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King's Bounty

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King's Bounty is a turn-based fantasy computer and video game designed by Jon Van Caneghem of New World Computing in 1990. The game follows the player's character, a hero of King Maximus, appointed with the job of retrieving the Sceptre of Order from the forces of chaos, led by Arech Dragonbreath. King's Bounty is notably considered the forerunner of the Heroes of Might and Magic series of games.

A Mega Drive/Genesis port was developed and released in North America on February 21 1991 with a multitude of graphical changes. The gameplay was also modified to incorporate real time overworld exploration.

In 2008, a sequel titled King's Bounty: The Legend was released.

GameplayEdit

ObjectivesEdit

The player leads the hero and his army across the four continents, acquiring up to 25 pieces of a map revealing the hidden location to the Sceptre of Order before King Maximus dies. Various details of this task are left to player's discretion, allowing for flexible gameplay. For instance, not all the scattered map sections are required; if the player is able to correctly determine the location of the sceptre's burial spot before acquiring all 25 map pieces, the game is won. If the sceptre is not recovered before King Maximus dies (varies depending on difficulty setting), the game ends in defeat.

The hero is given a weekly commission from the king to track down 17 villains across the 4 continents. With each defeat of the progressively stronger villain's army, the character claims (along with the reward money for the "King's Bounty" on that villain) another piece of the map revealing the sceptre's burial location. Along the way, numerous treasure chests are encountered scattered across the map. Some of these chests represent various events that increase the hero's inherent abilities, such as magical strength or weekly income; others may contain one of eight artifacts, which themselves provide a piece of the map, in addition to conferring their own unique powers.

The location of the sceptre, the artifacts and which castles the villains inhabit are all randomized each game, adding to its replayability.

Asset ManagementEdit

As the player explores, he encounters various types of creatures native to the different continents, some of which are able to be recruited. Most of these creatures are significant upgrades from the normal human forces available to the player at the King's castle, and are required to defeat the tougher villain armies. However, as their strength increases, so does the amount of gold required to retain them, which must be paid weekly. Although the player's commission can be raised in a variety of ways, such as maintaining a garrison of forces at a captured castle, if his costs exceed his income for too long, and he runs out of money, his army will abandon him.

Furthermore, each of the various army units have either a positive, neutral, or negative predisposition towards other. An army composed of creatures that "dislike" each other lowers their "morale", making them much less effective in combat. Conversely, recruiting creatures which share a positive predisposition towards each other increases their morale. Assembling an "ideal" army is another open-ended aspect of the game.

HeroesEdit

King's Bounty features four selectable hero classes; Barbarian, Knight, Paladin, and Sorceress. Each class varies in magical ability, starting troop power, natural leadership ability, and Commissions (income per week). As the king's bounty is collected on more villains, the king may increase the rank of the hero. This rank determines in part what troops the hero may recruit, and more importantly, the strength of the hero's attributes.

The main attributes that determine hero ability are:

  • Leadership - This number determines the maximum stack size of armies. If the hit point value of any army exceeds this number, those units are considered out of control and will attack the nearest troop, including the player's armies, during the next battle. However, since out-of-control armies are overly powerful, they can be toyed with, e.g. by teleporting it to the middle of the enemy's forces.
  • Commission - This is simply the amount of income awarded to the character at the end of each week.
  • Spell power - This number is used by the game when determining the quality of any spell cast. Some spells (mostly overworld spells) always work the same way, regardless of spell power.
  • Maximum spells - This determines the maximum number of spells the hero may know at any one time.

Combat and TroopsEdit

Combat in King's Bounty occurs when sieging an occupied castle or engaging a wandering army on the main map. Combat turns are simple, with the player's army moving first, followed by the opponent's. Armies are stack-based, with any one stack taking up one square on the battlefield. Stacks can represent anything from one cavalry unit to thousands of Peasants.

