King’s Bounty: Warriors of the North is 1C’s  fourth foray into the world of Endoria.  However, this time the actions center around the Viking lands to the north and the adventures of Olaf, son of the Konung of Northlings, who seeks to rid his lands of the legions of the undead.  A 40-50 hour quest awaits, but is it one worth undertaking?

King’s Bounty: Warriors of the North (KB:WotN) initially plays like a standard RPG.  A simple point and click interface allows Olaf to travel from place to place, talk to the locals, purchase items and troops, and discover quests.  Once battle is joined, however, the style changes to a Tactical Battle system along the lines of Final Fantasy: Tactics, played on a hexagon laced battle map.  Once again, the interface for the battle system is clean and elegant, allowing easy access to troop abilities, spells, and heroic abilities.  Olaf gains experience during these battles which grants him the ability to lead larger armies, cast more powerful spells, and access stronger abilities (executed by spending rage points accumulated during battle).  When Olaf gains a level, he is given Might, Mind, and Magic Talent Runes which he exchanges for the aforementioned new abilities (runes can also be found hidden on the overworld map).  This system seems a bit cumbersome.  I’d rather see a more WoW or The Old Republic style of skill tree.  Granted, this is merely a matter of preference, as the system in place DOES work.

The graphical style appears slightly dated, but serviceable, calling forth memories of Warcraft 3.  The overall aesthetic is reminiscent of a storybook featuring bright, vibrant colors in the over world, switching to a much darker look in caves or in the lairs of various necromancers.  During battles, animations are fluid and varied, giving much needed personality to the various troop types.  Spells are especially impressive, effectively portraying the raw power being unleashed upon your enemies.  There are some graphical glitches here and there, most notably disappearing water effects during the opening cut scene, and occasional artifacts.  I also wish Olaf’s initial special ability looked a bit more epic.  As it is, he lifelessly spins around, seemingly halfheartedly swinging his sword.  Since this is an ability you have for a significant portion of the early game, it really should look better.  There were a few instances where Olaf got hung up on a pathway, but since I have complete control over the orientation of the map, it only adversely affected me at one point, forcing me into a battle I wasn’t prepared for.

The music is well done, although I wish there were a few more tracks to listen to while exploring.  Overall, sound is adequate, but not awe-inspiring in the way something like Bastion was.

The game plays well.  I really like having the ability to explore large portions of the map without having to take part in battles every few feet.  Hovering the cursor over an enemy army provides a quick description of its strength compared to yours, making deciding which battles are worth fighting much easier.  Kiting enemies in order to get at the treasures they guard without having to engage is a useful strategy, especially during the early stages.  I thought this added a nice nod to the Elder Scrolls games.  Endoria feels like a real world, and there are definitely places where you are not welcome as a lower level character.  This adds drama, and a more organic feeling than standard RPGs where the enemies scale.  I was impressed with the Valkyrie mechanic, where “feeding” items to the valkyries upgrades their abilities.  I also liked that I could “battle” certain items in order to increase their effectiveness as well.  More games could benefit from design like this rather than the normal loot drops or spending more gold for better gear methods normally emplyed by RPGs.

There are some issues, however.  There is simply too much backtracking.  One sub-quest required me to bounce back and forth between the same two locations four or five times in a ten minute period.  Also, quest markers felt difficult to follow.  I longed for some sort of on screen arrow or guide helping me get my bearings a bit easier.  Some translations are a bit wonky, and there are some odd word spacing issues.  These aren’t game breakers, but they do make an otherwise solidly put together title seem sloppy.  I also have to mention that users are having various crashes.  I have not encountered a single game breaking bug or crash during my play, but check the Steam forums for a list of issues.  Finally, game documentation could be improved.  With so many things to collect (runes, magic crystals, animal eggs, etc) it would be beneficial to have a better idea of what they were all for.  For instance, I’m still not clear on what magic crystals do, and I only discovered that “using” spider eggs granted me spider troops by accidentally clicking on them.  A hand-holding tutorial is certainly not warranted,  but something to ease new players in would be welcome.

KB:WotN is a deliberately paced game, so don’t go into it expecting to blaze through the plot in a matter of hours.  There are times where I wish things moved a bit faster, but that’s probably because I was simply eager to see what happened next.  There is a LOT to do and see in this title, so the $30 asking price seems justified.  The issues mentioned above do warrant a more guarded recommendation, though.  Overall, if you’re looking for some epic questing with a Viking theme, Endoria is where you belong.