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Review | Knights of Honor 2: Sovereign - Long May He Reign

Published: 17:05, 05 December 2022
THQ
Knights of Honor 2: Sovergein is a worthy successor to the classic from 2004
Knights of Honor 2: Sovergein is a worthy successor to the classic from 2004

Knights of Honor 2: Sovereign is a worthy successor of one of the best real-time grand strategies of the previous decade.

What you need to know

  • What is it? A medieval real-time grand strategy.
  • Reviewed on: PC
  • Developer: Black Sea Games 
  • Publisher: THQ Nordic
  • Release date:  December 6, 2022
  • Available on: PC

Knights of Honor 2: Sovereign review copy provided by THQ.

Black Sea Games didn't try to reinvent the wheel with Knights of Honor 2: Sovereign, instead, the development team behind this wonderful grand strategy worked on refining what made the original so good and addictive. Knights of Honor 2: Sovereign is truly a Knights of Honor game to its core, and that is exactly what I and other fans of this series have been hoping to get.

Remembering my high-school days, I've probably spent more time with Knights of Honor than any other strategy that was available at that time, with Age of Empires 2 being the exception. 

I remember Knights of Honor being easy to understand and play and I'm happy to say that its successor sticks to that design. Unlike other, complex grand strategies, Knights of Honor is not turn-based and everything is played out in real time. 

More importantly, Knights of Honor won't throw unnecessary mechanics and a bunch of numbers at you. It's keeping things simple, it's a more focused and accessible strategy. It's great for newcomers to the genre but at the same time, it packs just enough depth to keep hardcore fans happy.

I've spent around 25 hours with Knights of Honor 2: Sovereign for this review and have thoroughly enjoyed most of it, with some frustrations here and there. 

Just like its predecessor, Knights of Honor 2: Sovereign lets you choose from over 200 kingdoms across Europe, North Africa, and parts of Asia. Choosing your kingdom is pretty much a difficulty levels of its own since "one-province kingdoms" have a hard time growing when compared to major empires like England and Germany, which have dozens of cities generating gold and armies.

Once you choose your kingdom, you can set Victory Rules and Campaign Settings, select a difficulty level and kick off your Knights of Honor 2: Sovereign Grand Campaign. Just like in the original, you get nine seats at the royal table where you hire your knights. The royal court is pretty much a core mechanic of Knights of Honor as it has a major influence on your style of gameplay.  

AltChar Knights of Honor II: Sovereign - Before the start of the campaign, you'll choose your kingdom, victory rules and campaign settings Knights of Honor II: Sovereign - Before the start of the campaign, you'll choose your kingdom, victory rules and campaign settings

You can appoint Marshals, Merchants, Diplomats, Spies and Clerics and each of these is a viable choice thanks to the game's great balancing. I've never regretted my decision to appoint a certain knight since every class has its own strengths and almost no weaknesses. 

If you're a pacifist and don't care about war and expanding your kingdom you can become a great power with a strong economy and diplomacy thanks to your merchants and diplomats. Your merchants will export food and other valuable materials that your kingdom possesses for gold. They can also import exotic goods which are often necessary to unlock a new technology or kingdom advantage. Diplomats can make your worst nemesis become your strongest ally by signing pacts, arranging key marriages and maintaining friendly relationships.

Players who prefer to solve things with a sword and trebuchet will rely on their Marshals to do the job. However, using Spies to achieve your goals is the most fun I had with Knights of Honor 2: Sovereign. Spies can bribe enemy knights, start rebellions or even provoke wars between kingdoms, all in your favour. Taking care of your economy and people while letting your Spies plot against rival kingdoms is a very satisfying activity in Knights of Honor 2: Sovereign, especially if things go well and your spy doesn't end up being locked in cold and dark dungeons in a kingdom on a different continent.  

The main pillar of each kingdom is its hard-working people and it's of utmost significance to keep them happy. That's where the Clerics come in as they play a major part in the population's happiness, education and culture. Clerics can bolster your culture, increase stability across the kingdom and lift disorders in rebellious towns.

AltChar Knights of Honor II Sovereign: Destroying Papacy so I don't have to listen to those calls for a Crusade and Pope's never-ending gold demands every five minutes Knights of Honor II Sovereign: Destroying Papacy so I don't have to listen to those calls for a Crusade and Pope's never-ending gold demands every five minutes

Speaking about your provinces, each comes with eight building slots but buildings have several upgrade levels and some of them unlock new goods. For example, a fully upgraded Cattle Farm will produce fine cheese, meat and sausages if you have the necessary prerequisites like spices and salt. 

