Hardcore strategy RPG King’s Bounty: Legions comes to iPad

Nival’s King’s Bounty: Legions has been available for some time on Facebook but has recently launched as a free-to-play iPad app, allowing players to play on the go using their tablet device. AppData reports the Facebook version currently enjoys 100,000 monthly active users and 10,000 daily active users at the time of writing — though this figure also includes users who are playing on the iPad.

King’s Bounty: Legions, like the long-running series of standalone PC titles from which it takes its name, is a medieval fantasy strategy RPG in which players take on the role of an army commander, travel around a map to accomplish various quests and regularly engage in turn-based battles against varied hordes of enemies.

In battle, player and enemy forces take it it turns to act according to their speed ratings. This potentially means that several quick units on one side of a conflict could get a move before the enemy may act. During a turn, a unit may move on a hex-based grid and, so long as they didn’t move too far, may also attack an enemy. Some units use melee weapons and must be adjacent; others may attack from far away with magic or ranged weapons. The player also has access to various spells during combat — these are generally very strong “superpowers” that can significantly turn the tide of battle, so it is important to save them for the optimum moment in order to make the most of them.

Between battles, players are able to replenish their army’s forces at various outposts using unit types that they have unlocked through completing quests and leveling up. Units fall into several different “classes,” and each type of unit is particularly strong against one other type, and weak against another. Lining up a balanced army that is appropriate for the challenges ahead is a key part of the game’s strategy. King’s Bounty: Legions is most certainly not a game where it’s possible to win by sheer force of numbers — unlike many of the casual strategy games currently available on Facebook and mobile.

The game makes use of an energy system to limit the number of battles a player is able to participate in in a single session, though this is refilled over time or by leveling up. Energy systems are often unpopular with the kind of demographic that enjoys deep, complex games like King’s Bounty, but Nival have put a good idea in place to minimize frustration: a “Patrol” facility allows the player to send their armies off to participate in battles while they are not actively playing the game. When the army returns, the player receives the experience and gold rewards they would have done had they been actually controlling them — meanwhile, in all likelihood their energy will have restored, allowing them to continue. Alternatively, players may engage in player-vs-player battles for no energy cost, and are rewarded with five energy points if they are victorious.

King’s Bounty: Legions requires a Facebook account in order to play. This allows the player’s progress to be stored online and also allows for jumping back and forth between desktop and mobile versions of the game. The iPad version is fundamentally identical to its Facebook-based sibling, though the interface has been somewhat tweaked to be more touch-friendly — players may hold down on a button to see a tooltip regarding its function, for example, whereas on the Facebook version this would be accomplished simply by hovering the mouse pointer over the top.

There is one minor issue with the game’s reliance on Facebook, aside from the fact that those without an account cannot play at all: those players who started games on the social network when the game first came out and haven’t touched it since will be picking up where they left off with perhaps no memory of how to play or what they were doing. There does not appear to be an in-game tutorial that can be accessed after the start of the game, seemingly no in-game manual and no apparent means to restart the game. Just an in-game link to the comprehensive online manual would be helpful — as it is, players will have to find this information on their own or already be familiar with it. This is no issue for experienced King’s Bounty fans, but for those new to the series, this could be enough to stop them from playing in frustration.

The game monetizes through hard currency sales, which can be exchanged for soft currency, energy or premium items. These include powerful “Legendary” units, temporary booster items, equipment and spells, all of which can give the player a significant advantage — though it’s also worth noting that the game is seemingly well-balanced for free players, too. The whole package, in fact, is a good example of how to balance the desires of hardcore players with the need to monetize.

While it could be daunting for newcomers, those who are already fans of the series or of strategy RPGs in general, will find a great deal to like in this iPad incarnation, making it likely the game will likely enjoy a relatively small but long-term dedicated niche audience.

That said, the game is presently doing very well: at the time of writing, our tracking service AppData indicates that King’s Bounty: Legions is ranked at No. 12 in Top Free iPad Apps and No. 8 in Top Free iPad Games. How long this stint at the top of the charts will last remains to be seen — but a better picture of the game’s long-term appeal can be gauged by looking at its Facebook figures instead, since these will now include iPad players as well.