Reviews - Updated on December 10, 2022

Each of us has favorite games from childhood. Some of them eventually turned into huge franchises, numbering dozens of licensed parts, while others quietly died in oblivion, leaving behind only memories and a handful of loyal fans who still keep a version of that very old, but such a favorite toy on their hard drive. .

Sometimes a miracle happens – an announcement of the continuation of an already forgotten, it seemed, project appears. Given the complicated ups and downs of copyright and the cycle of developers and publishers in nature, it is often not the same people who created the original who take up the cause. It happens and vice versa – sometimes the direct authors of the original idea are involved in the development. Knights of Honor II: Sovereign is just such a case: the head of the Black Sea Games studio that creates this strategy, Vesselin Handjiev, founded Black Sea Studios more than 20 years ago, which released the first part of the “Knights of Honor” in the distant 2004.

Practice shows that such “comebacks” do not always guarantee a good result. Will Knights of Honor II: Sovereign find new fans and will it be able to please fans of the original?

Simple and tasteful

Standard format for global historical strategies: a huge map of medieval Europe and North Africa, many countries available for playing, state management, which includes not only wars, but also economics and politics.

It’s hard to resist the temptation to compare Knights of Honor II and similar genre brethren like Crusader Kings and Total War. Although Black Sea Studios released their game in the same year as the first Crusaders, it seems that the developers tried to take the most interesting things from these series, plus add a little from Civilization and even Stronghold. Fans of Knights of Honor, perhaps, will not agree with this statement – and they will be right: the first part was a self-sufficient project.

The map is detailed and beautiful, but not very convenient - the camera scale changes within a small range, so you constantly have to switch to a global view.  Compare with the world map in the same Paradox Interactive strategies - there you can choose a convenient scale with one movement of the mouse wheel.

The map is detailed and beautiful, but not very convenient – the camera scale changes within a small range, so you constantly have to switch to a global view. Compare with the world map in the same Paradox Interactive strategies – there you can choose a convenient scale with one movement of the mouse wheel.

The map is detailed and beautiful, but not very convenient - the camera scale changes within a small range, so you constantly have to switch to a global view.  Compare with the world map in the same Paradox Interactive strategies - there you can choose a convenient scale with one movement of the mouse wheel.

The map is detailed and beautiful, but not very convenient – the camera scale changes within a small range, so you constantly have to switch to a global view. Compare with the world map in the same Paradox Interactive strategies – there you can choose a convenient scale with one movement of the mouse wheel.

What do we see next? Yes, exactly the same thing: we take control of one of the countries and try to bring it to world domination. This can be done in several ways: military takeover of the whole world; with the help of diplomacy – win a vote for the Emperor of the world; finally, economic dominance is to gain access to all available goods by producing or buying them.

Each province generates income, but besides gold, there are several other equally important resources, such as religion, books, commerce, provisions, and recruits. Interestingly, this set does not represent the same money, but in a different format, always available for conversion from one type to another. On the contrary, the presence of a substantial amount in the treasury does not mean that military problems can be considered solved: if there is no one in the kingdom to hold weapons in their hands, then you can forget about a large army. Yes, there are mercenaries, but you need to find on the map where they travel – only then will you be able to hire them.

The army requires a high population density, the growth of which depends not only on the availability of provisions, but also on the buildings in the cities and the studied technologies (here royal traditions play this role), and those, in turn, require solid cash injections. Do not forget about the role of trade, the tax system, tribute from vassal states – as a result, we get a relatively simple, but clearly and visually working system, which is easy to understand even for a novice strategist.

In order to successfully fight, it is necessary to build a strong economy.

In order to successfully fight, it is necessary to build a strong economy.

What pleases me separately is the clarity and realism. For example, “war weariness” is not just a number in the window of military operations, but the depletion of land due to military operations: there are not enough recruits, provisions are running out, and plundered villages not only provide resources to the invaders, but also undermine the economic potential of the owner.

As a classic representative of the 4X genre, Knights of Honor II looks very dignified and allows you to implement pre-conceived tactical ideas, and not just “paint the map”, becoming stronger with each captured province. This is a great merit not only of the accessible strategic gameplay, but also of the character system.

