Right, where do I begin? King's Bounty is a traditional Western-style fantasy RPG, with Japanese-style RPG elements and turn based combat, written by a Russian studio and translated by an English imbecile. Not that I'm knocking it, it's just that it can be a little... strange. And not just the translation.
You're the King's treasure hunter and are tasked with parading around the Kingdom of Endoria on your oh-so-cute horse, doing RPG things. You know: doing quests for NPC's, defeating bad guys, levelling up skills, dressing yourself in the Divine Togs of Gentlemanly Pride +4. This all plays out on a gorgeous, isometric-ish map of the kingdom, although you can rotate the camera until you’re giddy. You gallop about your business, collecting items and talking to the locals, and eventually you'll run into a group of enemy troops. When you do, the game flips to a close-up of the battle scene and it becomes a simple, turn based game with hexagons. Yes, hexagons in 2009.
You see, it's not just you prancing around on that horse of yours. You have at your disposal an army, well, it's more a menagerie rather than an army. You fill this zoo up with all manner of wild and wonderful creatures from knights on horseback to venus fly traps - each has its own abilities and leadership requirement (you gain leadership from levelling up and collecting banners that you find laying around), and balancing your army so it's the most effective fighting force in all the land is one of the main, and most enjoyable, aspects of the game. Do you go for an undead army of disposable skeletal minions backed up by necromancers, or are you going to rush the enemy with griffons, snakes and demons? There are many variables to take into account such as undead creatures fighting best in cemeteries, and it's quite a fine juggling act getting the balance right. You can back up your troops with magic from your book of spells or any scrolls you have - spells range, exactly as you'd expect, from buff and healing spells to attacking spells.
The other RPG trappings are as pleasing as they should be. Finding new loot and arming yourself with finest weaponry, etc. is a great driving force, and the progression is suitably balanced. The same goes with the creatures for your army - as you progress more powerful beings are unlocked, and the sugary joy of finding a new item or troop type always tastes sweet. There's an awful lot to do as well - many, many quests to get into, and oodles of fights to level up with.
What I like about this game above all else though, is the love with which it's been crafted. Everything about the game from the world of Endoria itself, down to the music is absolutely adorable. The graphics give character to the world (Face, my Paladin, is fantastically attractive - you can see his rugged features when you zoom in) and the scenery is lush. Every character has their own personality - even if the accompanying text doesn't match it - and finding new ones and asking how you can help is even more pleasant than in real life.
And it's insane - another huge bonus in my eyes. You can fight creatures inside items, which leads you to having a battle in a small boy’s amulet, for example. You can get even get married. Yeah, I know - barmy! You can then have children who fill up your inventory and grant you bonuses. If you divorce your wife, she takes the kids, some money and any items she may have been using, such as the oven (oooh!). No court case, nothing. You'd think you'd get custody - after all, you're the treasure hunter by royal appointment. You've got a steady income, and a bevy of creatures to look after your offspring whilst you fight snakes.
Which brings me to my one and only bone of contention. The fights are more regular than your Mum after some All Bran and can grate from time to time. Especially if you're in a hurry to get somewhere and haven't rotated the camera to show the fiendish coyote hidden behind that mushroom. He'll just pop out and instantly initiate the battle screen - you can choose not to fight, but running away constitutes a defeat and you lose your troops, so you may as well put them dukes up. It just gets in the way of questing through the lovely game world and anything that stops you from doing that is a bad thing in my book. Still, enemy troops don't respawn as far as I can tell, and duffing up monsters for experience is as RPG as apple pie.
The only other potential downside is the translation. Clearly English is not King's Bounty's native tongue and some of the text is a little rough. I actually like this - it adds to the charm, and it's never too nonsensical. However, I can see it bugging people who consider text important in RPG's. Even ones as light hearted as this.
These gripes aren’t enough to stop me recommending it though. I’ve fallen for this game in a big way and so will you. Unless you're completely dead inside.