King's Bounty Skill Analysis Part 1: Might

New Skills never require more than the first level in their required Skills to unlock. Upgrading a Skill just requires the previous level be purchased to unlock. Skills also never have cross-tree requirements. (ie a Might tree Skill will never require a Skill from the Magic or Mind trees)

Generally, descriptions are total, rather than cumulative. Bowmen Commander doesn't slash off 10% of the Leadership requirements, and then another 15%, and then another 20% -the reduction is 20% total at Level 3. In some cases I implicitly leave them cumulative. (eg Training 2 does not cease to provide Smashing Blow)

, and is used to label the Rune costs for purchasing a given Skill rank. (These being Might, Mind, and Magic Runes, respectively) The labeled costs are always for that level alone -Training 1 requires 2 Might Runes, and then Training 2 requires a further 3 Might Runes and a Mind Rune, not the 1 of each cumulative costs would indicate.

Here's the Warrior's symbol to start us off:

Swordsmen and Guardsmen gain Smashing Blow Talent.

Bowmen gain Flaming Arrow Talent.

Knights gain Circle Attack Talent.

Skill tree requirements: None.

Training is an interesting idea, but one I'm glad the later games don't really reuse. It creates weird inequalities between what is theoretically the same unit in both your hands and enemy hands, and it's a very peculiar form of army specialization. Training 3 is particularly good of an example, as Circle Attack requires specific conditions to actually make sense to use (Having multiple units adjacent to your slow-moving melee unit), so not only do you have to be using a specific unit at all to benefit, but even if you are using it the Rune expenditure may be doing nothing for you because you didn't have a good opportunity to use the special Talent! Training 1, on the flipside, has this awkward dynamic of making it so Swordsmen and Guardsmen are, for player purposes, essentially intrinsically able to use Smashing Blow (Because you're going to get the first rank, just to unlock other Skills, and it's early and cheap), but in enemy hands they don't have it. It ends up feeling less like an actual Skill payoff and more like randomly denying two specific units a Talent for failing to be in the player army.

The fact that the collective progression demands you use a specific set of 4 units for maximum payoff is also annoying and weird. It's not even a particularly coherent thematic group of units, or something, nor does it push the player into some specific, interesting dynamic. It's just... there. Alas.

In practice the second rank is seriously worth considering, as Flaming Arrow makes Bowmen quite good, and they're already solid units that are consistently useful throughout the game, while not requiring you to burn too many Runes to acquire it. The third rank is much harder to justify, between Knights being poor units for the player and Circle Attack being a lot less reliably useful. Remember: Flaming Arrow hits harder than the Bowman's base attack, all else being equal, and therefore always improves the Bowman's damage output so long as the target isn't resistant to Fire to a greater degree than Physical. (eg Horsemen resist Fire, but also resist Physical equally, and so Flaming Arrow still boosts the Bowman' damage against them) Circle Attack is only helpful if you can get the Knight in range of two or more units at once.

Overall, Training as a Skill is an interesting experiment, but not  good fit to the game design. Maybe it would be decent design if it had been made a bit more general -say if Training 2 applied to all archers and every faction had a unit that counted as an archer. Even that might be wonky, though.

Rage Control
Rage cap +10.

Rage cap +20.

Rage cap +30.

Skill tree requirements: None.

Remember: Rage generation is scaled to your Rage max. (Other than Rage Draining and some Item-based cases) As such, Rage Control is implicitly a buff to Rage generation, not just an increase on how much you can hold at a time.

Rage Control works nicely and straightforwardly. Even the rather excessive scaling on its Might cost doesn't bother me, as it helps emphasize the Warrior as the Rage class/emphasize how the Mage isn't the Rage class. My actual issues with Rage Control are rooted in other parts of the system. (Primarily: that Rage kind of sucks as a mechanic in this game) As a Skill in itself, it's nicely-designed.

I personally tend to prioritize other Skills in practice, but again, that's really more that Rage as a whole is underpowered. In later games Rage Control is perfectly worth pursuing.

Combat Readiness
Units take 10% less damage during Turn 1.

Units take 15% less damage during Turn 1.

Units take 20% less damage during Turn 1.

Skill tree requirements: Training.

Combat Readiness is awful. Yes, the player should be trying to end battles as fast as possible, but Combat Readiness is a small reduction that only lasts for literally the first turn, which is the turn the player is most likely to take no damage at all in.

Enemy groups with no ranged attackers? Often means no damage on the first turn, because nothing gets into reach. Or maybe it's an Undead force with one Necromancer and everything else is melee, and the Necromancer does their usual thing of opening the turn with Plague. Or there's one ranged unit and it's a Bowman and the player Blinds it. Or the ranged unit is a Thorn Hunter stack, and the player vaporizes it with Fireball before it moves. Or its a Royal Thorn and it uses Germinate instead of attacking. Or its a Priest and it Blesses an ally.

