King's Bounty: Crossworlds review
The standalone expansion to King's Bounty: Armored Princess, titled Crossworlds, packs a wallop that serves as a great follow-up to the original King's Bounty. Delivering four campaigns including the original, a remixed version of Armored Princess called Orcs on the March, a follow-up to Armored Princess titled Defender of the Crown, and Champion of the Arena, which features a new character named Arthur in arena-style combat, Crossworlds should be inviting enough to bring fans back.
For those who have yet to play through Armored Princess, the defeated demons of the first game make a comeback and wreck havoc on the kingdom. King Mark tasks his daughter Princess Amelie, to travel to the alternate reality of Teana to find her mentor and eight magic stones to save the kingdom, and the world. The Orcs on the March campaign is a carbon copy with only a few different elements to the mix, such as new items, units, spells, quests and skills, making it a glorified DLC rather than a completely reworked story.
Armored Princess and Orcs on the March both play similar to the original, King's Bounty: The Legend. Players point and click to move around the map, interact with objects and NPCs, and then to battle it out in traditional turn-based combat. The mechanics here resemble the Heroes of Might and Magic formula, but mix things up a bit. For instance, movement on the world map isn't done in turns, but rather take place in real time. Don't expect to stand around in the wild for too long because enemies roam freely and can attack at any point in time.
Battles on the other hand are straightforward. Unit or army placement depend on how many you have and where you'd like to place them on the hexagonal grid since there is limited space. Once everything is properly set up, players duke it out in turns. Similar to a real princess, Amelie doesn't take part in battles directly, but rather commands her troops from the sidelines, and has the ability to support her troops by numerous heals and protection spells, or rain down devastating magic that can easily turn the tides in battle.
The pet dragons, which are acquired during the beginning of Armored Princess, are integral. The player can choose from different colored dragons, each with a unique specialization. The green dragon starts off with the Treasure Hunter ability for instance, and the yellow dragon gives an addition 2 percent to critical hits. Summoning the beasts requires rage points that are accumulated during battle. Since they aren't targetable, they will always be there for support, provided you have the rage to use them. They are absolutely essential, since even on normal difficulty, I was having problems dispatching my foes, and would have been impossible had it not been for my slithering friend.
Defender of the Crown picks up after the Armored Princess storyline, but instead of the same map roaming, quest taking gameplay, it is instead a series of boss battles that progress the storyline. You still have a dragon, although now instead of relying on him to do your dirty work, careful tactics and strategies must be thought through, or the enemies will pummel you to last week. The difficulty spikes right from the first battle where enemies across the field burrow into the ground and dig towards the player in one complete turn. Then, they are capable of summoning extra enemies to outnumber your army, and deal massive damage in only a couple of turns.
Like Defender of the Crown, Champion of the Arena has the same type of boss rush gameplay, only this time focusing on Arthur, a mercenary transported to gladiator styled arenas, who is promised wealth, women and long life in exchange of defeating eight tough bosses. This time around, armies are amassed through guilds, which are different unit factions, such as undead, orcs, demons and dwarves. The strategy comes into figuring out which units work well together by focusing on morale. Rather than buying random units in great numbers, the key to victory is having a high morale army so that it translates into a higher chance to deal more damage and critical hits.
The story and lore of King's Bounty is unfortunately told through many text pages. Not to say it wasn't interesting, but voice acting would have been nice to provide a better sense of immersion. Reading through the countless of text bubbles was rather tiring.
The game relies too much on players knowing their way around King's Bounty and counts on them to have finished the original game. There is a brief tutorial in the Armored Princess campaign, making it absolutely necessary for newcomers to start there, but since it doesn't delve into all the intricacies of battle, much of its strategies must be learned through trial and error.
If you haven't yet stepped into the comical and stylized world of King's Bounty, Crossworlds offers countless of hours to waste, provided you can deal with the steep learning curve of the combat mechanics. Fans will be pleased by the numerous additions, adding on hours of gameplay, those looking to further the story will find themselves disappointed.