Sometime while I was busy writing about how much the PC is awesome and how much BioShock sucks I realized that I was still actively playing King’s Bounty: Armored Princess and I’m overdue in my second review installment. I’m probably about half way through the game at this point. Considering I’ve spent a total of 35 hours so far, part of my brain is telling me to play something else that I have hope of finishing; but I just keep trudging on anyway.
Part 1 was about the world of Armored Princess. It dealt with things that people tend to think don’t matter in games. Whenever a critic rambles on about inconsistent details in fantasy worlds then they can expect insane fans to blow their comment section through the roof with defamatory accusations. Fortunately my reviews don’t get featured on Metacritic so no one cares about them and Armored Princess doesn’t have a lot of fans anyway. But the fans it does have might appreciate this review since it’s about a thing that supposedly is all that matters in a game: the gameplay.
THE REVIEW OF THE ARMORED PRINCESS
– Part II: The Combat of the Armored Princess –
King’s Bounty: Armored Princess is, as you probably know, a sequel to King’s Bounty: The Legend (which is in turn a reboot of a much older game). I never played The Legend despite the internet telling me it was a great game and I sort of wish I had now. Armored Princess stands for the most part, but it assumes that the player is already familiar with its interlinking systems and strategies. I was able to pick up on them after a while, but not every detail was obvious. It also is fairly challenging, for me at least (on the middle tier difficulty setting). In fact a few times I decided to just open the console and cheat to increase my resources. No, I don’t feel bad about cheating, I was merely leveling the playing field of this brutal game.
It’s a brutal game, yes, but it’s rarely a very unfair one. It provides all of the tools the player would need to address challenges, and the challenges all require strategy and skill. As you ride around the world map scouting out possible opponents, it will even tell you which armies are at your level and which ones are more powerful. Anytime I lost a battle I knew for certain that it was my own fault. I should have been more prepared or I should have used a different strategy.
Let me back up a moment and give an overview of how the combat works for anyone who’s not familiar. You have an avatar in the game world who wanders around a huge map and talks to people and finds enemies to fight. However, you don’t do any of the fighting yourself. First you must recruit (or rather, purchase) troops to build an army. They are then carried around with you like Pokémon patiently waiting for an opponent. When you find an enemy on the map you will then enter a battlefield where all of your troops are laid out ready to confront the enemy army. The combat is turn based. Each troop has its own attacks and special abilities. Your character can only intervene by commanding your troops and casting magic spells. All deaths are permanent (except for the ones that aren’t), so if half of your army dies then when the battle is over you’ll need to get another half to replace it. But there is also a limited population in the world, so you can’t just lead wave after wave of troops to die and expect it to last forever. Thankfully, enemy deaths are permanent too. Once you wipe an army off the map, it’s gone for good.
What I like most about the challenge of its battles is that they all force me to make strategies and to remake strategies while rarely introducing new twists. I can’t easily set myself to autopilot and continuously mash the attack button over and over, and the times when I do I have to stay alert for new unpredicted patterns to emerge. One of my biggest complaints about games is when they lack an ability to make themselves challenging in meaningful ways. The claim that games are getting easier may be true, but they often need to be easy because they’re not designed in a way that scales the difficulty well. Games an experience or creating a perceived achievement are generally better off being more easily accessible. Armored Princess’ gameplay is complex and can become very difficult or very easy depending on the particular situation and the player’s skill level. There’s no motivation to continue other than the continued enjoyment of playing this game, which is what I love about it.
Tune in next time for the long awaited conclusion of this review trilogy!