The Let's Play Archive

King's Bounty

by Thuryl

Part 2: How to Save a Kingdom in 400 Days

How to Save a Kingdom in 400 Days

Well, the majority wanted a Sorceress, there was a slightly weaker consensus for Hard difficulty, and two people wanted a fire-themed name. As it turns out, names are limited to 10 letters, so Incinderella is out. Thus...

Our heroine shall be named Ignatia!

To this day, I maintain that this is the best load screen text in the history of load screens.

What it's doing at the moment is rolling dice behind the screen: the game is randomised with each playthrough, so you'll never run into quite the same monsters and treasures in the same place twice. Towns will sell different spells, villains will hide in different castles, and so on. Every once in a while something goes horribly wrong and you end up with a blank map, in which case you quit and start a new game.

Here stands Ignatia the Sorceress at the gates to Castle Maximus. From top to bottom, those icons on the right of the screen represent the villain she currently has a contract to capture (she doesn't have any contracts yet), her military strength (it's silhouetted out because she has no siege weapons), her magic, the map to the Sceptre (no pieces collected yet), and her character status.

We have a mere 60 leadership. That won't do at all. We can learn up to 5 spells, but currently we don't know any. On the bright side, 10,000 gold is a respectable sum and should last us quite a while.

The twelve boxes at the bottom of the screen represent artifacts and navigational charts that we've collected: at present, we only have the chart required to sail to Continentia, the continent we start out on.

Here's our current army. Well, I say "army" but actually it's just thirty guys with pitchforks and ten fairies. We won't be winning any battles with this team, so let's pay a visit to Castle Maximus and see if the king can set us up with some better troops.

At the castle we can either recruit soldiers, or meet with the King and request a promotion.

"Yo, King M. What say you to throwing a promotion my way?"

"Huh. Well, it didn't hurt to ask."

"It may not have hurt you, perhaps. Every word I speak burns like fire in my throat."

"Whoops. Hey, Maximus, you remind me of someone--"

"I cannot imagine who you could be thinking of."

"Well, okay, it's just that there was this--"

"Why are you still here? Do you not have a certain Sceptre to find?"

"I'll get right on that, Sire."

Here, we can recruit troops. The bad news is that they're overpriced. The good news is that there's an infinite supply of them. Right now, we can recruit militia (weak melee troops), pikemen (much stronger melee troops), and archers (self-explanatory). Cavalry and knights will become available once we've been promoted to the proper rank.

If you're wondering why the pikemen aren't brightly-coloured with big sprouts on their heads, that's because you're thinking of Pikmin.

We can have up to 5 different units in our army, each consisting of a different kind of troop. The total HP of the troops in any one unit can't exceed our leadership. Since archers and pikemen have 10 HP each, and we have 60 leadership, that means we can get 6 of each.

Militia have only 2 HP each, so we could get 30 of those, but we're not going to. This is enough of an army for now.

Our dauntless heroine and her army march into the town of Hunterville, just to the south of Castle Maximus. Hunterville always sells the Bridge spell, which builds a permanent bridge extending over two spaces of water. It's cheap, but of pretty limited use. We're not going to buy any just yet.

Fortunately, there are other things we can do in town. If we want to capture villains, we need contracts. Capturing a villain without the proper contract will mean you're forced to set them free, which is an embarrassment for all concerned. Let's see what contracts are available.

From the manual:

Murray, sometimes called The Miser, feigned sleep inside the castle walls. He "slept" next to the gate mechanism for King's Castle. At the appointed time, he was to open the gate and allow a band of pirates to swarm the castle, freeing those political prisoners. Murray got up and stretched, the time was near. His aged bones cracked and ached when he got up. He scratched his balding head and rubbed his bearded jaw. It was getting harder and harder to wake up. He heard something.

So basically, this charming old fellow was supposed to be guarding the gates to Castle Maximus, but instead he was presumably bribed to let the crew of a pirate ship in. What a class act. The reward for capturing him is itself a bit miserly, but that's because his army is weak and easily defeated.

