Review by demian23

"Solid game, but play Crusaders first"

Kingdom Under Fire Heroes is no doubt far more popular than Crusaders was given that more effort (if you could call it that) went into marketing and promoting Heroes than went into Crusaders. Because of this, no doubt there were a number of people who bought Heroes without having played Crusaders. How I feel sorry for those poor souls! For those that played Crusaders, (myself included), the experience was bitter-sweet, but worthwhile.

If you're reading this and haven't bought either game, I strongly suggest buying and playing through Crusaders. If you like it (and I think you will) then go for Heroes. There are several reasons for this. First off, the story will make very little sense as Heroes presents a rather scattered presentation of a story that was told more clearly in Crusaders. Each of the main characters in Heroes played a supporting role in Crusaders, and each of their campaigns presents an alternative view, backstory, or further explanation of major events that occurred in Crusaders. Another compelling reason to play Crusaders first is the relative difficulty of Heroes. Crusaders presents a gentle learning curve, tutorials, and more explanation of tactical concepts and unit strengths and weaknesses. Heroes has these features stripped out and presents a rather brutal learning curve that a beginner could find overwhelmingly frustrating.

With that said, I'll get down to what Heroes does right, and what it does not-so-right.

Gameplay: The gameplay of Heroes / Crusaders is unique, similar to Dynasty Warriors, but with more emphasis placed on tactical maneuvering of support units. I've done a VERY thorough breakdown of the style in my review of Crusaders, and won't repeat this information here, but will confine myself to an evaluation of the quality of the gameplay. The gameplay overall is quite a bit of fun, and not overly complex. Unit types are fairly well defined, and they all have well designed and balanced strengths and weaknesses. Phantagram seems to have cleaned up quite a few of the problems with the camera and the enemy AI that plagued Crusaders. The camera now zooms out FAR with a click of the right thumbstick allowing you to see more of the battlefield, and the enemy AI is quite a bit better. Enemy archers now run from melee. Melee units run from Support units they can't damage instead of standing still while they get slaughtered. Enemy Axemen and Spearmen now stay out of melee when your cavalry are charging about the field and actively attempt to intercept them. It's also far easier to accumulate SP, so magic is actually usable and plays a critical role in deciding the outcome of battles. In sum, Heroes takes the solid gameplay of Crusaders and polishes it up a little. And yet, that's what's disappointing. Although the game packaging promises "new units" and "even deeper strategy" this is not at all the case. The only new units are four elemental units that are, in my opinion, simply specialized Heavy Infantry. Tactically, you can treat them identically, adding NO additional depth whatsoever.

Presentation: The graphics and sound quality are identical to what we saw in Crusaders, i.e., solid. Impressive, even in certain circumstances. Again, this is good, but somewhat disappointing to those of us expecting more. The soundtrack is slightly improved, showing a little more variety, and the voice acting is overall improved. It was a little jarring at first to hear different voice actors for characters we came to know and love in Crusaders, but just like a new James Bond, after a while it became totally natural. Also gone are the numerous spelling and grammar errors that plagued Crusaders. There are still a few such errors, but their frequency is dramatically reduced. Sadly lacking are any original CG cutscenes. Especially weak is the recycling of the CG movie that portrays the awakening of Encablossa. This movie is awesome, to be sure, but then again, we did see it TWICE in Crusaders (this is fine of course, because it's worth seeing twice), but then we get to see it three more times in Heroes?! Shoddy. Each Hero deserves their own unique CG cutscene at the end of their campaign. Nothing less is acceptable in my opinion, especially considering the length and difficulty of the campaigns.

Extras: Though there is a Custom Mission mode included, it's poorly implemented in my opinion, being really difficult to use and figure out. The Multi-player online mode is essentially identical to Crusaders (which is good), but I'm not much of an online multi-player gamer. And the uhh... Credits are pretty cool I guess. Yes, there aren't even any unlockable arts, special characters, mini-games, nothing. Come on now! Even Crusaders had two cheap little mini-games! After beating each character's campaign, you have the option of replaying all of their missions at a high level. This is fun, especially on some of the more difficult and frustrating level, but hardly a solid replay feature. In my opinion, this is the area in which Heroes fails the most - once the game is over, you don't even have a good CG movie to look forward to.

Overall, I still played the hell out of this game, and even wrote a FAQ about it. So even though it has its problems, it's still one of the better games out there in my opinion, especially if you're a fan of battlefield tactical games. At $40, it's still worth at least 50 hours of engaging (if sometimes frustrating) gameplay, and is well worth buying. Too bad it's not on the 360's backwards compatibility list. And here's to Kingdom Under Fire 3! The REAL sequel!

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 11/28/05

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