Knights of Honor II: Sovereign | Review – An immersive real-time strategy game

Power, according to Cersei Lannister, is power. In Knights of Honor II: Sovereign her importance far outweighs a futile conquest of troubled and ungovernable territory. The medieval imagery, which has always fascinated me, it's something that could strike anyone beyond the Hundred Years War and the downfall of the Wars of the Roses, of the dynastic conflicts in Carolingian France and in the most complex moment for the Christian world, with the first, second and third crusades that destabilized the Middle East, ruining important relationships with the European kingdoms for centuries.

Usurpers, traitors and lords have passed many in the course of the year 1000, while in the northern territories, still divided between pagan and Christian beliefs, there was no desire to collaborate with the Papal State and its influence, primary in spite of everything. On the other hand, power is the real weapon of those who know how to use intelligence: the best tactic is patience. The strategy developed by the Bulgarian team Black Sea Games, in fact, is the second installment in a series that began in 2004, which during these years had lost track waiting to return to the limelight to remind its fans that there is still a lot to conquer.

Knights of Honor, at the time, was a production that was positively received by the audience of real-time strategy enthusiasts and by those who hung out in the territories of Total War, although the production was not totally inspired by the historical series produced by Creativity Assembly. So long after the last time, Knights of Honor II: Sovereign arrives in a market certainly full of alternatives and a strategic landscape that can boast of works such as Victoria III and Crusader Kings by Paradox Interactive, currently two of the high-profile productions of the genre, although the throne in this 2022 is occupied by Age of Empires IV, which saw the return of Relic Entertainment to the scene.

Arriving at a rather crowded but never saturated moment, Knights of Honor II: Sovereign is a video game that does not seem to betray the good premises that I had made at the time with its announcement trailer, which proposed an adventure that was certainly not original but nonetheless interesting as a whole. In these two years, in fact, the production of the Bulgarian team had lost track, and the only updates regarding the development concerned the features inside and the news, however juicy, interesting and very promising. One wonders, however, if the production of the Black Sea Games arrives at the right time, considering the alternative. The answer to this perplexity is an unequivocal yes, because, although it doesn't propose who knows what big news compared to the aforementioned productions, it knows how to present itself to such an audience, delighting its fantasies and childhood memories.

The previous chapter, which arrived in 2006, was particularly appreciated for the accessible approach to the various game mechanics that offered endless hours of entertainment. And the beauty was, in fact, that simple approach but still characterized by so many things to see, calculate and plan during the experience, che was certainly the most pleasant moment during the entire gaming experience.

A kingdom to fight for

I chose England, out of the many kingdoms available to my choice. There was France at the height of its creation, there was Germany and Sweden, both struggling; there was the Papal State, rich and feared by all, and there were also the Arabs of the Berber coast and the various Emirates of Africa and the Middle East. It is the year 1000, if anyone were wondering: it is a complex, divided and fragmented historical context, still tied to the dark times of the past. New realms have been born, others have died, and more have been transformed, abandoning the pagan faith and embracing the Christian or Muslim religion.

The kingdom of England, recently formed, is one of the richest and militarily best prepared powers of the entire production, because it boasts long-lasting friendships with Scotland, Wales and with what remained of Ireland, at the time under the dominion English already before the coming of King Edward. Although I was initially undecided, I still started my main campaign with the English kingdom to unify it and later conquer France and much of the game world. The context, always well inserted and deepened with great detail and attention, is certainly not original but is in any case well implemented during the adventure, because the entire evolution of the game world is random and goes hand in hand with the decisions that a declaration of war and a hard-won diplomatic agreement are undertaken during the conquest of territories.

It is the period of the Crusades and the birth of new strategies to win, at a time when intrigues go from marriages of convenience to mellifluous smiles that hide a well-hidden dagger, ready to do its job and insinuate itself with an ambitious nobleman. The Middle Ages, on the other hand, it is not remembered to be a happy time, especially when wars broke out for the mildest and most incomprehensible reasons, in moments of great difficulty for the peoples, who ended up in the midst of the diatribes of the powerful. Indeed, in Knight of Honor II: Sovereign, this kind of thing is the order of the day, and how could it be otherwise? Conquest is the basis of power, and power manifests itself in different ways and with only one goal: to grab everything, and it doesn't matter at what price. Conquest is power.

Iron fist or peace at any cost?

The developers, thus proposing a typical approach already seen in the past with Crusader Kings, they consistently delved into the continuation of the dynasty. The king is at the center, then there are the children, the queen and, finally, the court, occupied by marshals of the kingdom, spies, diplomats, merchants and clergy, that they must coexist and get along. A dead king, of course, is then replaced by an heir, who from the moment he is born can be raised as a knight, spy, merchant, or diplomat. Moving between the various attitudes proposed by the work, I have deepened each of them: in addition to being well balanced, they are also excellently implemented, and I preferred a more diplomatic approach to guarantee me an excellent number of provinces and new territories capable of giving me prestige, gold and commoners ready to work for the good of the realm.

