King's Bounty: Dark Side

The fourth and, at least for the moment, final entry in the modern King's Bounty series, and in turn my final chain of posts about King's Bounty stuff. A bit of a black sheep, having been released too early and given inadequate patch support, resulting in a buggy mess with lots of flaws... Dark Side nonetheless does a surprisingly large number of things extremely well. It's too bad it didn't get the chance to be polished properly, and to a lesser extent was probably too ambitious.

These posts are largely designed under the assumption you've read the prior posts covering The Legend, Armored Princess, and Warriors of the North. They're liable to be hard to follow if you haven't, particularly if you're not familiar with Dark Side yourself.

First is...

The introduction. I mention a few tidbits that can be worth knowing for a first-time player as well.

Units

Orcs. I do wish I knew why the dev team decided to overhaul Orcs again. Did they think Adrenaline Levels were a problem?

Demons. There's some design-problematic choices in here, but I quite appreciate Dark Side finally giving Demons a cool, distinctive dynamic in their own right. I do wish it did more to encourage mono-Demons, admittedly.

Undead. I'm very curious as to why Dark Side kept the Zlogn-generating mechanic Warriors of the North introduced, but dropped all the Necro Energy stuff outside that. Not that it was super-relevant, but it still seems an odd set of choices.

Neutral Animals. Dark Side is the entry with the least relevance of them. They don't show up as enemies very often, and you have almost no incentive to use them, even very early in the game. It's a bit of a slipup.

Neutral Sapients Part 1 and Part 2. Dark Side has too many Neutral units, which is particularly frustrating since most of them are gimmicky junk. Dragon Riders are cool, at least.

Humans. Weirdly enough, Dark Side is possibly the best game in the series for Humans, even though their internal elements would seem to be inferior to Warriors of the North's iteration.

Dwarves and Zwergr. By contrast, Dark Side is probably the worst entry for Dwarves. Even The Legend was probably better for them in real terms!

Elves and Dark Elves. I do have to wonder if Dark Side meant to do more with the Dark versions of models. The NPC Dark Elves are all pale in a stereotypical Dark Elf way, but the unit models don't match that.

Vikings. I actually prefer Dark Side's approach to Runes, weirdly enough, and it's just too bad you have little reason to use Vikings and barely any opportunity to fight Vikings.

Bonus: Lizardmen Racial Morale. Fairly clear evidence Lizardmen were meant to be in Dark Side, but didn't make it due to the rushed nature of the game. Alas. I'm curious if Dark Side intended to give them a proper racial special.

Spells and Rage

Chaos. Dark Side didn't do a lot to mess with the core mechanics of Spells, but it did add a surprising number of individual Spells and tweak several existing ones. It's one of the better examples of it being perhaps overly-ambitious.

Order. I particularly appreciate what Dark Side does with Order Magic, which is particularly interesting since Order has always been the anti-evil sphere so you'd expect it to end up stupid on some level or another.

Distortion. Least memorable of the changes, but Distortion has always been fairly solidly designed overall.

Rage. It's not perfect, but Dark Side's Rage system is almost certainly the best one in the series. I really hope it's used as the inspiration for any future reboot or sequels.

Class/Character Stuff

Bagyr's Companions. Another of Dark Side's ambitious experiments is making each class have their own unique set of Companions. The execution could've been executed better, but it's probably my favorite Companion system in the series. Bagyr's set in particular is surprisingly entertaining.

Neoline's Companions. Do you like ogling half-naked men? Well I have good news for you, then!

Daert's Companions. It's interesting to me that Daert is the character who has mixed-gender Companions, given the sexualized nature of the Companions in Dark Side. Usually the homoerotic undertone in mostly-hetero fiction gets attached to women in particular. (ie normally I'd expect Neoline to have a girl Companion while Bagyr and Daert had no men in their ranks)

Titles. Another ambitious experiment, harmed quite heavily by Dark Side's buggy programming. You can't get most of these Titles in normal play, which is too bad since some of the ones you can't get are the most interesting ones. At least the Traitor Human support survived. That's genuinely cool.

Medals. Possibly the best-designed Medal set in the series, with the only notable error being the inexplicable attempt to reward letting fleeing enemies go.

Might Skills. At last! A Might tree that's just about perfect, and a Might class that is king of Rage!

Spirit Skills. I will bury you in bodies until the hill of corpses strains to meet the sun.

Magic Skills. Magic still works fine. It's basically always worked fine. This might actually be a low point for the Magic class, in fact.

Misc

Plot. In which I discuss how Dark Side doesn't seem to know what it wants it's narrative to be, unlike the prior games.

Boss Analysis. This is still a weird twist.

Extra: Initiative/Speed tiers and damage distribution. Not a lot new here, as Dark Side apparently thought prior Initiative/Speed tiers were fine.

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You have no idea how good it feels to be done with this behemoth of a project.

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