The game features a multitude of usable troop types, many of which are medieval or mythological in nature. Each unit type has various stats such as HP, attack power, and movement points. Troop types are designated into groups A through E; using troops from different groups can affect the morale of each troop. Some types have special abilities:

  • Orcs, Archers, Elves, Giants, Druids and Archmages have ranged attacks
  • Sprites, Dragons, Demons, Vampires and Archmages can fly
  • Dragons are immune to magic (including the magic attacks of Druids and Archmages). They also cannot be harmed by Peasants.
  • Demons can occasionally slay half of an enemy stack's number in a single attack
  • Ghosts increase their numbers when killing enemies (it is possible for their numbers to increase beyond the player's Leadership value, causing the Ghosts to become out of control)
  • Vampires can regenerate their numbers by attacking enemies, although unlike Ghosts they cannot increase their numbers beyond the original number of Vampires
  • Trolls regenerate to full health at the end of each turn of battle, although dead Trolls do not revive.

The number of units of a particular troop that can be in the player's army is limited by the player's leadership stats. Troops can be recruited from various dwellings found throughout the overworld. With the exception of the types found exclusively at Maximus' castle, troops are found in limited numbers in their dwellings. When a dwelling is depleted of units, it will not be repopulated until the next astrological week of that troop type (for instance, Week of the Druids).

King's Bounty for Sega Mega Drive/GenesisEdit

Gameplay changesEdit

The Mega Drive/Genesis port of King's Bounty is notably different from the PC version of the game, the most obvious change being the move into the realm of real time. Armies on the overworld now move on their own and automatically engage the hero. This makes the game arguably more difficult, as a careful player of the DOS version could often maneuver past several wandering armies at a time without being successfully engaged. Also affected is the game's time limit. Although it has become harsher, it is somewhat balanced by the fact that trekking across desert squares no longer takes 1 day, and changing continents no longer ends the week.

Gone from this version of King's Bounty are all keyboard controls and hero naming capabilities.

Graphical ChangesEdit

The game's graphics were completely redone (by Bonita Long-Hemsath and Kenneth L. Mayfield). The hair and skin color of many characters were changed, and many of the sprites representing armies underwent redesign. As a minor change, wandering armies are now displayed according to their most powerful stack, as opposed to the generic stacks of the DOS version that corresponded to the current continent. Nevertheless, the graphics remain trademark New World Computing, with other games like The Faery Tale Adventure appearing similar though featuring different gameplay.

King's Bounty and Heroes of Might and MagicEdit

King's Bounty is widely considered to be the precursor for much of the gameplay in the Heroes of Might and Magic series (the Might and Magic series being the basis for the storyline), both of which were published by New World Computing and designed by Jon Van Caneghem. Among the many similarities, an emphasis on hero development and combat style are especially prominent in both. In the introduction to the player manual of Heroes III, van Caneghem credits King's Bounty as the precursor to Heroes of Might and Magic. King's Bounty is included in some HOMM anthologies, including the Heroes of Might and Magic Compendium and Heroes of Might and Magic Millennium Edition. The anthology versions also provide a native executable for Windows, though not fully supported in Windows NT-based operating systems.

The 2001 PlayStation 2 title Heroes of Might and Magic: Quest for the Dragon Bone Staff is an enhanced remake of King's Bounty made by 3DO.

SequelEdit

Main article: King's Bounty: The Legend

In 2007, the Russian game publisher 1C Company purchased the property rights to the King's Bounty franchise and attached the name to a title being developed by Katauri Interactive, a small company located in Vladivostok. Prior to the name change, the game's working title was Battle Lord. The game was published in 2008 as King's Bounty: The Legend.

King's Bounty boardgameEdit

A King's Bounty boardgame was also released in 1991 by Task Force Games. Like its computer game counterpart, the object of the game is to catch villains in a fantasy setting. However, other features differ, the villains' names are different and three designers, not including Jon Van Caneghem, are credited for the creation of the game. Interestingly, the cover of both the computer game version and the boardgame version are the same, implying some connection between the two.

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