Hack strutted out wearing glimmering jewelry he had just liberated from the warrior queen. His eyes betrayed fear as he noticed the levitating book. "I wish you wouldn't do that around me, I hate it!" Hack paused and gave an appraisal, "Book looks valuable... gold inlay on leather... lemme see it!" As Hack reached for the floating book, Caneghor shouted fiercely, "No!" His eyes blazed with mystic power, "This is for the Master."

Hack the Rogue is the next felon on our hit list. He's a greedy adventurer who helped an evil wizard to steal a book of prophecies revealing how Maximus could be dethroned. Can we hack it? Yes we can! But not just yet, since our army sucks and we don't know where he is. As for this Caneghor he was working with, we'll hear more about him in due course.

Czar Nikolai, Sir Moradon, and Princess Aimola were held captive for attempting to murder Maximus. Overconfident, they had made mistakes. Before the feast had begun, an outcry was raised: a kitchen boy was missing. Maximus and the revelers left the table to search for the lad. The three panicked and began preparations to leave.

When the youth did not turn up after many hours, the search was called off until morning. The food for the feast had been left untouched and Maximus had given it to his servants. The one eating Maximus' portion had died from poisoning. Conspicuous by their absence, the three were brought before the King. Poison had been found in Aimola's belongings, which were packed neatly away for a midnight journey. Furious, the King jailed the three and set their execution for the first day of the Week of the Peasant.

A foreign noblewoman who tried to poison the king, and was complicit in the murder of a kitchen boy who listened in on her plans. She's one of the criminals Murray helped to break out of prison. Her army is more of a challenge than the first two villains, but by the time we get to her we'll be ready to take her on.

Baron Johnno Makahl stretched his considerable girth across the pillows which lay strewn across the tent floor. A slave girl murmured dreamily next to him. He contemplated her sleek back as dawn slowly approached. The Baron was of a once proud lineage whose mighty empire had shattered and collapsed upon itself until it was no more than a pitifully small island nation, far removed from the days of conquest and glory.

He stared in surprise as a huge cyclops burst through the tent flaps. The Baron, seemingly offended by the cyclops' lack of manners, stood up with fire in his eyes. "How dare you," he yelled. "What do you want?"

"We fight now," bellowed the dim-witted Bargash Eyesore. "Arech says attack castle now." He focused on the girl with his solitary, menacing eye, "Kill!" Bargash smiled toothily as the slave cringed with fear.

Another minor noble, who contributed a few soldiers to a failed attack on Castle Maximus. Also, he's a creepy old pervert, which is as good a reason as any to put him away. Unfortunately, he has one very annoying unit under his command, which means we'll have to wait a while before taking him on.

The Dread Pirate Rob stood alone at the prow of the flagship, inhaling deeply of the sea air. Nothing thrilled him more than the sea and sailing. And fighting. Rob was a small man, but lithe and swift. He fought with a rapier to make the most of the small advantages he possessed. It was enough to make him the scourge of the seas. It was enough to have Arech Dragonbreath pay him an exorbitant sum to rescue his five servants.

Someone at New World Computing must have been a Princess Bride fan. This dread pirate isn't secretly a hero, though. He led the assault on Castle Maximus that freed Princess Aimola and four other prisoners.

Those are all the contracts we can get for now. To get more, we'll have to capture some of the villains currently available. And to do that, we'll need to know what castles they're hiding in.

Gathering information reveals that the nearest castle is occupied by random monsters. Ignatia could earn some money by successfully attacking the castle, but we don't want to shell out the cash for siege weapons yet, and her current army isn't up to taking on vampires anyway.

A few steps to the west of Hunterville, Ignatia finds her first treasure. These can do a number of different things, and all of them are good.

This one is a mineral vein. 32 gold a week isn't much, but every little bit helps, and treasures on the later continents will be worth more.

That gentleman to our north with the sword and shield represents a group of wandering monsters. If we approach them, we can see what they are and decide whether to fight.

