Developer: Snowball, 1C
Today I want to tell you about the “Legend of the North: Konung” or “Knyaz: Legends of the Woodland Country” (Князь: Легенды лесной страны) as this game was called originally by russian developers. Some differences between two versions can be found not only in title and names but all in all it’s the same thing. I have beaten original version so my review is based on it. Game take place in alternative world very similar to Eastern Europe of early medieval period as it was presented in legends and fairy-tales. Pretty impressive opening movie shortly tells us the story of a conflict. In times long-long ago Earth was ruled by race of mighty titans. They knew magic and made wonderful “singing things”, artifacts. Titans left the most powerful artifact, bracelet Lord, to the slavs tribe guarded by dragon and watched by half-titan Ar (Orr in english version). Ar possessed the special amulet which allowed him to control the dragon. Once slavs were attacked by ancient enemies, yellow dogs clan. Forces of those destruction-hungry creatures heavily outnumbered defenders of artifact. At this moment Ar divided dragon amulet into three parts sending each to one of his friends. First part was sent to viking Sigurd who was meanly killed by angry berserk Dragomir (Eric). Loner hunter Wolf got second one after he shot hawk bearing it to hero Vseslav. Only third part turned up to be in the hands of addressee, byzantine knyaz Mikhail (Konstantin).
Choosing your class you should remember that searching around the land with constantly repopulating monsters, looting and leveling-up is the 90% of gameplay. So think about how your character will act in battle first of all. Roleplaying system is poor and primary attributes is the base. You can also improve fencing and archery skills by using appropriate weapon but I didn’t feel it affected gameplay much. There are five social skills: identification, trading, healing (to make potions), smithery and constriction. Last two however usable only for NPCs because it’s not a job konung will do. Developers said there are more invisible parameters but it sounds like lie. On each level character has maximum limit for every primary attribute depending of class. You can raise them at the cost of experience earned. When all of them reach the limit character raises level. After 13th level there are no more limitations. One more caprice of game mechanics is that everybody in Woodland Country has 100 health points. Weak red ant, village elder or dragon… all of them. Charming, isn’t it? By the way, monsters here are mostly taken from slavic culture. You won’t meet vampires or elves while playing. Forests are guarded by leshys, moroks and aspids attack here and there. Prepare for something new.
So far everything looked like normal for diablo-like mouse-clicker rather typical though. Well, we get to the worst part because now I’m going to tell about the way game concept was implemented. Interface is terrible. There is no pause at all. You can speed up or slow down time but have no chance to stop and look arond. It may sound not so bad but believe me when you have big party with retard-like AI that forgets your orders in few seconds pause become necessary. Next bad thing is that some actions can be performed with hotkeys only. Inventory is one of the worst I ever seen. With unnecessary big icons (while 800×600 is the max resolution) but without animation (items don’t scroll but change on the screen, so you don’t even know at which end you are) it presents just one line on hero info screen. Items have no description. Seriously, like in games of the early 80s you find something and don’t know what is it and why do you need this thing. Game manual doesn’t change situation because items weren’t described there either. Journal is completely useless. Hardly ever few words about new quest are added there so you better to have a good memory. Though graphics is not bad especially for system requirements it was oriented to, quality of animation spoils the impression of good-old 2D landscape. Human characters are deprived of softness in movements and act like robots. Monsters animation is monotonous and dull. The music is quite annoying. It plays some kind randomly not being attached to some place or situation. Locations here have little differences at all so until you look at ugly global map you won’t know exactly where you are. Sound effects are unprofessional and unpleasant. For example, navs when get hit scream not like tortured undead but more like cheap sluts from bad porno movies.
Developers made just one final no matter what hero you played and how good or evil you were. Violent thug Dragomir and noble Mikhail both get the same. Even worse it’s open-ended. Snowball and its publisher 1C planned to turn Konung into a big franchise. However, this planes couldn’t become reality. Russian market was too young at that moment and the percent of legal copies in sales was negligible to get back enough revenue. English release didn’t bring much too. Game supposed to compete in hack’n’slash action-rpg genre from all the points of view was worse than its starter, original Diablo, not to speak of later and more technological products. The next part of the universe should become Fatherdale. It was announced as “russian Baldur’s gate” but because of some problems with foreign publisher was never released. Only four years later Konung 2 appeared. Snowball by that time switched business from developing games to localization and didn’t participate. So idea of plot development in next games became another mistake.