Review of King's Bounty: Legions
For a long time, I’ve been looking for the perfect online strategy game, preferably on Facebook. Not a puzzle game like Candy Crush; not another tower defence game; but a real strategy game. Furthermore, I don’t want to pay for it; I’ll accept that certain parts of the game go quicker for those who choose to pay, but I want a game where non-payers have a fighting chance.
King’s Bounty: Legions is not perfect, but it’s the closest thing I’ve found for a while. The premise is that you lead an army against increasingly strong enemies to complete a storyline. There’s also a “Duel” mode where you can fight PvP to get to the top of the Duel league. Cleverly, the computer doesn’t require the other player in the duel to be online; if they are offline, the AI will manage the army that they have constructed (with all their current attack and defence bonuses :-( ).
The battles are turn-based and are run on a 7x7 hex grid. You can have five types of unit in your army; you can choose between fast attackers, strong defenders, or long-range attackers. Many units also have a special ability, and you get to cast some spells too. Graphically, each unit has individual movements; assassins crouch, knights stand tall, rangers headbutt the ground when they die, fairies spin, and sea devils take flying leaps (!). The whole thing is reminiscent of the old Heroes of Might and Magic series of games – hardly surprising, because King’s Bounty comes from the same designer.
So where’s the strategy? It’s largely in the formation of your army, and in how you spend your money (earned through doing quests or completing the storyline – i.e. battling the AI). The really nice thing about this game is the range of choices you have to build your army. There are 53 unit types to choose from, in 4 different “races” (there are small benefits to using units from the same race); 5 different “classes” (Warrior, Defender, Healer, Mage or Archer; each has bonuses against two of the other classes); and 3 different “levels” (Common, Special or Legendary). Your army can contain five unit types out of the 53, with at most one Legendary and two Special units.
The other nice thing about the game is the range of ways to improve your army. There are two different ways to enlarge your army (i.e. increase the unit cap), one of which involves a fairly intricate system for manufacturing equipment; two ways to improve the performance of a particular type of unit; four ways to improve your spell collection; one way to obtain temporary bonuses for your whole army; and no less than eight different ways to obtain extra units for your army. Of these options, only a couple require you to spend money on the game, and only one requires you to rely on the help of Facebook friends (or Kongregate friends – the game runs there too). So the game offers wide scope for different methods of game play. One key difference from HOMM is that when units die in battle, you can revive them for a payment that is significantly less than buying them in the first place; this avoids endless backtracking and gold farming to repeatedly re-purchase your army.
That’s the good news; now for the bad news. While Common units are easy to come by, many of the unit-collecting methods will only produce a very few Special or Legendary units, and by the late game, you’re going to want 30-50 of each Special and 20-40 of each Legendary unit in your army. There are only three methods for reliably obtaining large numbers of Legendary units: spend money; have a VERY large number of friends (you’ll need 10-12 friends for each unit); or be granted some for advancing in experience in the game (and you won’t get more than 12 until very late in the game). For Special units, there is a fourth method – some can be purchased from shops using in-game currency – but they’re expensive.
And now for the really bad news: if you do choose to spend money on this game, you can easily spend a LOT of money. Barring occasional sales, Legendary units cost about 3 pounds PER UNIT, and Specials 1 pound. And then there’s the upgrades: if you want to make it to the top of the Duel leaderboard, you’ll want to upgrade each of your units the maximum of 15 times. Upgrading a Common unit to the max will cost you more than 2 million in gold, the in-game currency (for comparison, playing for a couple of hours will net you 50,000 -- 100,000 gold). Or you can buy the 15 upgrades for around 10 pounds. That’s for each of your Common units; for Specials, double the cost, and for Legendaries, double it again. Most buyers will start with gold and then switch to purchases to save some money, but your total bill could easily exceed 100 quid (US$150/125 euros).
My verdict? It’s a great game, as long as you set yourself the goal of completing the storyline, and don’t get seduced by the super-duper stuff awaiting you when you get close to the finish line, trying to tempt you to keep going and try for the top Duel rating. Like I said, it’s not a perfect free strategy game, but it’s by far the fairest PvP game for non-payers that I have found, and it offers a wide range of strategy options. Enjoy.