King's Bounty: Crossworlds PC DVD
Published by Focus Multimedia
Developed by Katauri
As far as fantasy-based turn-based strategy games go, King's Bounty was one of the better games in the genre. The sequel, King's Bounty: Armored Princess was of a similarly high standard putting you in the role of Princess Amelie. King's Bounty: Crossworlds isn't a completely different experience. Essentially you're getting King's Bounty: Armored Princess, a new Campaign Map Editor and three additional campaigns to play through. If this were a full price release it would be tough to recommend to those who have already purchased Armored Princess but at the very pleasant sub £10 price tag that this release carries, it's simply an essential purchase for fans of the series.
If you haven't played a King's Bounty game before a little explanation is in order. Essentially the game is a turn-based fantasy RPG and strategy game hybrid, pretty much in the same vein as the Heroes of Might & Magic series. Your main hero character will roam fantasy lands collecting treasures and recruiting an army of medieval-style wizards and warriors in addition to an assortment of beasts who will also fight alongside you. You'll have the option of making your hero character a warrior, paladin or mage and as they emerge victorious from battles and complete quests they will gain experience and eventually level-up gaining a whole range of skills (that you choose) in the process. There's a lot more to it than that of course and whilst the King's Bounty games may initially appear very similar to other games in this genre, it does enough things differently to make it feel like a unique experience.
King's Bounty: Crossworlds features the whole King's Bounty: Armored Princess, an expanded version of Armored Princess entitled Orcs on the March and two new mini-campaigns. The additional content in the Orcs on the March campaign includes 9 new units, 70 new items and sets, 50+ new skills and abilities, 13 new spells, a Wizard's Tower, a network of military academies, 9 new quests and new skills for your hero character. In short it offers a significant upgrade to the original Armored Princess campaign that will appeal to both those who have already played Armored Princess and those who have yet to do so. In fact if you haven't played Armored Princess before there's no reason why you should opt to play the original campaign over this enhanced version.
The two mini-campaigns are slightly different affairs to the Armored Princess campaign and the one in the original King's Bounty. In Champion of the Arena you'll play as Arthur the mercenary who visits the world of Litan to battle a series of ferocious monsters. There is no messing around with commonplace enemies in this campaign. Essentially you have to form your army and take on eight boss fights who are extremely challenging. This is a mini-campaign for the hardcore fans of the series who just want to test their mettle and it's an extremely satisfying experience when you manage to bring down one of the behemoth boss characters.
In the Defender of the Crown mini-campaign, Princess Amelie must pass her final test to earn the title 'Defender of the Crown of Darion.' As with the Champion of the Arena mini-campaign there's not a lot of storyline here and the focus is placed on tactical action. You'll have to battle in six unique tactical arenas and face a challenge that will earn Amelie the coveted aforementioned title. New hero skills are on offer to spice things up a little. The replay value is high with this mini-campaign as the selection of allies and enemies varies every time you play so you're never going to get the same experience two games running.
King's Bounty: Crossworlds is an addictive experience and I daresay you'll want to play additional campaigns at some point. Thankfully, a Campaign Editor has been included to allow you to create your own. The editor comes with a PDF manual to allow you to get to grips with it. I found the editor fairly straightforward to use (in comparison with some of the campaign/mission editors I've used in the past) but even if creating your own campaigns isn't something that appeals to you, it means that others will be able to be creative and that a steady supply of custom campaigns should be available to download thereby allowing you to prolong the lifespan of the game (which is actually pretty long with just the content that's available out of the box).
The presentation of King's Bounty: Crossworlds is absolutely fine with the bulk of the information being shown visually via text, numbers or icons. Almost all of the dialogue in the game is text only and you can read the text at your own pace. There are a couple of cut scenes that are not subtitled, which is a little disappointing, but these omissions are by no means problematic and won't prevent you from enjoying the game. Visually King's Bounty: Crosswords is a fine looking game with everything from the look of the user interface to the quality of the character models being impressive for a game of this type. The only disappointment I do have is that on widescreen displays the game doesn't completely fill the screen with borders being displayed on the left and right edges.
If turn-based fantasy RPG and strategy games are your thing, King's Bounty: Crossworlds is easy to recommend. Many hours of both challenging and addictive gameplay await you and there is a surprising amount of replay value here to ensure it's a game you'll keep coming back to. If you already own King's Bounty: Armored Princess, the game is a little tougher to recommend although with this addition being priced at under £10 it still represents solid value for money with the additional content it has over Armored Princess. In short the overall package is hard to fault at this price.