The King’s Bounty series is back, and it’s on Android! For all you kids who were around in 2008, you might remember the PC title with the same name. King’s Bounty was a solid, “under the radar” game that involved pitting your armies against an evil, corrupt fantasy world on a hex-based battleground (octagonal, actually). Not much has changed with the addition of the newest spin-off called “Legions”. You still get the strategical, turn-based combat, pretty graphics, oodles of quests and items, and wide variety of humans and beasts at your command… Plus, one almost kinda sorta very probably annoying-ass bomb of a “new feature”, which of course I will make you read-on to discover.
For those of you NOT in-the-know, King’s Bounty was a fantasy-strategy game for the PC. Your sole purpose was to ride around on your horse from village to village, accepting various quests to kill this-and-that or find thus-and-such, and in order to do such-and-which you’d have to fight so-and-so. Combat is (and was) the bread and butter of the King’s Bounty series, and Legions makes no exception.
A Unit For Every Challenge
Once you blow-through the terribly inept and non-comprehensive tutorial, you’ll quickly find yourself in familiar territory; a pretty map with several icons for potential “encounters” and some active quests (simplistic excuses to get you into combat). Once you meet an encounter, usually on the street-corner under the cover of darkness with a wallet full of crisp one-hundred dollar bills… Wait, wrong game. Sorry. *ahem* Where was I? Oh yes, encounters… King’s Bounty: Legions is all about combat, some random and some quest-related. Under your belt (no pun intended), you’ll have several units at your disposal – ranging from Pirates to Possessed Bears to Dragons – all of which you’ll use to create a custom army. Each “stack” of units (one or more of the same type) will be represented on the hex-map by one representative with a number beneath (how many units in the stack). You can upgrade units outside of combat in order to improve their various stats, as well as buy more of them at different cities/villages. Combat is a matter of shuffling each stack around the map, selecting a target, and attacking. Simple, right?
In addition to your armies, there’s you… a studly throwback to medieval times who parades around in his shiny silver breastplate hurling wicked spells at his opponent and defensive spells at his armies. After each combat, you’ll collect various bits ‘n pieces – drops from the mobs your army kills – which can then be crafted into snazzy new hats, swords, and belts. Each battle also nets you various rewards (based on quest) as well as gold. Gold is used for many things, including (but not limited to) upgrading troops, purchasing new troops, and healing your army after battle.
Stamina: It’s Never Enough
So, obviously combat is the main focus in King’s Bounty: Legions… Let’s talk about what happens outside of combat. When your units are killed, they get placed into an “infirmary” where you need to spend stamina (or gems) and gold to heal them and bring them back to your army. Stamina is basically what determines how long your play-session will be, and you gain roughly 1pt every 4min of game-time. Your stamina capacity increases as you level, but it’s really never enough. Every town you travel to, every combat you engage in, every unit you bring back from the dead… all costs stamina. While you can craft potions (assuming you find the proper ingredients) to give you more stamina temporarily, you’ll quickly find yourself running into this game’s Achilles’ Heel – freemium content. Remember that “bomb” I mentioned in the intro? Yea, here it is.
Once you get into the swing of the game, taking new quests and applying your military might on the battlefield, you’ll quickly find yourself out of stamina – like, after two or three battles. What do you do when you run out of stamina? Buy more, of course! How do you heal troops in your infirmary when you run out of stamina? Buy gems! And, how do you get new, more powerful units without having to piece-meal them together as rewards from your battles? Buy gems! What if you want more spells to use in combat for your hero? Buy gems! You get the picture… After an hour or so of play, you’re seriously constrained by this game’s drive to suck dollars out of your wallet. This, in my opinion, is a serious disappointment.
Biding Your Time
The only alternative to filling-in the void of time that this game constantly presents you with is by “patrolling”. Once you’ve been tapped of stamina, you can go on patrol for one or three hours. Since your stamina refreshes at the rate of one stamina per four minutes, and you’ll hit this wall with around a twenty-six stamina pool, it’ll take around an hour to refill. If you’re about to go out for the night or hit the hay, do the three hour option. Patrolling is an automated thing in which you gain some gold and experience through random encounters. Plain-and-simple, it’s a way to fill the time until you have enough stamina to play some more. In my opinion, this game would have been much much better without the freemium gimmicks plus a $5 price-tag. It’s really that fun. As it stands, however, I simply don’t have the fragmented, ADD gaming-style that this game requires (ie. Picking it up every two hours to play for an hour and then patrol for another hour, rinse and repeat). Frankly, this whole move to freemium content needs to die a horrible death… With plagues and rats and constant acid-rain. Seriously, who actually buys gems in-game just to get new units? /rant
Combat, quests, stamina, patrolling… What’s left? Mechanics. First-off, this game requires an Internet connection to play – another annoying trend. The first time you boot-up Legions, expect to wait a few minutes as it loads “content” – guessing it’s a cloud-based update thang. The load time, in general, is quite long – when booting-up as well as entering combat. For some odd reason, it always displays “connecting to opponents” even when you’re playing single-player. Slow slow slow. Once you’re in combat, however, things work just fine. The graphics are very attractive; in fact, the loading screen says “optimized for Nvidia Tegra” and that it is. So much so that you’ll find about 20% of your battery drained after an hour’s worth of gameplay on a Nexus 7 tablet.
A Wee-Little UI
Load-time aside, the ui is incredibly scaled-down and touchy. You’ll need to tap-hold 20x20px icons in order to read more about unit abilities and tap-drag units from your storage into your active army bar… However, it doesn’t seem to like it when you drag things. Quite often, I’ve found myself trying to tap-and-drag a unit type to my bar without success; frustrating. The same issue happens when attempting to equip new items. Some improvements can definitely be made in the tap-and-drag department. Quest-wise, the text is also infinitesimally small and wordy… You’ll certainly be squinting to read.
All-in-all, King’s Bounty: Legions is an incredibly complex, pretty, and engaging game. The original formula for the 2008 version, as well as that of Heroes Of Might & Magic, persists… Lots of turn-based strategy, upgrading units, and discovering new ones. While the website proclaims support of PvP, you’ll only get it if you manage to recruit your friends – I don’t know a single person with an Android tablet. Unless you can get on the social bandwagon, you’ll find yourself out of gems and thus hemmed-in by the freemium constraint. This game could’ve been brilliant at a $5 price-tag and zero limitations to content, but given the age in which we live… they’ve sold-out just like the rest, and therefore I will probably stop playing. Such a shame.