Have You Played… King’s Bounty: The Legend?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

It’s all too easy to be glum about 1c’s now long-running comedy-fantasy, strategy-RPG series, given its sequels’ resolute resistance to do almost anything new, but let’s put grumbling aside and look back to when King’s Bounty: The Legend was the freshest face in freshtown.

To this day, I don’t know how much of its comedy – getting hitched to zombies, upgrading items of clothing by going all Inner Space and battling demons lurking inside them, guerilla dragon dentistry – was intentional and how much was a happy accident of lost in translation. Or, indeed, how much was simply down to a certain stream of conscious writing/story style. I don’t want to know either, because my memories are so fond. These days I’m fortunate enough to be able to pick and choose what I play, but back then, when I mostly existed in the freelance badlands, a steady stream of uninspiring Euro-RPGs filled up my hard drive. They were my daily bread – in that I had to play them in order to afford bread – and most of them bored me senseless.

As did screenshots of King’s Bounty: The Legend, nominally a remake of the ancient Heroes of Might & Magic precursor. It looked like Any Game of that time.

It wasn’t. It isn’t. It’s got, well, spunk. It’s funny, at least for its first half, its battles are highly strategic and pop in a way that, in retrospect, reminds me of Hearthstone, and it’s delightfully compulsive. It’s also got all sorts of balance issues that make progression extremely hard work at times, which is half the fun. When the later games ironed that out they couldn’t possibly offer the same sense of achievement.

Sure, it’s a chore in its latter half, but you’ll get a good twenty hours of creature-collecting and creature-battling in before that happens.

Now please wipe my memory so I can play it again.

16 Comments

  1. Senethro says:

    I enjoyed the first half of the game but I did get bored about the time that combat involved enemies that were stronger, tougher, moved first and teleported behind your formations.

  2. Ninjaguiden says:

    I rememer this game fondly too, though some things got a bit long at the end. But that is a small complaint for what was a way better game than I could have ever expected.


    This song, combined with the feeling of wonder exploring the magic island where I first heard it played still makes me emotional.

    • Serrit says:

      Thanks for posting that, brought back a whole host of enjoyable feelings from when I played KB:TL a few years back :-)
      I also liked the main theme too, which was somewhat Elder Scrolls / Pirates of the Caribbean -like in its jauntiness.

  3. Kempston Wiggler says:

    Yes, I have…but to be honest I got bored by it pretty quickly. Haven’t gone back.

  4. FriendGaru says:

    I enjoyed my time with it, but it definitely became a bit of a slog after awhile. I reached a certain point where it seemed all the battles available to me were either too difficult, or the cost of victory was too high to be worth it. Having to run back to town after every battle to restock my troops was just way too time consuming.

  5. kalirion says:

    One thing about this game that turns off many people is that they come in expecting a Strategy game like Heroes of Might & Magic, and what they get is an RPG in which there is no enemy “warlord” making it’s own moves. The overland gameplay is real time and your only opponents are basically “Neutral” armies – but resources are non-renewable so you can’t just wait to amass an unstoppable force before rolling over every foe. There is also no town building.

    I put in about 90 hours into the game over a 2 week period. While having a fulltime job. Haven’t had the guts to try the sequels, though I own almost all of them on Steam…

  6. Joshua Northey says:

    I really liked the first however long and put a ton of time in. But eventually I got bored before the end and never finished. I was enjoying it so much that I bought all the sequels, but I sadly never touched them.

    Still was well worth it from a $/hour perspective as there is a ton of content.

  7. Shardz says:

    Katauri made some remarkable games including the must have Space Rangers II extravaganza. I like the King’s Bounty series very much with its illustrious charm and fantastical colorful graphics; however, I realized that there’s really no departing from the older Heroes of Might and Magic series – especially HoMM3 and HoMM5 with the user made patch, which really lights that game up. I’m not sure what Katauri is up to these days, but the last time I checked they were enamored with an online version of Heroes or something. Tis a shame cause those old Eastern European / Russian developers sure knew how to put polish, depth and charm into a game.

