In the press release that Got Game Entertainment sent me along with Konung 2: Blood of Titans, they said the new role-playing game was “value-priced,” so I wasn’t expecting anything great. I wasn’t expecting a sophisticated orchestral score, or amazing cinematic sequences, or to recognize the names of the voice actors, but I was expecting a game that at least worked. Konung 2 barely passes that weak standard, but not by much, and I gave up playing it after about 10 hours, when it became clear I was wasting my time. Konung 2 is just brutally bad, and it doesn’t succeed in any area.
In Konung 2, you get to play one of six heroes. These heroes, three men and three women, apparently have titan blood running in their veins, whatever that means. (This is possibly a place where having played the first Konung game would have helped, or maybe not. Just about every aspect of this game is explained badly or not at all.) The ruler of the land has been possessed by a magical bracelet, and he of course starts doing evil things, and so your goal in the game is to unseat him and take over the throne yourself. To help you out, you’ll be able to recruit up to ten people to act as followers (that is, fight with you), including whichever five heroes you didn’t choose.
Character development is straightforward. Characters gain experience by killing creatures and completing quests, and every time they gain a level they also gain 25 points they can use to improve themselves. Attribute scores (like strength, intelligence and “learning”) cost two points to increase, while skills (such as weapon proficiencies, pathfinding, and healing) cost one point. All of the characters you control advance in this way, but oddly, your followers don’t seem to get experience when completing quests, and only the character who lands the killing blow receives experience during combat (I think I last saw this system in one of the early Ultima games). As a result, your hero is likely to be your most powerful character, and by far. In the game I played, I couldn’t find anyone to join my hero until he was level 12, and then there wasn’t any way to bridge the gap between the hero and the follower, and so the follower ended up being more a liability than a help.
Gameplay is also straightforward, or at least combat is. You select your hero and then you click on the enemy, and the two fight until one of them dies or until you decide to run away. There aren’t any special fighting moves you can perform, there aren’t any magic spells you can cast, and there aren’t any sneaky rogue skills you can use to position yourself better before battle starts. However, if you want to, you can control your followers directly, giving you plenty to do during combat. You can also let your followers assist the hero on their own.
Heroes can also manage towns. For some of the towns in the game (or perhaps all of them), there is a quest you can complete that will grant you control of the town, and then you’ll receive tribute from the town’s headman, and you’ll also be able to upgrade the town. For example, if you have the mason skill, you might tell the headman to start building a healer’s house, and then if one of your followers is a healer, you could tell him or her to stay behind and become a part of the town. As you play the game and damage the evil ruler, he’ll send out patrols to try and kill you, and the patrols might even attack your towns. The more powerful the town is, the more likely it will be able to defend itself. This is an interesting idea, but it doesn’t seem to make much of a difference in the game. I didn’t find myself needing the money from the tributes, and I didn’t otherwise notice a difference between neutral towns and the towns I controlled.
You might think that Konung 2 sounds decent enough so far, but it isn’t. For starters, the CD-insert manual that comes with the game doesn’t go out of its way to explain anything, and so you might not be able to figure out basic things like how to use your skills, how to deal with poison, how to gain followers, or how to identify equipment. Then there’s the brutal combat. You never find just one enemy in the game. They always come in sets of at least five, and so it’s almost impossible kill things your own level. When I stopped playing my game, my hero was level 16 and he was pretty comfortable killing enemies who were level 6. When he tried a one-on-one battle against a level 10 “ghost” (I put that in quotes because it didn’t look like a ghost; it looked like a small dragon) he lost badly, and it’s not like I was skimping on his equipment. I had to tell my hero to run away from about 90% of the battles, and that’s hardly exciting.
Then there are the bugs and the other problems “value-priced” games are going to have. One of the first objects I found when playing was an “elixir of wisdom.” Its description made it sound like it was going to give my hero experience, and while it did that, it also reduced my hero’s strength to 1 (from 15 or so). Possibly that’s what the elixir was supposed to do, but I doubt it. There are also numerous typos and translation gaffes (two of the hero names on the character creation screen are spelled incorrectly, if you can believe that), but what finally got me to stop playing was when I noticed my character’s agility and charisma had inexplicably dropped by over 50 points! For a while I thought that perhaps the decrease was tied to a quest, but then I solved the quest and nothing changed. At that point enough was enough, and I gave up.
Along with its other problems, Konung 2 also features sub-standard graphics, a clumsy interface that utilizes almost no hotkeys, and some of the worst ambient sounds you’re likely to hear in a game (one sound in a particular I couldn’t tell if it was supposed to be a bird or a monkey or an elephant or maybe that dinosaur you never see on Lost). So don’t be fooled into thinking that Konung 2 might be worthwhile to purchase since it’s only $20. I got it for free, and I hated it. If you’re interested in this type of game, then I’d recommend Prince of Qin instead.