Bounty, Which May or May Not Belong to a King

Last night, I beat King's Bounty: The Legend. For those of you unfamiliar, it's a 2008 release, put out as a gigantic tip of the hat to the original King's Bounty, made by Jon Van Caneghem, and frequently credited as the precursor to the Heroes of Might and Magic series.

I played the re-release of King's Bounty for the Sega Genesis in 1991 when I was a kid, despite mediocre graphics, and music that was, frankly, atrocious even for the early nineties. (Come on, people! Megaman 2 was released in 1988, and that music was awesome. You have no excuse.)

The gameplay is fairly simple. Both the original and he remake are based around you controlling an army (in avatar form), and clashing with various other armies in grid based combat. The changes the remake puts into effect basically just make the original game more complicated, or are just slight tweaks to the format. The new one plays in hexes, the old one used squares, your spell book is much larger, you have a host of primary stats and equipment that affect said stats, and most troops now have their own special abilities they can use. All in all, if you even remotely enjoyed the original, or would be interested in a tactical, powergaming heavy ridiculous game, check it out.

But I'm not really here to review King's Bounty: The Legend. The plot to King's Bounty is, on the face of it, ridiculous. The tone was set rather nicely the first time I created a character, a paladin, and was told by my mentor to go pick up a sword and equip it, but not before he checked with me, “to make sure I didn't take any of those stupid vows, like 'No weapons after dark', or something else dumb.”

Further highlights include a quest where a prince asks you to retrieve a frog from a swamp, so he can kiss it and turn it into a beautiful girl, whereupon the frog you find in the swamp informs you that he asks everybody to do that, and all the frogs in the swamp are beautiful girls, but without true love, they turn back into frogs, so the prince just dumps them in his dungeon. This is all not to mention the fact that, in a conversation about this game, I said the following phrase:

“Dammit, my demoness wife can't hold the drill anymore because she has to hold her stupid baby.”

Yes, you can get married. Yes, your wife can equip items (such as a dwarven drill, giving my army -1 initiative, but +25% physical damage). Yes, your wife can have children (also giving you various and sundry bonuses), and yes, those babies, mysteriously, take up her equipment slots.

Make no mistake, I really loved playing this game (and will probably play through again on a higher difficulty), but the story was not very good. It showed a lot of attention to crafting a backstory to the events that occur in the game, but it didn't go anywhere that I didn't expect, and I certainly didn't get emotionally involved, but, as I began to elaborate on in the previous post, it pointed in a lot of directions that got me thinking, “Wouldn't it be fascinating if somebody took that and really ran with it?”

So it turns out that Endoria, the world of this game, exists on the back of a giant turtle, and the orcs, having (sort of) unwittingly set the apocalypse in motion, have kidnapped dwarven engineers and elven magics to build a flying machine to escape to another world, which they have reason to believe is on the back of another turtle floating in the great ocean of space. Therefore, you have to convince them to let you use the flying machine to fly to the ends of Endoria, to rescue the young Princess Amelie (I'm sure it would be a shame I was already married if she wasn't eight years old), and stop the dragon Haas from destroying the world.

The plot holes are everywhere. Why did the orcs go along with the plan in the first place, then decide to stay when you talked to them? The dragon had to kidnap the Princess because she's descended from the gods (King Mark is infertile, it seems), because he needs the tears of the gods to bring about the end of the world. Why on earth do the tears of the gods slay a giant turtle? Why did the dragon go insane in the first place?

Nevertheless, the overactive imagination takes something like the premise of an ocean of turtles with worlds on their backs, and can't help but think about the possibilities allowed by a premise like that. And yes, I'm aware of the similarity to Discworld, though I'm not particularly familiar with the books. Likewise, from the fact that your training involves rescuing a fake princess from a dragon, to the prince who asks you to pick up a frog from the swamp, to the fact that Amelie asks that you be made a prince after the fact, so that her rescuer can be a prince on a white horse, all point to a world that intentionally plays into fairytale tropes. (Again, seemingly not unlike Discworld)

Since I'm prone to analysis and narrative myself, I look at a world like this, and spend a lot of time thinking about the possibilities that you could come up with if you ran with it in various directions. I can't help but think that this is basically the same thing an overactive imagination does when presented with the environments in Super Metroid, or any vague premise, which is either not flushed out or flushed out poorly. I happen to think I'm a good writer, but it doesn't even really matter in this case. Because they're ideas I'm coming up with, I'm predisposed to like them, right? And because it generates, in me, ideas that I find entertaining, the game itself becomes more entertaining.

Oh, and for those who played the original King's Bounty, I can't represent how pleased I was that the final battle basically consisted of you just fighting a ton of dragons. That's the way it should be.

No comments: