What happens when you take Heroes of Might and Magic and strip out the strategic aspects, then emphasize and strengthen the RPG parts? You get King's Bounty: The Legend, a reimagining of a classic 1990s title that is actually considered the precursor to the HOMM series.
When you first start the game, you're given the choice of your class; the Warrior, Paladin, or Wizard. This will be your character as you make your way through a vibrant, colourful world, accomplishing quests and raising an army. Your class will determine what runes you receive when you level up (more on that later), your standard army, and what your general play style will be like. Play as a warrior and you'll put your focus into your units, making sure they're powerful and fast. The paladin will be able to command a large number of units in his war against evil, and the magician can cast numerous spells from the sidelines to devastate his foes.
The point of the game is much like any RPG: you must go around, finish quests, follow the story, raise your powers, and in general save the day. How you do this is up to you, however. Sure, there's a main quest to follow, but the world is huge with a plethora of things to keep yourself busy with. Even though the preview build that I was provided only had one section of the world available, this one section had a few dungeons, a large number of quests, dozens of enemies, even more treasures to find, and opportunities that I couldn't take up due to the preview build's limitations.
The game is divided into two styles of gameplay: the first has you riding around the map on your horse, army in tow. This part of the game feels most like a traditional RPG, as you can talk to people to get quests, shop at various stores for equipment or soldiers, find treasures and other locations of note, and of course fight enemies. This brings us to the other half of the game: the battles.
For anyone who has played any Heroes of Might and Magic titles, the battles are going to seem even more familiar than the overworld map. Like HOMM, your hero doesn't fight the battles himself, instead delegating the combat to an army that you can gain throughout your adventures. This army is limited only by your funds and your character's leadership, an attribute that is raised throughout the game, allowing you more numerous and powerful units. As you fight through battles, you gain experience which levels you up and gives you runes. These runes (which ones you get depends on your class) are used to purchase abilities in three categories. You don't get too many, but then finding them on the ground is just as likely, if you're willing to fight your way to them.
These units can move around the battlefield, avoiding obstacles, opening chests for some extra coin, and of course beating the enemy senseless. The combat is a little slow-paced, but even so makes up for itself by adding variety beyond typical 'run-up-and-strike' movements. Horseback knights, for example, if given the space, can charge for up three spaces to deliver some serious damage. Some units have special abilities as well, such as priests being able to bless and heal other units. Of course, some units are just like the common peasant: cheap, numerous, and expendable. Building your army is part of the battle, so you have to think well about what units you want, and if your leadership is high enough. If it isn't, you might have some out-of-control armies on your hands! The way your units are recruited is often through recruiting posts scattered around the country, but you might be able to find units here and there looking to join your troops. Additionally, there are some units (like plants) that can be kept in the inventory as seeds until you suddenly decide to sprout them one day to fight for you.
The armies aren't the only things at your disposal. You can find scrolls of magic in your journey to cast upon your allies and your enemies, but these are one-use only. If you have the prerequisites, however, you can learn the spells and cast them at any time, even levelling them up to increase their potency. Aside from spells, there are also creatures called Spirits of Rage, which can be summoned forth from battle if your units get attacked enough (raising a 'Rage Meter'). These spirits each have a one-use attack much like a spell, but to access them all you must level up the Spirits by calling them forth in battle.
That's not all of the extra little fun crammed into the game. Little bits of advice during the loading screen advised me that I could get married if I so chose, an act that would affect my attributes. There were even items with morale that would lose their abilities if they didn't feel like combat was going too well. There's clearly a lot more to experience than just a demo can provide, and the game has built a convincing argument to that end.
King's Bounty: The Legend is a Russian-developed title. This, combined with its beta status, does well to explain the absolutely terrible English translation. Hopefully this can be fixed by the time of release, because otherwise things become nigh-unreadable. There's a lot of text in the game, too, so this could be a real problem. It's one of those things that can't accurately be judged at this time, quite simply.
It looks like King's Bounty has a lot to offer to RPG fans. As someone who enjoyed the role-playing aspects of Heroes of Might and Magic over the city-building, it definitely got my attention. There's a lot to do in the game, and since it's already been out in Russia for a little while, a lot of the minor problems have already been ironed out. There are some serious translation issues to work out, definitely, but if all that goes well then KB: The Legend looks like it'll shape up to be one enjoyable game.