantasy monsters and worrying about statistics. Is it KB trying to crack a new audience? Once again, I do have a niggling feeling that AP might crack the success-nut that somewhat eluded KB. Perhaps having a cute pet dragon – available in a choice of colours; I was tempted by pink, but ultimately chose classic red – will help there. I was describing the game to my special lady friend this morning, who gave me the most withering of withering looks when I solemnly stated it was ‘King’s Bounty: Armored Princess.’ Apparently me pretending to be a princess does me no favours in the first place, let alone one who’s followed dutifully around by something that would have been axed from a Disney cartoon for being too saccharine. But who can claim to understand the ways of Katauri Interactive: KB demonstrated they are quite clearly gloriously mad, after all.

But it’s growing in potency as it levels up (it earns its own experience points based on how much you use it, but so far it’s never far from my own level), so its cuteness belies it deadliness. It might look like a supporting character from Care Bears, but it can summon balls of lightning, it can physically wall off a few foes and, best of all, it can regenerate mana for me. No doubt about it, it’s a big part of the game’s strategy, absolutely necessary for long-term success. Again, that feeling of disjointedness. This cute, girlish thing, attached to complex and detailed turn-based strategy mechanics. I might not have married any zombies in Armored Princess, but that doesn’t mean it’s not as a weird as a weasel in a boiler suit.

On the other hand, some of its animations (something AP generally excels at, in fact) are absolutely adorable. The way it hides behind its tree and peers out nervously when its lightning ball first zaps someone is just… aw. Mummy, I want one.

Dammit! They got me after all…

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36 Comments »

  1. Dorian Cornelius Jasper says:

    Hey, they were right. It does kinda look like Stitch.

  2. Railick says:

    Sounds really cute indeed, lets just hope it grows up into a giant death dealing war dragon (of might and magic)

  3. Vinraith says:

    My understanding from the pre-press was that it’s only cute while it’s young, and as it grows in power it also matures and goes from cute to fire-breathing-lightning-casting-turn-your-enemies-into-charred-husks badass.

    I’ll be interested to hear if that’s actually how things go. Fortunately I can find out for myself, as my preload activated a few hours ago…

  4. jsutcliffe says:

    That picture is outrageously cute. Also, I am going to rename myself Lord Ragington next time I’m at a deed polling place thinger.

    I just wish I could get into KB — I’ve tried twice and failed, but everything I read about it makes me think it’d be perfect for me. It’s a puzzler.

    • jsutcliffe says:

      On that note, this is an expandalone/sequel, correct? Is it roughly equal in longevity to KB, or somewhat shorter as many expandalones seem to be? If I couldn’t get into KB, maybe it was because it didn’t have a wee dragon.

  5. Frank says:

    “But it’s growing in potency as it levels up.” Heh, I thought you meant that KB grows in potency as it gets expansion packs!

  6. subedii says:

    let alone one who’s followed dutifully around by something that would have been axed from a Disney cartoon for being too saccharine.

    I don’t know. Maybe it’s me but I thought it looked a bit like Stitch from “Lilo and Stitch”. Although looking up, apparently I wasn’t the only one.

  7. Hmm says:

    Coincidentally, Lord Ragington is the name of my penis. It also grows in potency as it levels up. It’s also cute.

  8. Jazmeister says:

    Hey, at least it’s interesting. It could have just been a big idiot dragon that roars and breathes fire.

  9. M.P. says:

    This makes me want to break out the PS2 and play some more Disgaea! :p
    No pet dragons in there but I have PENGUIN NINJAS!!! Who can do kamikaze-divebombs onto enemies! Take THAT Lord Ragington!

    • Dominic White says:

      King’s Bounty always struck me as being at least partially inspired by Disgaea. It seems to share a lot of the ridiculous humor and self-parody elements, and the whole ‘travel to the world inside your items to upgrade them’ thing was COMPLETELY lifted from Disgaea.

      That’s no bad thing, though. We need more insane strategy-RPGs with bizarre play mechanics like party totems (having your guys standing on each others shoulders to make one giant superunit briefly – don’t stay like that too long or the guy on the bottom will be crushed to death by the weight) and council votes on what level of equipment they’re allowed to sell you.

    • Vinraith says:

      The elements of KB:TL and AP that are different from the original King’s Bounty (1990) do seem to have largely been lifted from Disgaea, and I agree with Dominic that this is not a bad thing. At a minimum, it seems responsible for some of the lunatic humor and certainly the item worlds.

  10. Sly Boots says:

    How weird, looked for this on Steam after Alec’s first piece a day or two ago and it wasn’t there, look this morning and – hurrah! – it’s there. Downloading now.

    I was a big fan of the last KB, and it sounds as if the few niggles I had with it have been fixed, so looking forward to getting my teeth into this…

  11. Vinraith says:

    I’m really trying to figure out whether to go back and finish my KB:TL game from several months ago, restart KB:TL on the grounds that 1) I made some bad decisions with my current game and 2) I can barely remember what I was doing, or just go straight to this new one.

  12. klumhru says:

    I wish I could get into KB. The wife’s been playing it to death, and will probably play this to death also. I just can’t stand the HOMM turnbased fighting… sadly.

  13. Heliocentric says:

    Grind creep solo?

  14. Vogon says:

    Does this game have much replay value? I never tried the original KB so I wouldn’t know. I’m itching to buy this, but I’d rather not pay the full price if it’s a play-through-once-and-forget game. Although I noticed there’s a locked mods section at the official site, so maybe there’ll be some user-made mods to keep things interesting…

    • TotalBiscuit says:

      Why? The game provides tons of entertainment for the money and it’s story-campaign is lengthy by modern standards. Why must the game have replay value in order to justify purchase? Is it not good enough just to have a great time for 20 or 30 hours then put it down in favour of something else?

      To answer your question though yes, it has some replay value, the different classes play quite differently and there are choices to be made.

    • Vinraith says:

      The classes each play quite differently, the monster spawns are randomized each time (as is the loot), and the game has quite a bit of heft compared to your average modern play-and-forget title: The Legend was about 50 hours to completion (and from what I can tell Armored Princess should be in the same vicinity). I think you’ll find it’s a good value for your money if you enjoy the mechanics.

  15. Carra says:

    I’d call my dragon Cuddles.

    Reminds me of Dragon Age. I gave my bard companion the cutest little animal! Not as cute as the dragon though, maybe something for the next DLC.

  16. bill says:

    Did you ever finish Risen? If not, was it because you didn’t finish the game, or because you couldn’t be bothered to write about it anymore?

  17. Dave says:

    I was describing the game to my special lady friend this morning, who gave me the most withering of withering looks when I solemnly stated it was ‘King’s Bounty: Armored Princess.’

    Maybe because it sounds a bit too much like *that* kind of anime. And “Chest of Rage” doesn’t help.

  18. PaulMorel says:

    I can’t wait to play this (and replay King’s Bounty), when I find the time.

    King’s Bounty was so good.

  19. Wulf says:

    The secret plot of Armoured Princess is to turn people into furries!

    :O

  20. Hulk Hogan says:

    The best game in the world just got better!

    OO-RAH!

  21. LRN says:

    The pet dragon will not grow up during the game (but, of course, he will levelup and become a death-raining killing machine). Sorry, but that is truth. NPCs will hint that he will grow up eventually and become godlike, but that won’t happen in AP.

    P.S. As with previous game, try not to rely on the dragon too much – you can’t use him in boss battles, and at least two or three story-important battles will be the boss-ones, including the Last Battle (TM).

  22. Midnight Phantom says:

    Uhm…. Where in the world can i dload the KB:AP English version?

    (somebody help me!!!!!)

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