Eurogamer Retro: King’s Bounty

By John Walker on August 9th, 2010 at 9:00 am.

They all appear to have the same face.

It’s thanks to Alec that I played King’s Bounty. Seeing turn-based combat in KB: The Legend my “Ew! Strategy!” alarms went off and I moved on to the next game on the list. But having read Alec’s My Zombie Wife piece, I felt I should give it a go. It’s fabulous. So when exploring the retro-weighed shelves of a nearby gaming store, finding the original King’s Bounty for sale meant a guaranteed buy. Except, well, it was on Megadrive. “Traitor!” shouted Kieron at me, repeatedly, all last week as I played. I’ve written all about it, and it’s almost entirely true for the DOS version too – a game I heartily recommend getting hold of. And the Megadrive version emulates beautifully on PC, I found out when taking screenshots after playing it for a few days on a real Megadrive on a television with a refresh rate low enough to give me a headache. There’s no good to be found in traiting. You can read my Eurogamer retrospective here, where I find much love and happiness in the game. A game with the most brutal game over message I’ve ever seen.

“Oh Mad Mohan,

You have failed to recover the Sceptre of Order in time to save the land! Beloved King Maximus has died and the Demon King Urthrax Killspite rules in his place. The Four Continents lay in ruin about you, its people doomed to a life of misery and oppression because you could not find the Sceptre.”

__________________

« | »

, , .

51 Comments »

  1. Scio says:

    But… Why is that guy naked?

  2. Kieron Gillen says:

    Traitor!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    KG

  3. sigma83 says:

    TRAITOR!

    *checks to see which of the hivemind has betrayed us*

    I hope you turned out to be a terrible King. Your huggability and beard will not save you!

    *pokes with the traitorstick*

  4. Garg says:

    I think this may need the “Staring eyes” tag. Especially that guy on the left.

    • Navagon says:

      I think its the woman…. er, well the one on the right in the dress that really justifies the tag.

  5. sigma83 says:

    See, Kieron agrees with me. My opinion is therefore correct and unassailable.

  6. rei says:

    You really should’ve found that sceptre.

    I actually read the EG piece and kept thinking it’s some sort of a revisionist joke, but I guess it’s real. I’m just surprised I never heard of it since I devoured everything with anything to do with fantasy back then. I’d track this down but sadly I borrowed my Mega Drive to a friend and never got it back :(

  7. Snall says:

    I emulated this a long time ago after looking for it after remembering I had played it or a demo of it back in the day…classic game and one of the few ‘re-do’ games that have been done recently (the new one’s in the series) that is actually even better in modern form.

  8. Archonsod says:

    Funnily enough, it was playing King’s Bounty on a mate’s Megadrive which led to me buying Heroes of Might & Magic a few years later. It was a boxed version (Legend edition?) which I noted came with the original King’s Bounty alongside Heroes 1 & 2.

  9. G Morgan says:

    My theory about the game pic: the warrior from the 11th century, bearing a pornstar moustache but still envious of the warrior to his left who has inexplicably found 16th century armour, purchased a naked man slave in some sort of bizarre attempt to make Full Plate Warrior jealous. When his wife (pictured right) found out about the naked man slave and threatened Maille Warrior with a spell of Impotence, Maille Warrior hastily buckled a shield onto the elbow of his Barbarian Boytoy and claimed that Boytoy was simply his faithful squire. Given the bulging eyes of Wife Sorceress, I’m not certain she’s convinced.

  10. mlaskus says:

    I had no idea that King’s Bounty is this good. It was discounted some time ago on Steam and I dismissed it as another HoMM clone. :(

    • MD says:

      Don’t feel bad, it’s a very frequently-discounted game. From memory it was about $3 on GamersGate until yesterday; unfortunately that sale’s over too, but if you keep an eye out you’ll probably be able to pick it up for about $5 relatively soon.

    • Urael says:

      I found KB: TB an extremely tedious game to play, a tremendous disappointment after the constant streams of praise it received here: the first time I had to not only disagree with The Hivemind but with general opinion as well (Sorry, General. *salutes*). I bought it for a crisp fiver retail and still felt short-changed.

      Not sure I could go back and struggle with Megadrive era graphics as well as the tedium.

    • Hodge says:

      I really liked both of them, from start to finish. I’m just about the only one though, everyone else I know who’s played it loved it at at first then went off it about halfway through.

