King’s Bounty: Armored Princess is the standalone expansion of one of my most-played games from 2008, King’s Bounty: The Legend. The King’s Bounty pedigree hails from a long line of some of my favorite games, including the original King’s Bounty title from 1990 and the wonderful Heroes of Might and Magic games. Armored Princess takes much of what was great in The Legend, polishes a few of the rougher edges, and ends up being a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
At first glance, Armored Princess looks and feels exactly like its predecessor. Players take control of Amelie, the titular princess who was rescued during the happenings of The Legend. Amelie is all grown now, and very bad things have happened to her home world. The Demons have attacked and all looks lost, until a way is found to send Amelie to another world to track down the lands previous hero, Bill Gilbert. Upon arriving in the new world of Teana, Amelie discovers she is the focus of a prophecy that will require her to recover several magical stones, and combine their powers to save her world.
Gameplay is very similar to that in The Legend. Amelie moves about the colorful and detailed map in real-time, collecting various goodies and gathering her eclectic army. The units available in Armored Princess are mostly all familiar, with a few additions and tweaks thrown in. Enemies also wander these maps, and whenever Amelie gets too close, the game moves to a turn-based, hex-board battle. Here, each stack of creatures or combatants takes turns moving across the board and attacking the enemy stacks, until one side is victorious. Amelie herself never steps on the battlefield, but may spend her precious mana reserves to cast spells on her troops to turn the tide of battle. The spells are very similar to those in The Legend, although many have been tweaked to balance things a bit.
In addition to spellcasting, Amelie also generates a resource called “Rage” whenever her troops deal or are dealt damage in combat. Rather than using the Rage Box from The Legend, Amelie channels her Rage through a cute little pet dragon. Throughout the course of the game, this dragon gains some pretty impressive abilities, including summoning additional creatures to the battle, dealing direct damage, or digging up valuable treasures on the battlefield. The dragon itself may be a little too cutesy for some, but I found him rather enjoyable in a Disney-esque sort of way.
As in The Legend, Amelie may focus herself as one of three character types: Warrior, Paladin or Mage. Warriors have greater Rage-gaining tendencies, in addition to having much higher Leadership. The Mage focuses on spellcasting, therefore has lesser Leadership and Rage acquisition , while the Paladin is something of an average of the two. The classes are much more closely balanced in Armored Princess than they were in The Legend, so I didn’t find a real standout class as I did in the original. As Amelie gains experience from winning fights and completing quests, she may level up, gaining magical runes to spend on various skill trees. The mix of runes is weighted by character class, with Warriors gaining mostly red (combat) runes, Paladins gaining green (Mind), and the mages gaining mostly blue (magic). Each class may spend freely on any of the trees, but there is one class-specific skill for each of the character types. In addition, each level-up gains Amelie additional Leadership, the value which indicates exactly how many units of a given type Amelie can field in her armies.The world of Teana is comprised of a series of islands, which are mostly divided among the various races. There are dwarf islands, undead islands, islands of human troops, and a demon island. While the troop availability and enemy composition is randomly generated with each new game, players can generally expect to find the troops usually match the lands currently being visited. Islands can only be accesses once Amelie gains the proper navigational chart, most of which are guarded by particularly powerful stacks of enemies. There is a cheesy (or, perhaps, “tactically sound”) way for players to “kite” the chart guardians away from their posts, allowing players to gain access to islands much more quickly than would otherwise be possible. In fact, much of the game can be spent in real-time, dodging enemies and gaining the valuable items found lying about the maps. Of course Ameile doesn’t gain much experience this way, but she can become quite powerful early on, allowing her to return to low-level islands and clean house. Besides running about the map on trusty steed or ship, after completing a certain quest near the midpoint of the game, Amelie’s horse gains the ability to take to the air. This allows players to more readily skirt about the islands, grabbing treasures while dodging enemies. The winged horse is a nice touch to the series, and it really changes the way exploring is done.
Like in The Legend, troops for sale in Armored Princess don’ t replenish often, if at all. Combined with the completely random distribution of troops in the game, this can mean that players may never find enough of a favorite troop in a given playthrough. And even if the troops can be acquired, the best troops are often in extremely limited supply, so losing even a few units during a given battle can be devastating. Items and spells, like troops, are also randomly generated each game, so players cannot be guaranteed to find that favorite spell or complete that set of items each game. This can mean a very different play each time through, especially if players come to rely on a given spell combination that may never even come to be discovered. Some people will find this a bit of a put-off, but I find it makes me try out new troop, spell, and item combination strategies.
King’s Bounty: Armored Princess looks and controls exactly like the original, for better or worse. I like the style and feel of the series, and I easily fell right in to playing off the bat. That being said, it certainly isn’t necessary to have played the original to enjoy the expansion, which is in many ways a little better polished. And while I found a great deal of enjoyment out of Armored Princess, the expansion doesn’t bring enough to the table to make those who didn’t quite like the original to change their minds. That being said, I find myself still playing new combinations of troops and classes, and having quite a blast doing so. All in all, King’s Bounty: Armored Princess is a solid title for fans of the original, and a fun romp for turn-based fantasy enthusiasts.