King’s Bounty: Warriors of the North: A cool new quest

November 1, 2012

King’s Bounty is a riff on Heroes of Might and Magic which is, itself, a riff on the original King’s Bounty games, and 1C has created a series of games that are aware of what they are and have a great time being just that. Warriors of the North is the next chapter in the modern King’s Bounty series, and this time you’ll be raising armies and playing out hex battles in the frozen north with Vikings and Valkyries.

I’m not sure King’s Bounty could exist anywhere but the PC. It is exceptionally deep, but also very pretty. Its tactical battles make every skirmish feel significant, but some battles are too difficult and the right choice is to avoid them. This comes as a shock to players that are used to being led on the critical path, and introduced to enemies only when the party is ready for the next challenge. There are also a finite number of enemies, so the choices made regarding battle are not only “can I win this fight?” but also “should I take this fight?” and “does it make more sense to use my underleveled units which will make the fight more challenging but hopefully provide me with a more well-rounded and useful army?”

Every unit is Warriors of the North is unique. Even units of the same class have individual characteristics, and no two warriors are exactly the same. Sure, by just looking at the class you have a good idea what any given unit can do, but until you take them all out you don’t know who (and you should have at least a couple) your superstars are: those units that have just the right mix of stats to really seem like more than the sum of their parts and who end up leaving their comrades in the dust in terms of usefulness.

Add to this that each unit equips armor, weapons and accessories, and you have a diverse army of individuals rather than one hero, three warriors, two rangers and a caster. The whole thing feels a bit like fantasy football: you’ll purchase individual units from vendors (a fixed number from each vendor), find yourself thrilled when a rare troop shows up for purchase, and then be heartbroken when that unit is killed during your next battle.

On top of the complexities of raising an army, there is a deep magic system as well. Your magic users gain new abilities by transcribing scrolls that are found scattered about the map. There are also Valkyries to be recruited, and each of them has unique skills (some of which can only be accessed if a certain Valkyrie is your band’s chief). Just like all other units, Valkyries level up, equip armor and are ready to be customized to fit your play style.

There’s a lot going on in King’s Bounty: Warriors of the North, and in many games all of the various systems would compete for the player’s attention and make no choice seem like the right way to spend your time. Warriors succeeds by making everything accessible as well as deep. If you want to spend hours customizing your army and combing the landscape for scrolls and armor sets then you can do that and have a good time at it. If you think that sounds like work and just want to make a group of Vikings who run all over the countryside bashing everything they see then you can do that, too. And you’ll still have a good time.

For a game with a plot (and an enjoyable one at that) Warriors of the North manages to feel like a sandbox. The plot is there, and raising armies is there, and customizing armies is there, too, and if you have fun by letting one system languish then that’s up to you, and 1C won’t punish you for it.

I like King’s Bounty: Warriors of the North quite a bit because it manages to do what many other games cannot: it gives me myriad ways to have fun, without insisting that I use any of them.

Pros: As-deep-as-you-want-it gameplay, unique units, it’s fun to squash guys with Vikings
Cons: There’s a lot here, and the easily intimidated will write it off before seeing where the fun is

Score: 4/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.