Cloak and dagger

The fact that the main driving force of global historical events may not be economic and political prerequisites, but an individual with all its strengths and weaknesses, we are clearly shown by Crusader Kings, in which it is people who are in the spotlight. In “Knights of Honor” the characters are also given a lot of attention, but there is no such bias towards the role-playing component. Your knights are primarily a tool, not an object for creating interesting game situations, and certainly not a story engine, as in the famous Paradox Interactive series. It is understandable: since here is the traditional strategic gameplay, then the excessive “humanization” of the characters is useless – the game is not about that.

The design repeats the first part even in such trifles as dialogues.

The design repeats the first part even in such trifles as dialogues.

There are five classes: marshal, merchant, diplomat, cleric and spy. I will not dwell on each class in detail, because their essence is clear from the name: the marshal commands the troops, the merchant trades, the diplomat is responsible for foreign policy, and the cleric is responsible for domestic policy. But the spy, as in the first part, stands apart and deserves a separate discussion.

It differs from other classes not only in that it has a noticeably wider list of possible actions. The main thing is the actions themselves! It all starts with the introduction into one of the states, and not necessarily into the enemy: today it is our neighbor’s ally, and tomorrow, you see, it turns out that the province belonging to him looks much better within our borders – a pre-created spy network here will come in handy. After a successful implementation, interesting opportunities open up for our infiltrator – from freeing captives, worsening relations and spreading dirty rumors about a local ruler to raising uprisings, provoking a war with a third party, secret assassinations and even bribing foreign knights. The last is the most interesting: for example, a purchased governor can declare independence.

Spy intrigues allow you to do nasty things with the wrong hands.

Spy intrigues allow you to do nasty things with the wrong hands.

Not only espionage, but the whole system of characters (we must not forget, for example, about the capabilities of a diplomat) help you feel like a real strategist, because plans to take over the world are not limited to a strong army alone. You can succeed both by brute force and by more subtle means, including that very espionage. Most importantly, do not forget that your characters can be bought by an enemy.

Outdated yesterday

As you understand, the war is not in the first place. Unfortunately, the point is not only in the deep study of other features, but also in the poor implementation of military affairs. But one of the most important features of the first part of Knights of Honor was tactical battles – what happened to them in the sequel?

The graphics outdated by a dozen years (I’m not exaggerating – see for yourself), too long and, as a result of all this, completely unspectacular battles, encourage not to start tactical battles at all, being content with automatic calculation of the results. It is worth saying that these battles cannot be called completely hack-work – they take into account the morale of the units and the endurance of the soldiers, it makes sense to detour from the flanks and in the environment, several types of formations are used. But the primitive picture completely discourages the desire to play.

Better than autoboy.

Better than autoboy.

I advise you to perceive military operations as a continuation of politics and only one of the components of strategic planning. Those very clarity and simplicity of principles will help here too: we build barracks, select troops taking into account the composition of enemy troops, and it is better to leave the battles to the auto-combat system, which generally works adequately.

It would be better if tactical battles were completely removed – in their current form they seem superfluous, which is especially noticeable against the backdrop of an excellent strategic part.

Total War “at the minimum”.

I am familiar with the first part, but far from an expert in it. Nevertheless, almost complete resemblance to the original is easy to detect even for me. Take a look at the design – the picture is almost one to one, and in terms of gameplay, the series remains true to itself. Sometimes developers, it seems to me, are in vain addicted to these curtsies towards the fans – the interface turned out to be uncomfortable and I want less microcontrol.

It’s tempting to call Sovereign not a continuation, but a remake. Without a negative message, it’s more of a compliment. In any case, this strategy is worth getting to know. It’s clear with the fans – Black Sea Games worked specifically for them. And the rest, those who are not afraid of the unsightly appearance, will surely enjoy the gameplay, which offers great strategic opportunities. And do not forget about multiplayer – with it, such a game should become even more interesting.

Pros: copying the original should appeal to fans; simple and at the same time deep gameplay at a strategic level.

Cons: outdated graphics in tactical battles; inconvenient interface; abundance of microcontrol.

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