ROYAL BOUNTY HD / IOSoftware / Android
Royal Bounty HD bills itself as a tribute to King's Bounty, but it's really the base concept of that game ported into the gameplay engine of the early Heroes of Might & Magic games. As with King's Bounty, a lone single-player campaign is all that's on offer -- no multiplayer, no variety of campaigns and factions, just the ongoing quest of a mercenary knight named Jim (Jim?) as he breaks free from a slaver's prison and then takes on a series of quests in service to the king of a nearby land.

If you're entirely unfamiliar with Heroes (and spiritual predecessor King's Bounty), it's a turn-based fantasy series that also works in a little of the resource management and city-building more common to RTS games. Only here, there's almost none of that, since you don't have cities to manage. The game instead entirely focuses on the other major appeal of Heroes -- using clever combat tactics to take down large groups of monsters that should by all rights be munching on your brains forthwith, while steadily growing your own army into a juggernaut by finding loot caches and managing your spending on new troops.

Royal Bounty lovingly recreates that latter aspect of the game, down to the soft symphonic music and ambient nature noises in the background as you roam about the map. Sound effects are also very similar, and some of the flavor text seems like it's just this side of outright copied. In fact, the whole thing is so close to Heroes III that I can't help but wonder if it isn't a hack of the source code or a reverse-engineering or something of that nature.

The map design is pretty good -- at least to a point, anyway. The chief complaint about the game thus far seems to be that it's too difficult. As a Heroes veteran who has been playing these games since the original came out in 1995, however, I was actually cruising right through on my first try; that is, until I began the fourth chapter (close to the end of the game) and ran face-first into a mob of about 30,000 ghosts blocking the only path forward (a unit type that replicates itself with every kill) that I simply did not have the resources to deal with. Then I understood the complaints. Even if you cling to every bit of gold you find, don't waste your money on needless units and know how to massage the battle engine, you can still find yourself in no-win positions fairly late in the campaign. The designer handwaves this as the hallmark of a "hardcore" game on the support forum, but I'm more inclined to call it poor foresight in design.

If the old-school Heroes games were not available on Android, Royal Bounty would be easier to recommend; but they are, with Ubisoft releasing an official version of Heroes III, and unofficial fan-made ports of the PC versions of both II and III also available to the adventurous. As such, it's kind of hard to recommend bothering with what is ultimately a large and competent but flawed single-player custom map made by a fan. it's certainly not bad, however, and the $5 asking price isn't high if you want to dabble. Pick it up through the Humble Store if you're interested, as for one whole extra penny you can get DRM-free versions of both the Android and PC ports for that price.
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