I Heart… King’s Bounty

kingsbounty1I’m not impressed by much in gaming these days but I’m especially not impressed when you ask someone what their favourite game is and they tell you that it is some obscure nonsense like Princess Uhuru Melty Blood: Act Cadenza or something. It’s like yeah, I get it. You don’t play Call of Duty and you’d rather play Wartech: Senko No Rondo. Fine. Good for you. Well, initially my choice of favourite game ever may seem a lot like that. It’s called King’s Bounty. Well, that’s okay, you may have heard of King’s Bounty – they’ve made like ten of the fucking things and they are all on Steam or iOS or something. Fine. But I’m talking about the original King’s Bounty. Well, that’s fine also. It was out for PC and Amiga so it caters for the strategy nerds but it also hit the Sega Megadrive, so it had a little bit of exposure out in console land, too.

Yeah, but here’s the thing. The version of King’s Bounty that I love is the Windows Mobile 6 version, which was freeware and coded by a Russian kid. Oh fuck you, Rich. Yeah. Fuck me.

I’m not trying to be obscure though. If this exact game was out on the DS, 3DS, Android or iOS, that’d probably be my favourite version but it’s not. In fact, let it be known, I’d buy a 3DS for a good version of King’s Bounty (and I consider the 3DS to be rather less desirable than a bag of AIDS). The recent King’s Bounty outing on iOS is some nonsense with extra social media linkage and looks so tedious I never bothered downloading it even for free. Nope. I don’t want any of that.  No multiplayer, no social media integration, no IAPs. I just want classic King’s Bounty and that’s what the Windows Mobile 6 port is – the classic game but with a couple of user interface tweaks that perfect an already great game.


So what is King’s Bounty? It’s a tactical RPG with all the emphasis on tactics and not much on the RPG bit. You pick one of four classes (they have differences but it barely matters) and then get on a horse and go to meet the King. He tells you that you need to explore the world (four continents) and find the missing pieces of a sceptre, which are scattered about the place or sometimes held by criminals.

As you potter around the land, you’ll find objects, treasure, allies and, most of all, enemies. When you engage with an enemy, you take turns battling in a single-screen arena made up of 5×7 spaces. You advance your units, as if you were playing chess, either attacking from range or up close. Different units have different attributes: some can fly, some can only move slowly (but may be stronger or more durable) and some can attack from range. There are plenty to use and experiment with. Some units are quite ingenious – ghosts, for example. They are pretty weak but every time they kill anything its ghost is added to their numbers. However, if you let any group get too big they’ll reject your command and will start attacking you and that can happen easily with ghosts. You also have demons who are pretty tough but have a small percentage chance of halving one army with a single strike. Scary.

kingsbounty3Dotted around the world are castles that can be inhabited by criminal bosses. A castle battle gives you less room and normally these bosses have larger armies at their disposal. The idea is that you need to get a contract, find the boss on that contract, invade their castle and beat their army. Capturing criminals ultimately helps you to rank up, allowing you to command bigger armies, which is good as the bosses get much harder to capture later on.

To help you along the way, you also have magic spells that can be used in and out of combat to push the odds in your favour. From spells that freeze time, clone your armies or resurrect your dead, to fireballs, lightning and freeze spells, there are many options and holding the right blend of spells is crucial to succeeding later on in the game. It’s all pretty standard stuff but it just does everything with a certain economy that I really like. I don’t want too many options. I don’t want to micro-manage. The only Civilization game I’ve ever enjoyed was the very first one. My favourite Spectrum game is Rebelstar 2 by Julian Gollop but I’ve never bothered with its spiritual successors, the X-Com series, because I get everything I need from Rebelstar 2.

kingsbounty4That’s true of King’s Bounty. There’s exploration but it is manageable, there’s combat but it’s exciting and there’s tactical play but it’s at my level (which is to say I’m not Gary Kasparov).  Everything is easy to understand and get started with but you have to learn the behaviour and skillsets of the various enemies you face. It’s a learning process and, initially, the game can seem incredibly difficult, especially when you move to a harder continent and start getting blatted by seemingly indestructible giants and ogres. But stick with it and you’ll start figuring out what units to recruit, how to balance ranged and melee units and how best to use magic.

As much as I loved the Amiga version of King’s Bounty I never got close to finishing it, but I have completed the Windows 6 version more times than I can remember (I’d say fifty would be a conservative guess). The game is a straight port but it has good touch-screen functionality and also some improvements (such as being able to see, at a glance, what spells are on sale at each town or who controls each castle). I admit though that I hadn’t completed it recently (at least a couple of years) and so I had another run through of the game, making it all the way to the end and defeating the final army. At this point, the game doesn’t put up much of a challenge but it is still deliciously playable and so perfectly suited to the format.

kingsbounty5I recently put together a bit of a mancave in my house and my old Vodafone 1615 takes pride of place amongst my handheld collection, even though this is the only game on it and it hasn’t seen a SIM card since 2009. I can never lose this phone because I’m not even sure how I’d get the game again so I’ll keep it safe (and will keep an old micro USB charger handy) just in case I get the urge to play again. Which I have right now to be honest.

Last five articles by Richie


One Comment

  1. KB Fan says:

    Yes, the original King’s Bounty is fantastic. But the best version is the one published in 1989 for the Mac. It’s fantastic and the graphics are nice and crisp and the mouse and menu interface works like a charm. It’s a great game for all of the reasons you mentioned.

    You can still play the Mac version using Basilisk emulation.

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