      The backtracking for armies did get a bit tiresome, but at the time I just put it down to me playing really badly + not planning my units properly.

      When I started playing the second one I made a point of paying more attention to where I got my armies from and it wasn’t much of a problem. Still, would be nice if they found a way to improve it for Crossworlds.

  11. Irish Al says:

    Those 3 guys in the screenshot are the campest game related thing I’ve ever seen. Outstanding.

  12. pimorte says:

    I’m not really sure where the love for King’s Bounty comes from. I found all the combat to be devoid of any real strategy (the only tactic that mattered was wait … wait … wait … CAST METEOR … wait … wait … wait … CAST METEOR). There wasn’t much humour there either.
    I did only play the demo for about an hour and a half … does it get better later on or something?

    • Sunjumper says:

      You are talking about the remake, right?

      At first I was rather disappointed by the level of ‘strategy’ at hand too (after all the praise I simply bought the game when I saw it for very little money on Amazon) the units did not do anything spectacular, the field of combat is tiny and because of the lack of option I felt that there was little to do than rush my troops and cast spells.

      Two things I found was that I, despite finding the game a bit boring (had not reached the interesting bits yet) I had somehow lost several hours and that after a while you start to understand the way the game works. It is more like a board game in the way it works and once you got that your perspective shifts and you notice that you can actually do some rather clever things on the tiny battle field. And that because your options are limited you can actually plan several steps in advance.
      Also when you get access to more and more units you will also have the added layer of chosing the right people for your army.

      It starts of slow and a bit ‘meh’ especially after all the hype that you have heard (rasing expectations) but it slowly grows on you.
      After a while you will wonder why oit everyone is playing it.

  13. frymaster says:

    I remember playing this because it was included in the Heroes of Might and Magic compendium. It’s got the same danger as the new version – you can only control a certain number of each unit or they’ll turn on you

    not a good idea when you’re fielding ghosts (which turn killed enemies into more ghosts)

  14. TheApologist says:

    I missed this at the time, but I still have the megadrive to thank for my lifelong love of turn based strategy games, as I feel head over heels in love with Shining Force 2 back in the day.

    I played that game for so many hours, and still go back to it occasionally.

    Also *TRAITOR*

  15. Clovis says:

    I managed to get the newer King’s Bounty one day at Gamestop for like $10 or something. When I gave it to the cashier he said something like, “Oh, hey man, I just want you to know that this is a terrible game. I mean, it is really, really terrible. Are you sure you want it?” I explained that I’d read some pretty good reviews, so, yeah, I wanted it. He gave me a, “Alright man, but I warned you!” That has to be about the only time an employee at any business tried to get me to not buy something.

    I really enjoyed King’s Bounty, of course. I don’t go into Gamestop very often (especially since they pretty much dropped PC games), so I haven’t run into that guy again. I really wish I knew what he thought was so terrible. Was the idea of turn-based strategy just completely foreign to him?

    • DrGonzo says:

      What a cock of a shop assistant.

      I got this for 3 quid-ish on Steam. I haven’t really been able to get into it yet. I enjoy it but I hate having to walk back to buy new units. Why does it have to work like that? Are there any mods that change it up? Maybe even just a cheat.

      I mean I have an army with a couple of hundred peasants in it yet who are willing to die needlessly fighting shrubbery. BUT one of them won’t run back to the shop for me and top up my supplies? That is bullshit.

    • Clovis says:

      Wow, what do you want next? Some magical way to sell all your loot in a Diablo-esque without having to trudge all the way back to the town? Like a magic dog/cat or something that can carry a ton of loot and then negotiate the price for it? I mean, I saw a TV show where a guy taught a dog to buy a pizza, but it was helluv lame.

      Anyway, I guess that never bothered me ’cause that’s just how stuff works in a game like that. But, yeah, if there’s a clear path back to the soldier dispensary, then why can’t you just click on some map icon to get some new dudes? I actually gave up later in the game ’cause it would have required a constant back and forth trudge to get new mercenaries to whittle away at the enemy with. Streamlining that process would have been nice.

    • ScubaMonster says:

      Gamestop is abysmal. And so are their employees. Quite honestly if I was a manager or owner and I found out my employee was trying to convince somebody to not buy a game, I’d reprimand them immediately. Gamestop employees have terrible opinions and for the most part are console-only gamers.