  8. The King K says:

    God, I loved this game. Partly because as all great russian games, it ran on my then ancient computer (same thing for Space Rangers II, which Shardz mentioned and I didn’t remember was the same company). I prefer Armored Princess for the added user friendliness like reserve troops not requiring a skill and the island thing severly cutting down on travelling back and fourth.

  9. mgardner says:

    The original (predecessor to HoMM) was certainly much smaller in scope, but replayability was achieved through randomization. The map, castles, and towns were all fixed; however, the villain locations, hidden treasures, and recruitment opportunities were scrambled from game to game. The result was a tightly designed scenario and the joy of leveling up from zero to hero could be repeated every few hours over and over, never quite the same way twice, This was one of my favorite games of all time.

    I also had a lot of fun with the modern remake, however longevity was achieved through a huge number of scripted maps, quests, enemies, and events. There is little reason to replay any of it from the beginning, because the experience the second time through will not be much different. Character development is spread over the entire game, meaning there are very few milestones where your hero is doing anything different from the previous several hours. For me, this was the reason for burnout – I never did complete the game, but I saw all I wanted to see and could sense that there was nothing new or different coming any time soon.

  10. pepperfez says:

    Is there anything at all interesting in any of the endless expansion/sequel/cash-ins? I’ve been curious when they’ve popped up in various bundles but it’s never been worth however many pennies it would cost to find out.

    • The King K says:

      Armored Princes with Crossroads is pretty cool.
      Warriors of the North feels padded and I lose interest halfway through. At least, I think it’s halfway.
      Can’t say much about Darkside yet, not played enough of it so far. Liked the beginning though.

  11. cthulhie says:

    So let’s say hypothetically you bought, like, all of the versions of this game and the expansions on various sales because you always read good things and were totally going to play it someday for real. So now you have the original, armored princess, crossroads, and god knows what else. And you know that some expansions apparently contain others or something.

    Where do you start? Crossworlds? Later iterations since they wouldn’t have been “spoiled” by previous ones? (I.e., I’m not bored with it since I haven’t played the previous iterations that they didn’t significantly improve.) Any advice from fans?

    • Martin Carpenter says:

      Crossworlds I think. That or armoured princess anyway, AP does definitely improve a bit over the original in a few ways. Crossworlds then layers a chunk on top of it, which might be slightly too much for some tastes but probably worth it.

      Warriors of the North just didn’t seem as polished really.

      • GH Moose says:

        I’d say Crossworlds is probably the best starting point as well. I actually just finished up Dark Side recently and enjoyed it more than Warriors of the North but I think I enjoyed the tone more in The Legend and Crossworlds. The newer games do try to reference the older games occasionally, but it’s inconsequential so I wouldn’t stress about it.

        If the randomness in troop availability really bothers you in earlier games, though, it might be worth giving Dark Side a go because there’s a more reliable source of troops once you’re out of the intro zone. It does have some of the old difficulty-curve-occasionally-becomes-a-wall issues as The Legend, or at least it did with the class I chose, but that’s easier to ignore when you have Crossworlds-like ability to hop to a different island…and a teleportation ability that kills some of the pointless wandering. Unfortunately, the quest log in Dark Side is worthless enough it actually reintroduced some wandering as you tried to figure out where that person said you were supposed to go when they first gave you that quest two days ago – they often tell you where to look or who to ask, but the quest log doesn’t seem to care so if you’ve been away from the game awhile…good luck remembering.

  12. JackMultiple says:

    I really liked this game. Up until I convinced a guy to give me a blimp ride to a far away distant island. There I had to do combat with a (giant turtle I think?) and was so horribly outclassed that I could not finish him off. AND the guy wouldn’t give me a blimp ride back home! So I was forced to quit. The End.