There are very few units that will actually guarantee Combat Readiness does anything.

This is even though its description is actually incorrect, indicating it only protects against Physical attacks, when it actually protects against all attacks, so it really 'should' be very general and awesome.

Take the first rank (because you have to to get to actually good stuff), and ignore it until you've got more Runes than good Skills to spend them into. If you're not the Warrior, this tends to mean 'ignore everything past the first rank'.

Master of Spirits
Spirits of Rage gain 10% more Experience.

Spirits of Rage gain 20% more Experience.

Spirits of Rage gain 30% more Experience.

Skill tree requirements: Rage Control.

I tend to take one or two points into Master of Spirits, but I'm honestly not sure whether it makes sense to do so or not. The Experience acceleration is fairly minor, and the Spirit Experience formula is fairly complicated and among other points severely slows down Experience gained if the given Spirit is higher level than the Hero. It wouldn't surprise me if I'm really basically wasting my Runes by doing this.

On a broader level, I'm also not terribly fond of it as a Skill idea. It somewhat obnoxiously encourages you to try to max it as fast as possible if you're going to purchase any ranks at all (Master of Spirits isn't required for anything), and the payoff is a bit vague, amounting to 'you're better with Rage. Kind of. In a general, non-specific way.' I'd rather have seen it reduce Experience requirements and apply retroactively (To do away with this 'get it as soon as possible if you're getting it at all' issue), or better yet have been some more interesting form of specialization in Rage. Maybe reduce Rage costs by 1 per rank, across the board. Or reduce them by 15% per rank. Or have each rank unlock an ability on each Spirit, instead of having them burn their levelups on unlocking new abilities.

Still, I can't fault the team for the attempt. I'm mostly harsh on it because they keep using this exact Skill in every later game, and it never becomes more of a good idea. Drat.

Bowmen Commander
Reduces Leadership costs for Elves (Unit type), Hunters, Bowmen, and Skeleton Archers by 10%.

Reduces Leadership costs for Elves (Unit type), Hunters, Bowmen, and Skeleton Archers by 15%.

Reduces Leadership costs for Elves (Unit type), Hunters, Bowmen, and Skeleton Archers by 20%.

Skill tree requirements: Combat Readiness.

I'm overall not fond of the Skills that do nothing unless you use specific collections of unit, but for such a Skill Bowmen Commander is alright by me. Good play basically automatically means using ranged units, and Bowmen are available early and stay relevant all throughout the game, with the main reason you might drop using them being racial tolerance issues, which basically probably means you're using Skeleton Archers instead. It's a bit strange of a decision to have the biggest payoff at the first Level, but it's not a big deal or anything, just odd-seeming.

The fact that it's a percentile modifier is important, too, especially for emphasizing the Warrior being good at Warrioring, as it means your base Leadership is just as important before and after you take the Skill, which is a nice touch. It's too bad The Legend hasn't yet implemented the later games' approach to Leadership derived from leveling, though, as The Legend's approach means the Warrior's Leadership really isn't that much higher in sensible play.

If an allied unit finishes off a unit, it gains +2 Attack for the remainder of the battle.

If an allied unit finishes off a unit, it gains +4 Attack for the remainder of the battle.

If an allied unit finishes off a unit, it gains +6 Attack for the remainder of the battle.

Skill tree requirements: Combat Readiness, Rage Control.

Frenzy is weird.  It's sort of a cool idea, conceptually, but the fact is that in most battles you're facing 5 enemy stacks and probably by the time any of them has died you're close to winning the battle anyway. Frenzy only gets particularly interesting when you start dealing with units that can generate other units, and it's not like it's something you're going to particularly plan around. It doesn't change the way you play, so how is it really all that different from a straight Attack boost?

.m. mostly by being less useful than one, as it happens.

You're eventually going to be maxing it as the Warrior, of course, but that's really because The Legend's skill quality is... uneven, and weighted toward 'bad'. Frenzy is just one of the less bad Skills to dump Might Runes into.

The odd thing is it's a staple Skill in the series. It's not until Dark Side that anything is done to make it less terrible, either. I'm really not sure why the developers liked it so much.

Prior to the beginning of a battle, the player is allowed to choose where their units begin the fight within an area up to 1 tile out from the normal starting row.

Prior to the beginning of a battle, the player is allowed to choose where their units begin the fight within an area up to 2 tiles out from the normal starting row.

Skill tree requirements: Bowmen Commander.

Huzzah! The gamechanger skill of Might!

Tactics is hugely important, letting you preview the enemy force before anything happens and change your layout to maximize all kinds of advantages. Get your Training 2 Bowmen in range to incinerate the Thorn Hunters, spread out your forces because the enemy has splash damage, get your Horsemen in reach of that one ranged stack you want melee on top of right now, etc. The first rank significantly smooths out all later play and thus is fantastic, and the ability to place your units closer to the enemy dramatically increases the utility of all kinds of units.