      To be honest, an employee should never give an opinion on a game someone is buying unless they are asked.

    • Rich says:

      Probably the type who’s idea of a solid game is Dante’s Inferno. If it’s got tits and blood, it must be good.

      Positive opinions on things you buy are good. Warning someone of DRM issues is also fine.
      Just saying it’s crap ‘cos it’s not Modern Warfare is utterly useless.

    • Tanysha says:


      I’m a bit shocked actually. The only lifesaver for the specialised retailer is the opportunity for customers to get service/help by (hopefully) trained personnel. As an owner of a boardgame-store that’s the sole reason I don’t get stomped into the ground by the allmighty internet and/or huge retail chains.
      I would reprimand my employee’s if they dared not to give an informed opinion. Sure: Telling a customer “This game is really bad” without further explanation is bad service, but giving him reasons why he might not enjoy it and pointing to alternatives is good for business.

      The problem in the cited example is more the non-existent training of the mindless worker-bees in chains like Gamestop.

      To say: “An employee should never give an opinion unless asked” is just plain horrible if you ever plan to own a store. Could as well just lie motionless waiting for the “Soulless Retail-Chain-Train” to drive by and rape you.

  16. Peter Radiator Full Pig says:

    If i havent yet fnished Kings Bounty: The Ledgend or Aroured Princess, is there any point to getting this?

    They are incredible games, by the way. Best games RPS ever put me on.

    • Hodge says:

      It’s definitely worth checking out the original game, if only for comparisons’ sake. I’d never played the old one, but I checked it out about a year ago and found it really interesting, just playing around and seeing what made it into the remake intact and what was changed.

      That said, the old game holds up surprisingly well on its own, and is still worth a play on its own merits. It’s bastardly hard and could easily keep you going for a couple of weeks if you decided to have a proper crack at it.

  17. jalf says:

    I give you a 4.2 on the Trait-O-Meter, at the *most*.

    I mean, you took a game that also existed on PC, and ran it in an emulator on your PC?

    That is some pretty low-grade traiting.

    Throwing your PC into a super mario-shaped pit of fire, now *that* would be some serious traiting.

  18. pistolhamster says:

    Crikey, I just checked my Steam game stats for King’s Bounty Armoured Princess. 61 hours during this summer vacation, all put in during the wee hours of the day waiting for more exciting stuff to do.

    I agree with the clever-bits stuff. Teleport a unit out of harm’s way – or into. Turn the enemy’s corpses on them, fear their biggest units, sheep their most annoying ones. I think the dragon turns things a slight bit overpowered, so perhaps I would have enjoyed the original “remake” more.

    But for less than a tenner on Steam I must say that 60+ hours of fun is VFM! I played the original too for countless hours on the Amiga 500.

  19. pipman300 says:

    oh no he toucheded the consoles now he must dieeeeeeeee

    • pipman300 says:

      to redeem from touchings the consoleses he must fight death match withes man in rubber lizardsman costume

  20. Vinraith says:

    I had the megadrive version when I was a kid, it was among my favorite games. It’s nice to see it get some acknowledgement, as these days when you say “the original King’s Bounty” the kids assume you’re talking about “The Legend” as opposed to “Armored Princess.” That’s not to see I haven’t enjoyed the hell out of the new ones too, I was thrilled to see an adored classic of my younger years get a remake of sorts (and a well done one at that), but could we get a little respect for the classics?

    Time to go fire it up again. I’ve been years since I’ve played, but the soundtrack to the original King’s Bounty still gets stuck in my head from time to time.

  21. Serenegoose says:

    hey! You can so save games on the megadrive! Sonic 3 had save games, and so did Shining force 2!

    And not PASSWORD save games, THE REAL DEAL. I can’t believe the casual misinformation going on here. Where’s the integrity?

    • Rich says:

      Think I had a micro machines racing game that let you unlock stuff and name your own characters. Not exactly ‘saving’, but it was storing data.

      It always annoyed me that they dropped the saving feature when they went from Sonic 3 to Sonic and Knuckles.

    • Vinraith says:

      Shining Force and Shining in the Darkness both had save games, or they’d have been impossible to complete.

    • Serenegoose says:

      @ Rich: Yes, micromachines also allowed you to save things like progress and custom maps (I know!)

