Review by Neo Alucard X

"A unique blend of strategy and hack 'n slash... combined together into a video game everyone should at least try once."

Kingdom Under Fire is back and better than ever… well in most cases anyway. The series started off as just another Warcraft clone; that was until its console debut on the Xbox back in 2004. The developer, Phantagram, decided to take the series in a different direction while maintaining its “strategical” roots. The outcome was a 3rd person hack and slash strategy game that succeeded on all levels. Now, less than a year since Kuf: tC release, comes its sequel. Although it didn't take any monumental steps forward as far as the series is concerned, it did manage to get the fans a great service.

Gameplay (8/10): Imagine being in the midst of a medieval battle and things have taken a turn for the worst. Your soldiers are getting torn to pieces and a 100 ft tall monster in the distance is lumbering in your direction. You pray for some kind of intervention, anything that can deliver you from your foe. You wait, but nothing happens. Another series of enemy reinforcements has arrived on all four fronts to finish the job. You're completely surrounded with no place to go and not a hope in the world. You decided to make your last stand as the enemy shout their battle cries before engaging your forces. Your nerves are shot and you begin to panic, slashing away mindless at the enemy troops, knowing that your death is inevitable.

The ground suddenly trembles as enemy forces are thrown in all different directions, but you continue on fighting as there is no time to question what just happened. You knew that now is your chance, the chance to seize the battlefield. A large dose of adrenaline courses through your veins. You ready your sword and lunge forth, it is then you hear the cry of your long awaited comrades. A fresh army of knights rushes into the battlefield, eager to annihilate the weary foe. The adrenaline stops though your heart is still pounding. You have taken the field. You fall to your knees and sigh with relief. Then something most peculiar happens. You get sensation that the there's nothing below you, as though your knees never even hit ground. You open your eyes and see a light in the distance. Confused, you begin to ponder. “Right. There was a 100 ft tall monster wasn't there?”

Sounds fairly epic right? Even then this description can't accurately portray the gameplay. Phantagram managed to make battles on a massive scale. There is not a single game out there that can rival this games feeling of “Oh my god that was the coolest thing ever”. In Kuf: Heroes, you can not only control an army, but you can also act as an individual participant in the battlefield. Controlling your army using just the normal screen can be an annoyance, but the chances are you'll navigate your forces by using the mini-map. Although it feels strange at first, it's really fairly easy to get the hang of.

There is also a good sense of strategy involved. Sometimes you can only take 2 of your 3 favorite squads, so you have to find what the best combination of them would be. It's also not very smart to charge head on to the middle enemy lines. Your chance of survival will greatly increase assuming you hit their lines from the side and move on towards the middle.

There are a total of seven different characters, all with unique moves, stages, and styles. Some characters sacrifice power for speed, speed for power, or just find something in between. They all have unique combos and storylines as well.

After each battle you can upgrade your armies using experience you received on the battlefield. Many units can become better versions of their current class. For example, Heavy Infantry can become Knights when there are good enough at melee. You can even hire new squads at a pub to assist your army. Your squads can also buy new weapons and armor to even make them better. All these elements are implemented well.

There are essentially two armies, Humans and Dark elves/Orcs. Both teams' base units (infantry, archers, etc.) are essentially the same, but there are also many unique ones. For example, Humans can get mortar squads while Elves/Orcs get wyverns. There is over a total of 20 classes to choose from.

Graphics (8/10): Being a game with massive armies, you don't expect the sharpest of graphics. You'll soon notice that characters are surprising detailed, and extremely well animated. As a result the game can be extremely rewarding. Things like spells look amazing. And I can't even begin to describe how cool a squad of wyverns getting shot out of the air looks. I promise you that it's one of greatest feelings ever in a video game, and it's solely because of the graphics/animation.

Sound/Music (6/10): The sound is a definite leap backwards from Kuf: the Crusaders. The voice acting is absolutely atrocious. Sure, the acting wasn't great in the first Xbox game, but at least all the voices were all suiting of the characters. The sound effects are your run of mill video game sounds. Nothing stellar. Then there's the heavy metal soundtrack, which is cool at first but quickly gets annoying. But I have to admit, the “major event” song is pretty damn sweet though.

Story (6/10): Most of the story was already told in the first game, and very few of the campaigns are significant to the Crusader's storyline. Many of the stories are playing out past events whose conclusions we already know. It's also kind of bogus that you're playing the lackey's of the main characters from the first game. Ellen, Rupert, and Gerald may have been interesting as a group, but definitely not on their own. That's not to say there's nothing good about the storyline, as some of its pretty cool.

Challenge (9/10): Unless you're a veteran from the first game, you're in for a whole world of hurt. This game is extremely unforgiving, and requires a lot of “hit and miss” tactic usage. The learning curve is extremely sharp for beginners. The difficulty level is as though it's an expansion of the first game, and it's substantially harder. There is a beginner campaign, but it lacks the training you'll need for all the later campaigns. Very few games are this rewarding and frustrating all at the same time.

Replayability (10/10): There's a TON to come back for. In addition to over 50 stages and 7 campaigns, you got a decent online mode and custom missions. There are many online modes from defending against the computer, to player verse player. Custom missions are awesome; as you select the stage, select the enemies, and the hero. You can customize your squads whichever way you see fit, and can even play as the original four characters from Crusaders assuming you got save files from the first game.

Conclusion: Very few games have been made so fast and been so good. I would recommend this game to everyone, and not once have I heard a poor review. At the very least you can go out of your way to rent the game, is its one hell of an experience. Final rating, 8/10.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 10/01/05


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