Knights of Honor II: Sovereign

Knights of Honor II: Sovereign by Black Sea Games and published by THQ NordicPC (Steam) review written by Robert with a copy provided by the publisher.

Knights of Honor II: Sovereign is touted as being an "accessible grand strategy" and though the approach to a real-time grand strategy may not be as detailed as other titles in the genre, Knight of Honor II: Sovereign is an admirable attempt at broadening the genre's reach. Where it falls short of being a more mainstream title are in its performance optimization and if you're a fan of the first game, you'll find that there is very little here that is different from its 17-year-old predecessor, Knights of Honor.

This does not inherently make Knights of Honor II: Sovereign a bad title, but rather a mismatch in purpose; it's no secret that many feel Black Sea Games' latest and greatest should have instead been released as Knights of Honor: Remastered. However, if you skip past the more problematic gameplay features which are optimized poorly, namely the "RTS-like" battles, by taking advantage of the incredibly fair auto-resolve function, then Knights of Honor II: Sovereign may have enough here to warrant picking it up on a Steam Sale after optimization (or removal) of the RTS combat. Let's dive in to the experiences that I had in my time with Knights of Honor II: Sovereign.

I have long been a fan of the original Knights of Honor, though I didn't become familiar with the franchise until THQ Nordic had been revived back a few years (2016-2017). Picking up the original KoH on a random binge of strategy games, I found the title enjoyable enough and a good diversion away from more mainstream titles like Crusader Kings II, the Total War franchise, and my personal favorite, Stellaris. Fast-forward a few years and Knights of Honor II: Sovereign was announced and I kept a keen eye on the various dev diaries ( put out by Black Sea Games throughout the course of its development.

When KoH II released the first week of December, I eagerly dove into it. The initial presentation is absolutely fantastic- a clean and suitably medieval UI, a detailed and interesting world map, AI that more often than not, sets in on wars against you and your allies within minutes of starting a new game, and essentially forces you to think fast on your feet. Where KoH II falls apart is in its RTS battles. A basic rock-paper-scissors style of combat (spearmen are good at fighting cavalry, cavalry is good at sword infantry, etc.) with a few different victory conditions. Some battles can be won by capturing and holding the victory point or destroy the enemy's general. While good in theory, RTS battles are horrendously optimized and bring my Ryzen 9 5900x, RTX 2080 Super, 64 GB RAM, and Samsung NVMe drives to it's knees.

It became bad enough that I eventually just began auto-resolving combat and as of the writing of this review, something that I'd recommend most players to do; while it certainly caused a number of settlements / cities to be lost where they might've been won with manual control, but playing the RTS battles that dip into the single-digit framerates just ... isn't fun. An additional downside to auto-resolving is that you might not be able to see the various unique units (some, not all, provinces have unique units), however, it's my opinion that they aren't varied enough to put up with the abysmal performance that breaks any form of immersion you might be feeling.

That leads to my next topic ... is Knights of Honor II: Sovereign fun? This is a difficult question to answer- I myself prefer the more methodical, slow-paced and diplomatically-tactical gameplay that you'll find in the bigger cousins of Black Sea Games' latest release. It may be related to always (and I mean ALWAYS) starting a game on the back foot. For instance my first five games that I played ranging from Scotland to Swabia and everything in between. This resulted in war being declared on me in as little are 40 seconds after loading- then the invasions start, and while everyone's unit roster is low-tier at the start, the constant barrage of battles is tiring at best, intolerable at its worst.

The upside to this is that if you do manage to create some alliances and call on allies for assistance, and you survive (most often, I did not), then it can be rewarding as hell ... but for me, that's a big "if". It's less that the game is "hard" and more that there's something of an avalanche effect that if you don't make it through the first few minutes (literally) then you'll be on your heels for the foreseeable future. Fortunately, though, if you do make it through, then Knights of Honor II is exceptionally well-made and is rather enjoyable. For those that have played Crusader Kings, Knights of Honor II feels a lot like it with strong (but more approachable) Trade and, later, Diplomacy. Where KoH II edges out beyond Crusader Kings (or its cousins like Europa Universalis or Panzer General) is that it truly is more accessible than its competitors. Even with the numerous (and occasionally frustrating) losses, even a novice grand strategy fan can quickly pick up the game and just ... get into the action.

To accompany the clean and incredibly well-made world map, easily understood menus and some of the better emergent gameplay that came out of the Mid-era, is one of the best soundtracks that I've heard in some time (right up there next to Warhammer 40K: Darktide). Composed by Audinity's Robin Birner and Yannick Süß, the Knights of Honor II: Sovereign soundtrack has been a near-constant companion outside of the game- it's thematically appropriate, well-written, and phenomenally recorded- hell, it has 40+ tracks! While I'm not one to typically tout DLC unless it's story/gameplay oriented, I highly recommend picking up the soundtrack (see here)as it's one of the better OSTs to come out in a few years.

A welcome companion to the stunning soundtrack is the little things that KoH II does differently- for example, your character has a job class such as Merchant, Spy, Marshall, and a few others that help you direct how you'll manage your campaign. In true T1ckles fashion, I started off with a Marshall and would be wafflestomped into oblivion. Once I tired of the poor performance, I restarted as a Merchant and a Diplomat and I found that the Diplomat truly is the "best" experience. The reason being is that it gives you a bit of an edge and you'll be able to essentially sue for peace and have greater success, as opposed to the buffoonery of the Marshall or Spy "classes". I'm not sure I've seen another grand strategy title create a focal point in your Knight/King/Player-character. It's a welcome change and can dynamically change how it plays.


Black Sea Games' Knights of Honor II: Sovereign is a fun, if occasionally tedious real-time grand strategy that feels far less like a sequel and more like a refresh of its 17-year-old predecessor. This isn't inherently a bad thing, though for those of us that have played Knights of Honor, KoH II still succeeds in making grand strategy accessible to an entirely new generation of players.

Combining rich graphics, beautiful flavor text, surprisingly-immersive gameplay, and an absolutely stunning soundtrack, Knights of Honor II: Sovereign, with some optimization, can stand strong on it's own in a genre dominated almost exclusively by Paradox and Slytherine- that's a huge accolade and Black Sea Games should be proud of what Knights of Honor II: Sovereign brings to the table.

I would score Knights of Honor II: Sovereign an 8.5 / 10