      @ Vinraith: I’ve never played Shining in the Darkness, but Shining Force 2 is one of my favourite games of all time. Is it worth checking out?

    • Vinraith says:

      @Serengoose

      Shining in the Darkness, though made by the same people, is a very different game from the Shining Force games. Rather than being a strategy RPG as the SF titles are, it’s more of a Wizardry/Dungeon Master type dungeon crawl, but with a bit more story and characterization and a bit less customization than that would normally imply. I have absolutely no idea how it would hold up by today’s standards, but at the time I thought it was absolutely brilliant. Consequently I don’t know whether to recommend it or not, honestly.

    • TotalBiscuit says:

      The Shining series is weird, even most of the Shining Force games aren’t really Shining Force games. Shining Force 3 on the Saturn was the last true ‘Force’ game. Shining Wisdom, Shining the Holy Ark, Shining in the Darkness etc etc were all different genres.

    • devlocke says:

      I really liked Shining In the Darkness, and never played any of the other ones cuz’ it looked like they weren’t really that kinda game anymore. You could also save in the Phantasy Star games, including (I think) the first one, which wasn’t even on the Mega Drive/Genesis, but rather on the Master System. I am apparently insane because my favorite game for years n’ years was Phantasy Star III which – with the advent of the internet – I discovered is loathed by most fans of the series and considered the worst one.

      I never really noticed that saving was any less common on Genesis (I find calling it Mega Drive weird, sorry) games than SNES games or other systems – it was just the nature of consoles at the time that most games didn’t let you save, but those of the appropriate genre did. Tho, obviously, this one seems to be of an appropriate genre, so I find it kinda weird that IT didn’t let you save. I only ever really played RPGs much, when I had a Genesis, and I don’t remember not saving. Couldn’t afford many games, so my sample group was small, but still…

      … I’m just typing to hear myself talk. Sorry. I logged in because I was so bothered by the fact that John had claimed the system didn’t allow saving, only to discover that people had already corrected him, so I had to spew forth some worthless verbiage to justify my time clicking and typing. We would all have been better-served if I’d just chalked it up as a loss. Someone say something about the Phantasy Star games so I can feel like it was somehow worth it.

  22. danarchist says:

    I played armored princess till 2 am last night then get into work this morning, sit down and do my morning inter-webz reading, and this is on rps hehehe.

    Yes it does get tiresome restocking your armies but I found two things that help allot:

    1. Play as the mage and only use troops that have massive health pools and defense. The majority of your damage will be from your own spells and your armies are just there to extend the number of turns you have to do said damage. Also you can use spells like “call of the wild” and just use your summoned armies to do the dyin’. They are gone at the end of the battle anyways so no restocking necessary.

    2. Even though you may really like particular types of units in your army I have learned to stick with a policy of “whatever is close by”. There are lots of little places right near wherever you are standing right now to buy feeder fish. fill up your ranks from local vendors and keep your two favorite “power hitters” in the reserve boxes. Swap them out for boss fights and use rank-and-file for grinding down the wandering trash

    It is a fun game in my opinion, cruel and unforgiving as an ex girlfriend, but still fun for the occasional late night PC bounty call ;)

  23. Myrth says:

    Damn it, I leave town for a wedding and you guys up and post about my most memorable childhood game. I got introduced to the original King’s Bounty through my yearly Thanksgiving visits to my Aunt and Uncle over in Buffalo. I believe my Aunt had it on an Apple II. And since I wasn’t interested in talking with adults at that age, I’d just run upstairs and play KB incessantly.

    A decade later I lucked out and found the DOS version in a sales bin at a Price Club, and I’ve had it with me ever since. In fact, it is currently sitting right behind my computer on a book shelf because I pulled it out last year to have another go at it. Good times, good times.

  24. Justin says:

    Oh my goodness, I played this and liked it and totally forgot about it for … two decades? more? until just now. What a wierd, sudden rush of memories.

  25. Rob says:

    Well, I got halfway through your retrospective and promptly opened another tab to ebay myself a copy of King’s Bounty for my Megadrive/Genesis which, yes, I still have hooked up to my TV for those rare moments I feel like putting in the blood code for Mortal Kombat or faffing about with the secret kills in Eternal Champions.

    So, it looks like I’ll be sprawled on the floor, hacking and slashing my way through King’s Bounty inside of a week. I just wanted to thank(?) you.