The D20 Beat: King’s Bounty II, fresh starts, and goodbye

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From 2008 to 2014 (and beyond), King’s Bounty was one of my favorite, most-played series. These strategy-RPGs allow you to build your armies from various tribes. You can also level up your character and give them better skills to be a fantasy general. You can also explore a map to complete quests. These games are addictive, even though they can get repetitive.

So it saddens me that I just don’t care for King’s Bounty II so far.

1C and Deep Silver launched King’s Bounty II on August 24. I was too busy reviewing Pathfinder Wrath of the Righteous, which is one of my favourite games of the year, to give this sequel a proper evaluation. Now, I want to first applaud 1C for making some changes to King’s Bounty. As much as we love what we know, it’s good to give old game franchises a new spirit.

King’s Bounty II drops one of the things I did not like about previous games: the ridiculous, oversexualized women. If you choose a female soldier, her bikini will now cover her chest. This is a huge improvement — it’s embarrassing when your general is wearing less armor than a bearded gnome.

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I’m also enjoying the greater emphasis on tactics in combat. Units are now required to be more concerned about their positioning, flanking, as well as allowing themselves to be attacked when moving around the battlefield. I’m digging these changes, and as I progress later into the campaign, I hope to find greater uses for these tactical improvements.

1C’s new presentation, however, makes me reluctant to play. I miss the large, colorful maps from the older games. It was a mostly top-down presentation, and as you explored, you could better see everything in your path — units, shops, enemies, treasure, and so on. King’s Bounty II puts you into a third-person viewpoint, so it feels like you’re missing out on the bigger picture as you explore.

I miss the rich colors of King’s Bounty II and its silly tone. King’s Bounty II is grimmer, and its world matches it. So far, I’m trapped in a gray realm besieged by snow. My gear looks drab. My soldiers look drab. Towns look drab, missing the colorful rooftops and banners of older King’s Bountys. It feels oppressive, like it’s not inviting me to explore its world.

I will keep going, and I hope to either adapt to the tone or find a game that appeals enough to me that I can overlook it.

Path of Exile, Neverwinter’s fresh starts

Above: Neverdeath? What about never being left behind?

Image Credit: GamesBeat

Last month, the online action-RPG Path of Exile and Neverwinter (the D&D MMORPG) released huge updates recently, adding new campaigns and more (like the Bard class in Neverwinter).

These updates also updated the starting progression for both games with varying degrees.

Developer Grinding Gear Games refreshed Path of Exile’s first act, adjusting some areas to make them more challenging. Path of Exile feels more difficult due to other balance changes made by the studio on character builds.

When I talked to Grinding Gear general manager Chris Wilson about this, he brought up how folks felt about Path of Exile’s beta period years ago, how the Rhoas (basically terror birds) were, well, a terror for players when first encountered in the swamps. I was first to pass their area in the revamped second act. The Rhoas attacked me as I searched for their eggs. I managed to stop them. It was more dangerous than it was before. The same thing happened in other areas, such as the goatfolk invested hills. It was a great experience, but I wish we had more places to explore.

I got a similar vibe from Neverwinter’s refreshed introduction. It mashed a bunch of older content into a new 20-level “intro” campaign. Once you get rid of this, you can access the other campaigns or adventuring zones. This meant that you had to run through some very difficult content like Neverdeath Graveyard or Vellosk. I’ve been though these several times over the years, and I had no desire to run through them again. I tried, but it was difficult to persevere. I still haven’t hit level 20, despite wanting to get to some areas that I’ve missed.

Although I have hopes for new areas in Path of Exile II, it is not the original game. Path of Exile 2 is in the works. As for Neverwinter, I guess I’ll push through and get to the stuff I want to play.

It would be easier for studios to provide new intro experiences for veteran adventurers in order to allow them to create new characters in older MMOs or online games.

Goodbye, my friends

Yes, one of Dragon Quest XI's main characters turns into a Mardi Gras float.

Above: Yes, one of Dragon Quest XI’s main characters, Sylvando, turns into a Mardi Gras float.

Image Credit: Jason Wilson/GamesBeat

This is my farewell column. In my nine years here at GamesBeat, I’ve covered a lot of RPGs. It’s my passion, and I dig writing about the big ones or the small ones, triple-A or indie. I want to thank every developer that’s taken the time to talk to me over the years, and I also want to thank our readers for taking the time to read our articles and engage with us on social media.

It was my favorite part of my job, when people would let me know their opinions about a game they had written about. I even gave away prizes to you for reading The D20 Beat.

As I prepare to leave, I wanted to leave you with my list of the favorite RPGs I’ve played since beginning my time at GamesBeat. I hope this list includes one or more of your favorite RPGs.

Darkest Dungeon
Dragon’s Dogma
Dragon Quest XI: Echoes of an Elusive Age
Final Fantasy XV
Loop Hero
Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire
Persona 4 Golden
Path of Exile
Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous
Slay the Spire

Be well. And may you score more critical hits that epic fails.

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