The second rank is... actually pretty overpriced. The additional space to set up units is useful, but in my experience it's only really a big deal in Keeper fights and certain Castle fights. A lot of the time, I don't find myself wanting to set anything out in the furthest reaches -it just gives the enemy the opportunity to get melee attacking my stuff or the like, with no real benefit for my forces.

Still, I really like Tactics as a Skill, and I wish there were more Might Skills like it in particular.

Nighttime Operations
+2 Attack and Defense if combat is occurring at night.

+4 Attack and Defense if combat is occurring at night.

+6 Attack and Defense if combat is occurring at night.

Skill Tree requirements: Frenzy.

I'm not sure why Nighttime Operations is depicting Raziel, but it looks cool.

Note that underground combat counts as being at night. This is usually true in the larger series, that anything that specifies 'night' actually means 'at night or underground', even though it doesn't necessarily say so explicitly.

That said, Nighttime Operations is.... uuuh... it's a thing? It's cheap, so it's pretty worthwhile to take once you've got access to it, but actually making a deliberate effort to take advantage of it is a nuisance and the payoff isn't that big, nor is it an interesting payoff. Your units are slightly better at fighting, huzzah. There's also a weird dynamic where the game seems to be sort of assuming night defaults to being bad and so presumably Nighttime Operations would be about compensating for that, only there's no actual penalties for operating at night so actually it turns our hero into a bizarre nocturnal creature who stalks the night for it is his home. Or it would if it were powerful enough to really be worth planning around, anyway.

You might as well try to max it before or early on in Creiston Mines, though, since you'll be doing a lot of underground combat for a while after that, and its dirt-cheap.

Certainly, it's more useful than Frenzy.

All player units receive +1 Initiative on the first turn.

All player units receive +2 Initiative on the first turn.

All player units receive +3 Initiative on the first turn.

Skill tree requirements: Tactics, Frenzy.

Onslaught is... less terrible than Combat Readiness. Getting the first move on the first turn can lead to stuff like using mass Haste or mass Battle Cry and so getting first move on the following turns to boot, and can lead to disabling/murdering enemy units with Spells and possibly Rage before they get a chance to do anything, which is all kinds of useful. Still, there's also plenty of battles where it won't really do anything at all, and the higher levels in particular are a bit dubious. Getting +1 Initiative handles all tiebreaker situations, awesome. +2 Initiative means you don't absolutely have to be fielding one of the highest Initiative units in the game to out-Initiative any enemy you might face, okay. +3 Initiative is... uuuuh... helpful? For specific matchups of units, like allowing Inquisitors to get the jump on Necromancers?

Additionally, it's kind of weird how it's actually best at supporting a Mage, as Higher Magic means that going first in the battle overall can be the difference between suffering noticeable casualties vs nuking everything without taking any damage at all. This is a Might Skill, isn't it supposed to be about competency at leading armies and crushing your enemies with the army?

I've also always been confused why Onslaught doesn't do anything else. Your troops are ready and raring to go, faster now, but there's no Speed or Attack? Not even at higher Levels? Which would've helped resolve basically all of its other design problems, to boot.

Basically, get the first rank, consider getting the second, and only grab the third if you're a Warrior and running out of better choices to blow Might Runes on.

Dark Commander
Player Undead get +3 Attack.

Player Undead get +5 Attack and +1 Initiative.

Player Undead get +7 Attack and +2 Initiative.

Skill tree requirements: Nighttime Operations.

Undead are powerful, versatile, and the Initiative gained at higher Levels can combine with how Necromancers and Ancient Vampires have monstrously high Initiative to ensure you get to cast Spells before anything else every turn. Dark Commander is thus amazing, assuming you're leading Undead, particularly for a Mage.The Initiative part doesn't even demand you lead an Undead-heavy army to be getting your value: get Tolerance 1 and Dark Commander 2, maybe 3, and now you just bring along some Ancient Vampires as your melee meatshield for whatever else you're fielding, and it's just awesome. A Mage doesn't even really need to commit to an Undead-heavy army for it to be worthwhile: just bringing a single high-Initiative Undead unit can make a massive difference in how easy a fight is, thanks to Higher Magic.

That said, it also suffers from the issue Onslaught does of being a Might skill that's really far more useful to the Mage than to the Warrior. Its Rune costs exaggerate this point: the Warrior can't really spare Magic Runes on Dark Commander, given how few Might Runes they get and how important it is to at least get the basics of magic covered as fast as possible.

The following two skills are exclusive to the Warrior, and I'm going to use this space as a micro-analysis of the Warrior as well.