A band of rebellious peasants have thrown their lot in with the undead and begun roaming the lands committing acts of banditry. Given the personal hygiene of the average peasant, it may be hard to tell the living and the dead apart. At any rate, Ignatia can't just let them go around stinking up Continentia. Chaaaarge!

Here's the battle map! (The position of the little obstacles, like trees and mountains, is randomised for each new battle.) Each of our units gets a turn to move and/or attack, and then the enemy units get their turn.

Peasants and Zombies are slow-moving (only one space per round), weak and unlikely to pose a serious threat. Ghosts are more of a problem. They move up to three spaces per round, and every enemy soldier they kill is added to their ranks as a new Ghost. For that reason, we're keeping our fragile Peasants and Sprites well away from them.

Our archers can fire twelve shots per battle, and can only shoot if no enemy unit is adjacent to them. The obvious target in this battle is the Ghosts, since we really don't want to fight them in melee and risk our troops if we can help it.

Even though we didn't kill any, we've inflicted some damage, making it more likely that the next attack will kill one. There's no way to tell exactly how much damage a unit has taken, but with a little experience it's possible to make an educated guess. Damaged troops return to full health after the end of a battle, but not before (with one infuriating exception that you'll find out about later).

The ghosts attack our pikemen, but fortunately there are no casualties. If they managed to kill one, there would suddenly be three ghosts to fight and only five pikemen to fight them with. Losing a few troops to ghosts can make a battle turn ugly very fast.

Even better, our pikemen retaliated and killed a ghost! The first time any unit is attacked in melee in a round, it automatically fights back. The attacking side has a slight advantage over the retaliating side, but retaliation is still an important factor to consider in every battle.

Now that the ghosts are occupied, we can move our sprites. Sprites are as weak as peasants (1 HP each and 1 damage per attack), but with one difference: they fly. This means that they can move to any space on the map, which is excellent for taking out archers.

Or at least, it would be excellent if sprites didn't completely suck. They're glass cannons, only for "glass" read "talc" and for "cannon" read "popgun". As it is, they're just about capable of taking out an equally-sized group of peasants while losing only half their number to the retaliation.

Normally I'd just dismiss the sprites from my army, since letting them get killed like this lowers my score, but I'm not playing for points this time so Ignatia may as well sacrifice them. We will get other flying units later that aren't quite so worthless.

With the last ghost dead (well, it was dead before on account of being a ghost, but you know what I mean), we can get the zombies to chase us around in circles while shooting at them with our archers, slowly whittling down the enemy's numbers. This is a vital strategy for winning battles on the higher difficulties, since there are a lot of slow but powerful enemies.

After every battle, we earn some money. The tougher our opponents, the more gold we earn. These ones weren't very tough.

Ignatia presses on deeper into the northern mountains, where she finds more monsters and treasure. We will likely earn more money from killing the monsters than taking the treasure.

The green-skinned fellows with bows are orcs: they can only fire six times per battle, but their shots are just as strong as an archer's shots, and they just love to target Ignatia's archers.

The little bearded guys in yellow robes are gnomes. They're as slow as zombies, and about as weak. There's ten of them, though, so if we just rush in and charge them with our pikemen now we'll probably lose a couple of troops.

So instead, we rush in and charge them with something expendable.

I told you peasants were worthless. The good news is that this uses up the gnomes' retaliation for this round, so our pikemen can now attack without fear.

We finish the battle without losing any troops that we actually care about. Our reward is 525 gold. This would be more than enough to buy back the peasants and sprites we lost if we wanted to, which we don't.

"You're talking about dozens of innocents who selflessly sacrificed their lives in the service of king and country. Have you no heart?"

I have a heart. You have a heart. That one peasant whose heart got ripped out by a rabid gnome doesn't have a heart any more, but what can you do.

Ignatia marches on to claim her reward. Sure enough, the treasure cache the monsters were guarding is worth less than the monsters were. In future updates, Ignatia will follow the advice of her loyal retainers (you guys) on whether to be generous and gain the love and trust of her followers, or be a jerk and gain money for herself. For the moment, she distributes the gold because she's desperately in need of more leadership.