Knights of Honor: Sovereign II is a classic real-time RTS where every event happens based on the player's choices. You can keep the peace using trade channels, or you can declare war simply by selecting the banner of the kingdom that you might not like, opening an interface where you can even organize a convenient royal wedding. It will not be easy, However, secure the trust of the nobles, of the clergy and of the people in a natural way: it will in fact be important to have to take care of every minimum detail and fix relationships that are flawed due to a badly thought out choice. The production, going towards the player, offers different solutions, each of which is different but always spot on.

To fix a broken relationship, for example, it is necessary to speak at length with the diplomats of the sovereign kingdom and guarantee his friendship, while maintaining one's own interests, which must be satisfied so as not to antagonize the rest of the court. Every choice, anche in Knights of Honor II: Sovereign, it has important consequences for the continuation of the campaign. Declaring war, unless forced, is strongly discouraged in the first hours of the game, especially while facing a moment in which it is more important to put money into the houses of the kingdom instead of setting off to conquer the world, although the production invites to do it constantly.

Before doing so, in fact, it is better to build the very foundations of the realm in each city, using houses to host the less fortunate with baths and places of recreation to increase one's popularity, thus gaining the trust of the common people. At the same time, it is important to be able to counter corruption through intelligent methods to meet the expectations of the nobles through peace and traders, instead, through the routes that can be established during the experience. Besides exalting and entertaining, it involves the player in a unique and carefree way, making him weigh every choice that could do good or harm to the realm.

Returning to the royal court, there is the possibility of appointing to your council anyone skilled with mind, sword and tactics. To hit the markIn fact, are the upgrades that can be purchased without having to open a dedicated interface, but simply by selecting the reference target. In cities it is in fact possible to increase the happiness of the people through new structures, inevitably increasing the power and stability of the realm, an objective to always keep in mind, especially in the early hours. A good economy, on the other hand, is only the first step to avoid bankruptcy and bankruptcy, which could unleash internal rebellions capable of putting the entire hegemony of the realm in difficulty. Keeping the peace, therefore, is a fundamental requirement to continue the adventure without risk, while making choices that may lead to nothing at the given moment in which they are made.

In Knights of Honor 2: Sovereign, patience really is the virtue of the strong

One way or another, war will have to be declared sooner or later. Better to do it, however, in an intelligent and sensible way, avoiding senseless risks that could lead to an announced defeat. In fact, to recruit armies, it will be necessary simply to enhance the war potential in the various cities, by forging axes, swords and spears in such a way as to have weapons ready for the purpose. However, going to war is opening a Pandora's box where good planning of the entire invasion plan may be required. Treating it carefully and in detail, you can adapt each choice according to the number of troops you have at your side, including the revealing siege weapons that can be used during the experience to besiege and conquer an enemy castle. Everything must be done scrupulously, unless you want to take some risks, and sometimes it may be necessary to take some time before delivering the fatal blow to an enemy kingdom.

In this sense, alliances are important both for the realm and for our coffers, and it is always better to cultivate a few so as not to risk stepping on the toes of those who, on the other hand, could put us in serious difficulty. The least intrusive method, which is also the best, is to follow those who can grant fruitful trade. Because it's important? A war is not prepared only with good intentions, but with full coffers ready to supply men, siege weapons and many other useful things to win.

Once war is declared, there is no turning back. At what cost, though, can peace continue if another realm is expanding? The answer is simple: attacking him. Troops move around the game map, which is intuitive and simple. There are different ways to consult it, for example looking at it from a political and economic point of view, but it is better to have a general picture with the one already set, in such a way as to have an advantage during the deployment on the battlefield.

It is always advisable to take every aspect into consideration, so as to deploy troops intelligently. Unlike other strategy video games, Knights of Honor II: Sovereign has a second soul that works and entertains, allowing the player to arrange troops on the battlefield and send them into action, literally scorching the enemy. The battles, especially the sieges, are fun: never banal or boring, they represent a nice way to leave the bureaucracy and face things head-on, sword in hand and shield at your side. The game design of the work, which is also fun in multiplayer, it is therefore excellently constructed and well represented, with excellent ideas in playful and scenic terms, thanks to a certainly more accessible approach to strategy, excellent news for the less accustomed and those who have never played a strategy game before today.

A war that amuses and entertains

Knights of Honor 2: Sovereign, in addition to entertaining, offers modernized and pleasant graphics, including unique scene effects especially during battles. Few interfaces, so much clarity: this is the model suitable for proposing, nowadays, a strategy that works, knowing how to amuse and entertain.

  • It wasn't simple, for the Bulgarian team, to be able to convince after so long after the publication of its first chapter, which however has been able to show a personality to entertain, amuse and thrill. The merit is all of the game design, which literally becomes an addiction as soon as you learn it. After all, isn't this the key to a good strategy? Power is the only thing that matters, and it is best preserved, cherished and protected. Empires are not built in a day.

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