Rage gain in combat +25%.
(This is the internal number, though it will never be seen in normal play)
Rage gain in combat +50%.

Rage gain in combat +100%.

Skill tree requirements: None.

Anger's actual effects are not quite as straightforward as the clean-sounding numbers would suggest. As far as I can tell, the game runs all the Rage generation calculations, modifies the final result with Anger, and then rounds down to the nearest whole number. As such, Anger Level 1 will cause moments that would normally generate 0.8 Rage and be rounded down to 0 Rage to instead become 1 Rage. Even Anger 3's straightforward doubling will lead to stuff like 1 Rage becoming 3 Rage because it was actually 1.5 Rage. As such, Anger actually tends to have either less of an effect than it sounds (because eg 0.4 Rage generated will never be modified by Anger into a value the player actually sees) or more of an effect. (Because, again, various encounters that previously didn't actually generate Rage will now generate 1 Rage, etc)

Anger itself is the entire reason the Warrior is the Rage specialist of the heroes. Particularly in the early game, when max Rage is low, it's pretty routine for the Paladin and Mage to just outright fail to generate enough Rage to even use Rage abilities. Leveling it is also conveniently cheap from the Warrior's perspective (Levels give him plenty of Might Runes), and it's just a great Skill that's well-designed all-around.

Now if only the larger Rage mechanics worked better.

Max it as soon as you can after you've acquired the Chest of Rage, basically.

Iron Fist
Swordsmen, Guardsmen, Knights, and Horsemen require 10% less Leadership.

Swordsmen, Guardsmen, Knights, and Horsemen require 15% less Leadership.

Swordsmen, Guardsmen, Knights, and Horsemen require 20% less Leadership.

Skill tree requirements: Tactics.

So back with Bowmen Commander I said I don't really like this kind of Skill. I especially don't like how Iron Fist is the Warrior's distinctive trademark Skill aside from Anger. The Mage gets the godly, always-useful Higher Magic as its equivalent, and it's well worth it. The Paladin gets Runic Stone, letting him delve into all the Skill trees more readily than the other classes, which is plenty cool. The Warrior... gets to be somewhat better, assuming he's bothering to use any of 4 extremely specific units. All of which are melee lacking No Retaliation.

The only really nice thing I can say about Iron Fist is that its Rune costs are low.

This is a bit of a larger issue with the Warrior. At the beginning of the game, his advantage over the Mage and Paladin is that he starts with a good chunk more Leadership. Then you pick up the Chest of Rage, which is good because early levelups shouldn't be spent into Leadership (Short version: Leadership provided by a given levelup scales with level, particularly early on, whereas other levelup bonuses are worth more or less the same amount regardless of when you got them) and so the Warrior's Leadership advantage is starting to drop off. But... then Rage doesn't really scale well, itself. As you get into the midgame, Zerock and Sleem are losing their luster. Rage gets a bit of a booster from unlocking Lina and Reaper in that general timeframe, but not as much as you might hope, and as you get into the endgame Rage just gets less and less competitive. So one of the Warrior's primary advantages -Rage specialization- has become much less useful, and it's time for his upper-end unique Skill to step in and fill the gap, right?

... no, it's Iron Fist. Which is narrow and not even very good in that niche. Why isn't it even something like 15/25/35%, so it's at least a bigger boost at what it affects than the generally-available equivalents? (ie Bowman Commander and Archmage)

Now, somewhat compensating for this is that in the endgame Leadership is actually worth considering taking on levelup, and so the Warrior's better Leadership gains from levels is an actually worthwhile trait to take advantage of, but... the Warrior still experiences a significant drop-off in relevancy in the endgame.

Thankfully, the later games work on these issues, and no later Warrior is anywhere near as screwed over as The Legend's Warrior.

But in the here and now?

The Warrior can be pretty fun to play in the early to midgame, but in the lategame it just becomes such a frustrating, ineffective grind that it's difficult to keep playing.

It's also worth mentioning that the Warrior starts the game with no Spells learned, and his guaranteed Scrolls are basic, extremely common Spells like Haste. While the Warrior is clearly intended to be the least magically-focused class in the game, it's still frustrating, since the Warrior is the only class who spends the early game getting no benefit whatsoever from Mana boosts and Intellect boosts. Since it takes a little bit to get to the Chest of Rage, the Warrior is just the worst class in the super-early portion of the game, and it's weird and counter-intuitive given that the Mage is the class you'd expect to only really come into their own as you got deeper into the game, since they're focused on Spells and it takes a long time to actually fill out every Spell option.


Also, notice that Dark Commander is the only Skill in the entire tree that costs Magic Runes. Contrast this with the Magic tree, where 4 (Out of 12, if you're playing as a Mage) Skills use Might Runes. It's a strange dynamic.

Next time, we cover the Mind tree and talk about the Paladin.


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