Cathedrals can be upgraded to Art Schools allowing you to produce Fine Arts and Artists. Certain provinces also have natural goods like Camels, Spices and Salt Deposits and all of these are important since they unlock Kingdom Advantages that provide additional major bonuses and can lead to total victory once you unlock all of them and possess all goods. 

It's also important to decide how your province will function based on its position on the map and the resources it provides. Since building slots are limited, you'll want to build improvements that will boost the province's production of goods based on the natural resources it features.

For example, you'll use your coastal provinces to build ships, explore the world and fish on the open sea to provide your entire kingdom with that resource. 

Claiming victory by unlocking Kingdom Advantages is one of the ways to beat the game but of course, there are many ways to become a kingdom everyone fear and respect. Be it expansion, diplomacy or a strong economy, you can pretty much play as you desire as every strategy is a viable one. 

AltChar Knights of Honor 2: Sovergein - I wish there was more  options to customise the camera settings for the real-time battles Knights of Honor 2: Sovergein - I wish there was more options to customise the camera settings for the real-time battles

When it comes to war, it's important to keep them short and effective. Long wars lead to high war exhaustion which means your crown authority will drop leading to discontent across the kingdom. You can have as many marshals as you want on your royal court and each marshal can have up to eight units under his command. Units cost gold and food depending on their strength.

Once you finally decide which kingdom to attack, you can pillage their surrounding villages or farms for gold or go directly to the city walls. This will start the siege which ends up in a direct battle with enemy units defending the city. At that point, you can choose to take over and command the units directly on the battlefield or leave it to your marshal to finish the job. 

I didn't bother much with real-time battles since marshals usually did a much better job even when outnumbered. This is mainly due to poor enemy AI, which makes some pretty dumb decisions even on higher difficulty levels. The enemy AI marshals will watch as you take a decisive victory against their colleagues on the battlefield, refusing to join the battle for reasons only known to them.

Additionally, they will lift sieges on your towns even if the odds are in their favour. Poor AI is not exclusive to battles as sometimes, kingdoms will declare war on you and sign peace five seconds later. All of these issues were present in the first Knights of Honor game, and it's a major disappointment that the AI hasn't seen any improvements in their behaviour and decision-making almost two decades later.

Another reason to stay away from real-time battles is the cluttered and oversized UI. It's uneccessarily big to the point where you simply don't have a good enough overview of the entire situation on the battlefield. I feel that the first game had a slightly better camera settings for the actual battles. 

Knights of Honor fans will probably notice that everything I've written in this review is pretty much how the first game worked. Even more so, if you didn't even know the sequel exists, you'd probably think I'm reviewing the first game. And that's entirely true, Knights of Honor 2: Sovereign doesn't change the formula and that's a good thing. 

AltChar Knights of Honor II Sovereign - You can upgrade buildings to produce new goods Knights of Honor II Sovereign - You can upgrade buildings to produce new goods

The first game was perfect for what it was and I was afraid that the devs may try to introduce too many changes in the sequel and make it complex for the sake of complexity. But to my joy, Knights of Honor 2: Sovereign sticks to its roots and gameplay formula that made the game so beloved.

The minimal changes are mostly for the better. So for example you won't be able to exploit the trade mechanics like in the first game to get piles of gold fast since Commerce now dictates your kingdom's trading potential. Commerce is allocated to different trading actions which, at least early on, stops you from signing a bunch of trade deals with superpowers. Later on, it's a different story, since the gold starts pilling in from your governed provinces so you won't need that many merchants anyway.

The biggest new feature in Knights of Honor 2: Sovereign is multiplayer for up to six players. You can play with your buddies in co-op or free-for-all games. Sadly, I didn't get to properly play this mode for this review since I don't have that many friends who play grand strategies and I couldn't find any public matches hosted by other people who reviewed the game. 

Visually, Knights of Honor doesn't change much and still tries to go for an old school graphics that can be found in the original. The game looks pretty and it's visual presentation certainly does the job. Of course, don't go in expecting the highest detailed strategy game ever as Knights of Honor 2: Sovereign won't give you that but it really doesn't have to given it's strenghts in other areas.

All in all, Knights of Honor 2: Sovereign certainly gets a recommendation if you're familiar with the original or simply love strategy games. It's also a great starting point for newcomers to the genre as it's not as complex as some other titles but at the same time, has just enough depth to keep you playing for many, many hours. 

The Good

  • Espionage, War, Diplomacy and more ways to play
  • Doesn't try to reinvent the wheel and sticks to what made the series great
  • Addictive gameplay that will devour your time
  • Pope is as annoying as ever

The Bad

  • UI is oversized and cluttered
  • Wish there were more options when communicating with kingdoms
83

Our Rating

Great

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