"Are you sure my retainers are loyal? They don't look loyal. In fact, they look like they're laughing at me when they think I'm not watching."

Would I lie to you? You can trust them with your life. If they tell you to go out and fight a dragon, then by God, that is what you shall do.

What's that? A cave in the mountainside? This deserves further investigation, just as soon as Ignatia's mighty army clears away the foul monsters blocking our path!

"Mighty army?"

Okay, so it's a dozen guys with bows and spears. It'll have to do for now.

The sprites go straight for our archers, and manage to kill one of them. Replacing him is going to eat up more than half of the 400 gold we earn for winning this battle.

But we can worry about our army later! For now, it's time to see where that cave leads!

... and it leads to more monsters. I guess we shouldn't have put off worrying about our army until later after all. Caves can do one of two things: either they're a place to recruit monsters, or a tunnel leading to another part of the continent. This one was the latter.

In the state Ignatia's army is in right now, dwarves are highly likely to ruin her shit. Losing a battle doesn't lead to a game over, but it's still best avoided if one doesn't want to pay to replace one's entire army.

Instead, Ignatia runs back into the cave like the little girl she is and finds a lovely little stash of treasure just to the north of Castle Maximus.

"Hey! King Maximus has been holding out on me! All of this treasure would be of great value to me in my quest to retrieve the Sceptre, and yet he's keeping it for himself!"

Don't get your hopes up, Iggy. It's just 400 gold and a mineral vein worth 49 gold per week. How does Max even keep a mineral vein in his castle's back garden anyway?

"Did you just call me Iggy?"

There's even more treasure to the east, but it's guarded by Barbarians. These are even worse news than Dwarves, and Ignatia will need a stronger army before she can take them on.

Fortunately, as long as we're not cornered we can always retreat, and monsters will stop following us once we get close enough to Castle Maximus.

"Hey, Russ-- er, Max. I'm here to pick up some more soldiers."

"By all means. Do try to keep them alive; I may have an infinite supply of troops, but I still intend to charge you through the nose for every single one you recruit."

Thanks to our generosity, our leadership has increased to the point where we can recruit seven archers and pikemen at a time. We also get some militia, because it's just common courtesy to give a bunch of peasants some swords and armour before sending them to their deaths. Seriously, the game manual even calls them "peasants in armour".

Barbarians have high HP and move three spaces per round, so they can't effectively be led around in circles. Fortunately, there's only two of them here, so a pikeman charge won't be completely suicidal. And because the militia attack after the pikemen each round, Ignatia's most fragile troops won't be bearing the brunt of retaliatory attacks.

Better still, the enemy AI ends up getting the barbarians stuck in a corner, giving us a free round to shoot at them.

Once the barbarians are gone, we can shoot the gnomes to death at our leisure. Our spoils of war total a whopping 1100 gold, which is more than enough to replace the one pikeman we lost.

With the barbarians gone, Ignatia is free to venture east and collect that treasure.

Not bad. This raises our leadership to 80, which is enough to get another extra archer and pikeman.

Bo-ring. We keep our militia out of harm's way and deal with the sprites first, then the rest, without any losses. Our reward is a paltry 450 gold.

While Ignatia is on her way back to Castle Maximus, the end of the week arrives. In the Land of the Four Continents, a week lasts five days, and at the end of each week one kind of monster dwelling is repopulated. Since Ignatia hasn't found any wolf dwellings yet, and I don't ever plan to recruit wolves anyway, this week doesn't benefit us much. On the bright side, we earn our weekly commission (less upkeep payments for our miserable excuse for an army). Ignatia's commission is an important source of funds early on: 3000 gold is as much as we've earned from every monster encounter so far put together.

Ignatia's not doing too badly for her first week. We have no points on the board yet, because she hasn't yet captured any villains or recovered any artifacts. That will be rectified soon enough.

And here's the current status of Ignatia's army. I predict that not a single one of those militia will survive to the end of the next update.

"What have I gotten myself into?"