Every Sunday, we reach deep into Rock, Paper, Shotgun’s 141-year history to pull out one of the best moments from the archive. This week, Alec marries a zombie and gets into a fight in a zombie universe, from this piece first published October 2nd, 2008.
So I gazed up at the mountain of games about guns due this Autumn, and I sighed a little. Did I burn myself out on all those FPSes last year? Are, heaven forfend, my baser instincts now somehow in check? I will play Far Cry 2 and Dead Space and Fallout 3, but right now they’re not what appeal. I made it about 15 minutes into Crysis Warhead before the oh-this-again tedium hit, and I blame myself more than I do the game for that. I wanted something a little different, something I could sink into on more than a purely visceral level, but I didn’t know what.
Turns out it was King’s Bounty: The Legend, the RPG-strategy remake/sequel from some of the good (mad) folks behind Space Rangers 2. I’m not going to review it or even describe it here. Instead, I’m going to tell two stories that aptly demonstrate the insanity-ingenuity of the thing.
Briefly though, it’s basically Heroes of Might & Magic (the original King’s Bounty having been the source of those games), but, well, better: faster and sillier and bigger. It’s mad and weird and unfair and the Russian-English translation is a disaster. It’s also gloriously ridiculous and constantly inventive. It’s exactly what I wanted to play right now, and I’m quietly confident it’s going to be one of the games I most enjoy this year.
First, the belt story. I found a belt! This was excellent news, as armour for my main character is rare and expensive. Better yet, the belt, apparently, could be upgraded. Right-click to upgrade, it said. So I did. I expected the game to tell me I was lacking Rare Crystal X or something, but I was surprised. “Are you sure you want to fight the keepers?”, it asked. “Er,” I said. “Yes? But I thought I was upgrading my be…”
Suddenly, I find myself here:
I’m fighting inside my belt, at war with mystic guardians for the right to build a better belt. Unfortunately, it turned out said mystic guardians outnumbered my own meagre, low-level army by 10 to 1, so I was roundly thrashed within seconds. Now, in any other fight in the game, if all your troops get knobbled, you continue – respawning at the main town and receiving some sympathy cash to go hire some new guys with. This time, I got a game over screen. I was perma-killed by my own belt. Man! That’s never happened to me before. The lesson here: never upgrade your belt.
(Inevitably, I tried again later, when I was several levels higher. And I won! Hundreds of my troops were killed, but my belt is now 1 better at defence. And really, that’s all that matters.)
Then there’s my wife. Various characters in the game kept recommending I get married, but beyond the king’s child daughter rather unnervingly flirting with me and some polite chit-chat with an old lady who sold plant-beasts, I couldn’t find any women in the game, let alone one to make my bride. Then I met Hake, the robber-baron. He was in a bit of bind because his wife had turned into a zombie. As is so often the way in anything RPGy, he tasked me with solving his problem. So I duly did some trekking about for him, and eventually discovered the magic phrase that would de-zombify the poor lass. A hero is me.
At which point he revealed that, actually, having an undead wife was quite handy – she could test his food for poisons and… well, his reasons weren’t entirely convincing, if I’m honest. And that’s when a surprising dialogue option appeared. There was always at least one vaguely psychotic response I could choose in any given conversation, but requesting if I could buy a man’s wife off him was a whole new layer of madness. I couldn’t not go for it, but fully expected violent reprisal for my cheek.
Except he agreed. For just 5000g (not a lot in KB’s money-rich landscape), I had myself a wife. Not just any old wife – a zombie wife. I was married to a zombie. Ew. A zombie who I could talk to about having kids. Ewww.
I didn’t really want to go there, but fortunately it turned out I could use that magic de-zombie phrase whenever I wanted, so I did the gentlemanly thing: restored her humanity, pledged undying love, and fathered a child. Then, with my heir sorted, I turned her back into a zombie again. Then I divorced her for someone else. The combat bonuses were better, you understand.
Later, I performed amateur dentistry on a dragon, fought a turtle as big as a castle and fed 89 giant snakes to a fish-god. I love King’s Bounty.