King's Bounty is a turn-based strategy game developed and published by New World Computing. The title was released in 1990 for MS-DOS, C64, and Apple II, while the Amiga, Genesis, and Macintosh versions arrived in 1991.
The game was designed by the American director, designer, and producer Jon Van Caneghem. He is more famous for the Heroes of Might and Magic saga, of which King's Bounty represents the precursor.
In this fantasy world, King Maximus is the bearer of the Sceptre of Order, a tool that prevents evil from attacking his realm. Arech Dragonbeath, leader of the forces of darkness, manages to steal it and destroy it, hiding its 25 pieces along the 4 continents. Thus, the hero and his troops must restore the kingdom by finding all the parts of the scepter and re-arming it before their lands die, and with them, King Maximus himself.
As in future installments, the player begins the adventure by choosing from four character classes: the Barbarian, Knight, Paladin, and Sorceress. After making his choice, the selected hero has a small army and a weekly commission from the king, which can be raised as he deals with certain enemies. In this way, the game begins with a set time limit, which, when consumed, marks the death of the king and the end of the adventure.
At first, the continents must be investigated in search of 17 villains, each one becoming more potent than the previous one while guarding a piece of the scepter. Besides, the player finds different chests hidden along with the map.
Apart from items or upgrades for his character, 8 of them hide a piece of the scepter. Also, several armies will be found, being able to hire or fight with some of them. An unusual mechanism of the game is that the soldiers have a new system called "morale." This is defined by the player's leadership and external factors, where the relationship between the soldiers' species and how they get along with each other comes into play. So, assembling an ideal team depends on many factors because even if the strongest warriors are chosen, if they have low morale, they will not be as effective in battle.
In contrast to the theme and some enemies of the game, the palette is very colorful. It shows a clear dominance of the color green, representing the terrain where the player moves, and blue to a lesser extent, where the ocean and some rivers are located. The developers opted for really high brightness and saturation, to highlight even more the intense colors that dominated the composition. The composer was Rob Wallace, who worked with Jon Van Caneghem also on Might and Magic II: Gates to Another World. The musician opted for 8-bit tones of mystery and adventure that are somewhat frenetic but catchy, so even though many of them are repeated in various situations, they never bore the player.
Although according to the critics, the game is short, it was highly acclaimed by both them and the fans. With exciting combat, a never-ending struggle against time, and dynamic gameplay, King's Bounty is not only a fair predecessor to the Heroes of Might and Magic saga but also a strong title in its own right. If you want to start this intense adventure, you can play it right now!