Have you heard of the Ice Gardens?
Yeah, you will be asking that question a lot if you happen to pick up the Ice and Fire DLC for 2012’s King’s Bounty: Warriors of the North turn-based strategy game from 1c Company. The Ice Gardens is the mysterious new land added in this DLC, but it will take quite a while to find it.
For anyone who has yet to play Warriors of the North, this is a great time to start. The Ice and Fire DLC brings with it loads of new content, not the least of which is the Ice Gardens, which improves the overall game. However, if you have already sunk hours and hours into this most recent King’s Bounty release, the addition of the DLC may well bring about mixed feelings. The extra content is certainly worthwhile, but it integrates itself into the core game, forcing players to start a new campaign from the very beginning. King’s Bounty: Warriors of the North was a game that I personally never got around to enjoying, which is shameful considering my love of Heroes of Might & Magic, which is a very similar title. So jumping in with this new DLC worked out perfect for me, although it was many, many hours before I actually found the Ice Gardens.
So, let’s start with the basics of King’s Bounty: Warriors of the North. The player takes on the role of Olaf, second son to a Viking King. With an obnoxious older brother, Olaf has a lot to prove. The player can initially choose from three different paths down which their character can take, offering different gameplay and progression choices from combat-focused, magic-focused or leadership-focused. Before too long, Olaf will set out to prove his mettle by ridding their island of an infestation of the Undead. The story is moves along with some pretty interesting twists and turns, and will see Olaf quickly leaving his island to explore more mysterious lands and lend his sword arm, mind or army to a variety of different problems.
Play is set with an overhead view of the area, and the player can move their character around and interact with various other characters that they come across, or buildings that have something to offer. There will also be monsters moving around the map, which can in many cases be avoided. However, coming into contact with any of these monsters will result in the gameplay changing to a turn-based battle set out on a grid. It may be important to note for newcomers that tutorials in the game are incredibly sparse, although any experience with other games of this type, or previous King’s Bounty games, will have the player picking up the basics quickly.
The battles will involve the player setting their units against an enemies. Although only one monster may be seen on the map, in the battle they will be represented by multiple units of monsters, with each unit containing multiple individuals. Destroying a unit will mean killing each individual within that unit, which can be rather confusing when different numbers start showing on the screen representing damage done and individuals killed.
Anyway, each unit takes a turn to move or take an action. Units have a move allowance, depending on their type, and can still perform an action as long as they don’t use their full movement. Actions involve such things as attacking or using a special move specific to that unit. Olaf too can get involved, although he will spend the majority of his time on the side of the grid, watching over his units. As actions are taken, Rage points gather which allow special moves that can really turn the tide of the battle. Magic is also an option, and Olaf has access to a book of spells which can be cast.
Progression through the game will see the player gathering runes with which to improve their skills, either by leveling up or simply finding the runes. Rage abilities, which can be unlocked through the game, also level up to become more powerful. Also set to make the players life easier are the various items that can be found or bought through the game, and equipping them will provide different stat increases of perks to the player.
Perhaps the most important stat revolves around leadership. Olaf’s leadership can be increased through finding the little banners that are hidden around the map, or leveling up, and mean that Olaf can command more troops in battle.
The variety when it comes to the different troops is really impressive, and one of the highlights of the game. Players will find themselves often heading back to the various buildings that supply troops to replace losses or just try something new. New and replacement units have to be purchased for gold, which thankfully is plentiful in the game.
King’s Bounty: Warriors of the North is a pretty epic undertaking, with many, many hours of gameplay. And it gets even more epic with the inclusion of the Ice and Fire DLC.
As already mentioned, accessing the new content from the DLC will involve starting a new game, with the basic campaign and the extended Ice and Fire campaign available from the main screen. If this does happen to be the first time playing Warriors of the North, get comfortable as it will be a while before you make your way to the fabled Ice Gardens that are the primary addition in the DLC. Their existence is first hinted at near the beginning of the game, but from there on most characters asked will know nothing about these lands. Once the player does eventually arrive there, the new Snow Elves race and the undead Necrolizards will certainly provide entertainment.
But the DLC brings with it plenty of other new additions and features that may not be noticeable to the first time player. These stand as improvements over the base game and include not only new creatures to take into battle and new items to equip, but also a creature skill system that will actually allow your troops to improve over time. This system carries through the creature type, so even if you misjudge the situation and end up losing all of your troops, any improvements they have made will be carried through.
The decision to force players to begin a new game rather than just integrating the DLC into their existing save may rankle some, but the addition of some 20 hours of additional gameplay, a new system and gamewide improvements will convince veteran players to grab the DLC. But for new players, jumping into Olaf’s adventure with the addition of the Ice and Fire DLC will provide the best gameplay experience possible so far.