King’s Bounty: Dark Side Review

King’s Bounty: Dark Side is the latest entry in the seemingly endless King’s Bounty series of turn-based RPG/strategy games. In theory, it shakes up the formula by, for the first time, letting you play as the bad guys. In practice, it feels like a lazy retread of the same game developer 1C-SoftClub have been milking for over half a decade.

Dark Side sees you playing either an Orc warrior, a seductive Demoness or a Vampire wizard, on a quest to restore the balance between Light and Dark. The story is embarrassingly awful, swinging regularly between half-baked exposition, overt sexism and baffling non-sequiturs in an attempt, seemingly, to be funny. In the first game, King’s Bounty: The Legend, there was a certain charm to the strangeness – here it just feels like a joke worn way too thin.

Admittedly significant blame for that must be placed at the feet of the shamefully shoddy translation from the game’s original Russian, which often leaves sentences unreadably mangled. Some words appear to have just been left in, untranslated, and the main menu even manages to get the game’s own title wrong, calling it King’s Bounty: The Dark Side.

Gameplay is largely the same as ever, with only a few minor iterations. You’re still taking on quests, looking for treasure and fighting monsters in hex-grid tactical battles. Indeed it still looks exactly the same, with no improvements to the graphics and a host of re-used six-year-old character models.

Perhaps as a concession to fans, who must by now be experts with these nearly unchanged systems, the game features frequent and frustrating difficulty spikes. Overcoming these challenges feel less like a matter of strategy, and more about finding an exploit or unintentionally powerful combination – or else just grinding weaker creatures for hours until you’ve improved sufficiently in level.

There’s nothing here for anyone who isn’t already a hardcore King’s Bounty devotee – and I suspect even they won’t consider this a high-point. Newcomers curious about the series will be better served by picking up the original King’s Bounty: The Legend.

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