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Armored Princess Review: Part I

posted on January 14th, 2010 by jackson
Now Playing: King's Bounty: Unarmored Princess

I’ve been playing King’s Bounty: Armored Princess for almost sixteen hours now. For lots of games that would mean I’m approaching the ending, or perhaps I even surpassed the ending and cycled back to the beginning for another playthrough. Such is not the case with this game, I’ve only traveled to two and a half islands out of… I’m not sure. But judging by my incomplete map I’ve only covered a small percentage of the world. This is my primary motivation for taking a break and writing a partial review. It makes no sense to me if I wait another week or month to complete the entire game and then write a review summarizing all of the dozens of hours, at least those that I can recollect. Is it unfair to judge a game I have not yet finished? Don’t worry. As I said before, this is a partial review. I plan to extend it as my progress continues.

THE REVIEW OF THE ARMORED PRINCESS
– Part I: The World of the Armored Princess –

Art has the power to teleport you into a different world. These worlds are only constrained by the artists’ imaginations, any conventional rules are free to be ignored. The world of Armored Princess through which I now find myself wandering stretches my imagination fairly far. This wonderland is nonsensical to the point of being ridiculous, or maybe its ridiculous to the point of being nonsensical. Hey, it’s just a fantasy videogame, pointing out silly logical inconsistencies is like shooting fish in a barrel, right? These fish are practically jumping out of their barrel, shoving my shotgun down their throats and pulling the triggers all by themselves.

This princess isn’t very armored at all.

The game welcomed me with its title screen displaying the main character, Princess Amelie. Believe it or not, she actually is wearing armor. Why do artists keep designing clothing like this? I don’t even have anything funny or interesting to say about it anymore, I’ve seen so many ridiculous fantasy designs it doesn’t phase me. Yet I can’t ignore it, because it continues to be so awful. As I began my game I learned that there are three classes to choose from, a warrior, a paladin, and a mage, and each has her own unique costume. The one who advertises herself on the cover is the mage, and the other two are dressed a little more practically. That makes sense a little bit, I guess? No, not really.

I chose the paladin because the other classes looked like they were each extremes of the “might” and “magic” ends of the fantasy spectrum and this seemed to be more balanced. Historically, paladins were Christian crusaders. To what degree this influence draws into Amelie’s representation of them, I’m not sure. She wears a cross on her shiny steel armor, so I guess she’s a Christian crusader? There’s no mention of Christianity in the entire game though. In fact, all of the characters refer to vague pagan gods which I’m assuming were creations of the developers’ imaginations. But then again, you can visit buildings in the shape of Christian churches and meet priests who ask you to confess your sins. So this is a Christian society? I suppose that these contradictions and inconsistencies aren’t too surprising. Medieval artists would often infuse ancient Greek and Roman mythology into their own religious culture for reasons similar to the motivation likely behind King’s Bounty as well, a fetishization of both which ignores inconsistencies.

After I learned the gameplay mechanics in the starting island I moved on to the pirate island. This isn’t just an island where there are lots of pirates, there is an actual pirate society established. It’s unexplained why hundreds of pirates got together on an island and decided to establish their own nation, and why they decided to make their nation pirate themed, complete with Jolly Roger flags decorating every building. In order for this to exist most people would have to stop being pirates and get jobs contributing to the greater society. The only businesses on the island are bars, and pirate ships prowl the waters searching to destroy anyone who dares visit their island.

Right next to this tropical paradise is an icy mountain called Bolo and run by barbarians. That’s not just what the game calls them, they identify themselves as barbarians. I have to wonder, did they always consider themselves barbarians or was that title given to them by foreign societies? I guess they all realized that Boloians sounds kind of funny. At least the society itself makes more sense, they have different factions and they work as farmers and hunters.

Apparently this is a boss. So far I haven’t met a boss in this game, but I assume I will sometime in the next year or so.

This world is the perfect example of why fantasy stories are such a niche. Every aspect is in some way based off of a convention in the real world, but some time long ago the fantasy genre severed all of its ties with reality and grew independently in its own alternate universe. There’s no way to even explain that universe in our terms, all of the laws of nature which govern our own become obsolete. Someone from Armored Princess’ world would most likely be just as confused by our own world. Barbarian is a derogatory term? There aren’t any thriving countries that hold piracy as their core social and economic policies? Well, that’s just the way it is here. Our two cultures have a lot we can learn from each other, either that or just stare in bafflement.

5 Comments

  1. chris said on January 14, 2010:

    I bought this game during its first Steam sale (it was still a good amount more than the recent $10 sale). I haven’t played it yet, but I liked the original so I’m looking forward to trying Armored Princess – or, if nothing else, I can vicariously enjoy it through your continuing review.

    I think I played 20 hours of King’s Bounty before I stopped, and I had reached the second island of 5. Got to give them credit for making a lot of game, and the quality overall is pretty high.

  2. christian said on January 14, 2010:

    Is that… is that Air Man?

  3. jay said on January 15, 2010:

    Seems to be.

    I played the real King’s Bounty. Maybe I would like this Battle Lord game by a different developer that was acquired and renamed King’s Bounty to make use of a license. Anyone else find it odd that both this and the new Heroes was made by Russian developers?

  4. chris said on January 15, 2010:

    Oh yeah – just in case you’re wondering why the dialogue is often phrased strangely, the original development of the game was in Russian. That bothered me in the first game so I looked it up.

    Katauri also did some work on Space Rangers 2, although whether they were developers or publishers is rather vague (their website’s in Russian only).

    Either way, I’m always interested in seeing good games come from unexpected places.

    /edit: curses, beat to the punch by Jay.

  5. DeeMer said on January 15, 2010:

    I would have called them Bolons.

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