Review by chocomog
"A fun, but difficult mix between Dynasty Warriors and Warcraft."
The second installment in the Kingdom Under Fire series by Phantagram, KuF combines hack and slash with strategical elements that engage you in battles of epic proportions.
Gameplay - 9/10
This is the best part of the game. You start every mission on a square map, and your objective is often, but not always, to annihilate all enemy units. You are given a set number of troops to control, each of which consists of a high number (20-30 or so) of Infantry, Spearmen, Archers, Mortars, or other units. Combat is initiated by moving your troops into the enemies troops. Luckily, there's a minimap you can use, which makes things far more convenient.
Once in melee, you usually control your hero, who mashes enemy troops by you mashing the X button. Dynasty Warriors -like enough for everyone to understand here. The sweetest part of the game is that it makes you seem like you're participating in some massive battle, especially when there's some 100 units all battling each other at the same time, with arrows, explosives, and poison bombs raining down from above.
There's also a good bit of strategy involved. Archers destroy troops in melee when firing on them as support, but get destroyed in melee. Air units pack quite a punch against ground units, but are quickly destroyed by Archers. Siege weaponry is extremely powerful, but very slow. Calvary generate lots of SP, but are almost instantly wiped out by Spearmen. Spells can wipe out any of your units if you don't engage the casting enemies in melee. As such, you will quickly find your army destroyed if you don't react quickly to the enemies' tactics.
There are three main modes to the game; a story mode, a multiplayer mode, and a custom game mode. The Story mode lets you play through the main story of KuF, as you might expect. Multiplayer mode lets you play against or with people on XBox Live, but I haven't tried it, so I can't say much. The Custom Game mode lets you use any hero, units and map you choose against any enemy units you choose.
One of the tough parts is that if you don't start with Ellen's mission, which the game doesn't tell you to do, you're immediately thrown into battle, with no idea of how to move your units even, much less be taught basic strategy. Even if you do start with Ellen, the tutorial is hardly helpful.
I had a lot of fun with the gameplay; once you master basic tactics, you'll have a lot of fun with it.
Story - 8/10
The story is a prologue to KuF: Crusaders, this game taking place 5 years before. You'll see many of the same characters if you've played Crusaders. The story seems rather deep and engaging, but at the same time you can completely ignore it and you won't be adversely affected in battle.
There are basically two sides to the war taking place in KuF: Humans, Dwarves and Elves on one side, and Orcs, Vampires and Dark Elves on the other. The various heroes you get to choose to be have various roles on one side of the war, and your job is to play through their story.
Graphics - 8/10
With all the units on the battlefield at the same time, you'd expect some slow down, or at least some reduction in graphics quality. Luckily, neither of these occur. Character models and animations are done very well; not to the point of a fighting game, but you won't be disappointed. You can even see how your somewhat customizable armor and weapons look. The special effects aren't much, but they're well done and enough to get the point across. There are few FMVs; the ones that are there are decent, nothing special.
Sound/Music - 4/10
I hardly noticed the background music with all the fighting sound effects playing. I found the voice acting of the heroes to be rather annoying, though I didn't find the support messages (Archers in melee!, etc) to be nearly as bad. Perhaps its because the heroes say the same few things over and over again.
Challenge - 7/10
Holy crap, this game is hard when you're first starting out. They don't tell you what to do at all, and you'll quickly find yourself being Game Over'd. This game has a very steep learning curve; as high leveled units can be destroyed easily by lower leveled units if the right tactics are used. The computer knows these tactics, beginning players do not. So it's easy for a beginner to be frustrated early on, especially when the easiest campaign (Ellen) has a lot of "run like hell" missions.
However, this game has severe imbalances that cause the game to become much easier later on, once you learn them. Calvary generate far too much SP, letting you cast powerful spells as often as you want, and racking up tons of gold in the process. A certain Fire spell lets you take out 3/4 of the enemy infantry in one cast, and Swamp Mammoths are more or less Invincible. A player using these tactics will find the game very easy.
Play Time/Replayability - 9/10
There is TONS of stuff to do. You can replay any missions you want and can continue building your army after you've completed a characters storyline. Custom games will also let you explore different kinds of challenges. Not to mention XBox Live, which adds another hundred hours to play time.
The only negative I can find is that things become pretty repetitive after a while; many different missions are essentially the same thing
Overall Rating - 8/10
Lots of fun; anyone who likes tactical or hack and slash games should give this a try. I haven't seen another game series merge strategy and fighting this well.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 01/13/06
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