So there are no stop-the-presses moments here. The only real difference between the first King's Bounty and its follow-up is how quickly the difficulty scales up. Armored Princess assumes that you have played the original, which means that it gets right to the point. Battles turn tough as soon as you reach the second island, forcing you to really learn the ins and outs of the game's hero skill progression tree, as well as how to best recruit and employ troops in battle. You will have a rough time of it here unless you have either played the first game or have some previous experience with strategy RPGs. Still, it's not an unfair progression. The difficulty increases quickly but not suddenly. If you're paying attention at all, you won't get caught by impossible opposition. It's not as if you go directly from whomping spiders and pirates to getting scorched by invincible demons. And even when you're in tough against serious opposition, the incredibly detailed maps provide entertainment all on their own. Exploration is even more of an entertaining diversion than combat because your speed on horseback allows you to gallop away from impossible-to-defeat baddies and even occasionally snipe a big reward or reach a castle where you can recruit powerful units without fighting. Maps have goodies crammed into every nook and cranny, including buried chests full of gold, magical doodads, and the mystic runes that power Amelie's skills. Quests can be found all over the place, and they are typically offered up along with reams of colorful text that develop Amelie's personality and build up Teana as a real place through the collection of oddballs handing out these jobs. You can safely skip all this verbiage, of course, but taking the time to read it all is rewarding if you're seriously into role playing.
Battlegrounds range from sinister underground lairs to sunny tropical beaches.
With all that said, Armored Princess feels dated at times. The graphics engine is really showing its age now but the art style is more cartoony than realistic, so the game can get away with broad caricatures, chunky monster models, and whiz-bang spell effects. These consist of fireworks and cheesy animations like spooky faces indicating units being scared. Islands and battle arenas are stocked with lots of added details as well, including cobwebby corners and overgrown graveyards. But there are also some performance issues here, most notably how you get stuck on scenery when guiding Amelie around the islands. Clicking on inaccessible areas--which is easy to do because the islands are veritable mazes of narrow paths and greenery--causes her to simply stop and wait for a new order. This is both annoying and life threatening because these inopportune pauses can get you caught by pursuing enemies. Audio is also archaic. Unit sound effects in battle are almost nonexistent and never memorable even when you can hear them. Music is also a generic blat of horns that you'll forget moments after shutting down the game.
Even though it may be a slave to its genre, King's Bounty: Armored Princess is still an impressive representation of the modern strategy RPG. Story, exploration, combat, and character development come together in a great, addictive game that will keep you hooked for many, many hours.