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From 2008 to 2014 (and beyond), King’s Bounty was one of my favorite, most-played series. These are strategy-RPGs in which you build your armies from a variety of tribes while leveling up your character and giving them better skills for being a fantasy general. You also explore a map, finishing up quests along the way. I adore these games, even though they can be 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 tied up with reviewing Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous (which is one of my favorite games of the year) to give this sequel a proper review. 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 pick a female warrior, she no longer wears bikini armor that barely contains 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 now have to worry more about positioning, flanking, and leaving themselves open to free attacks 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 big, colorful maps of 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.

And I miss the rich colors and 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 is 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 plan on pressing on, and I hope I either adjust to the tone or find a game so appealing that I can look past it.

Path of Exile, Neverwinter’s fresh starts

Above: Neverdeath? How about never leaving you!

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).

But these updates also refreshed the starting progression for both games, with varying degrees of success.

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

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. The first time I went through their area in the revamped first act, the Rhoas mounted their assault as I looked for their eggs, and I fended it off. It did feel more lethal than before, as did other areas (like the goatfolk-invested hills). As much as I enjoyed it, though, I wished we had new areas 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 dispense with this, you gain access to the other campaigns and adventuring zones. However, this meant running through creaky content such as Neverdeath Graveyard and Vellosk. I’ve been though these several times over the years, and I had no desire to run through them again. I did, but it was hard to push through. I still haven’t hit level 20, despite wanting to get to some areas that I’ve missed.

I do have a hope for new areas in Path of Exile, though not in the original game. Path of Exile 2 is on the horizon, after all. As for Neverwinter, I guess I’ll push through and get to the stuff I want to play.

I just wish there were an easier way for studios to offer fresh intro experiences for veteran adventurers to roll up new characters in older MMOs and 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.

My favorite part of this job was when folks would let me know what they thought about a game I had written about. I even gave out some 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 one of your favorites (or more) is on this list as well.

  • 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 roll more critical hits than epic fails.

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