Review by SiriusBlackKS
An extremely fun gem that "professional" reviewers cannot hope to undestand.
Spin Off games are a tricky thing. Most of the time they are solely for the purpose of making a quick buck off of a fanbase with a rushed and mostly crappy title. This is not the case with Circle of Doom. While it is nothing like the previous Kingdom Under Fire games which are primarily strategy games with a dash fo action, this game is full on hack and slash.
GRAPHICS - This is a very good looking game. It is not the best the 360 has to offer, but has very nice and extremely detailed scenery. This is especially true in the complex indoor areas of the third stage in the twisted mansion. There are nice physics where capes and hair flow in the breeze, skeletons explode upon death into many little bones. The weapons and armor nail the over the top badass hack and slash feel with swords twice as long as the characters, massive guns, cannons, and shiny armor. The blood effects which can be turned on in the settings are very nice. Blood splats often in dark red spurts and one boss even rains massive showers of the stuff all over.
SOUND - The sound is very well done. In 5.1 it is crystal clear and the sound effects of spells and swords clanging is well done. The voice acting is shockingly very good for all save one character, which is a rarity for a title coming out of Japan. The music is ok. It is not great, and it is not as grating as other overseas offerings like FFXI and Persona 3.
GAMEPLAY - The gameplay is where the reveiwers have missed the mark that dismissed it with a low score. It is a hack and slash game, which are for a specific audience. If you did not like diablo, or baulder's gate dark alliance you will not like this game. You will spend nearly all of your time wading through waves of enemies to get one more level and better loot. The storyline for the characters is actually pretty good for the genre but it will not change your mind about the game if you don't like the core elements.
The environments are varried through desert ruins, forrests, psychotic mansions and much more. This game has 6 "worlds" which consist of roughly 4-5 sections a piece for each and a boss fight.
There are no "towns" in the game per say. Your character goes to specific "idol" locations to buy and sell equipment, synthesize (more on that in a second), and store items. The character can go to sleep here to enter his or her personal dream world to train new skills and follow their own personal story. This is actually a very good system as it keeps you in the action. You have all the needed functions, a bank, merchant, skill trainer without having to go back and meander through a town.
This is where people who love grind fests will get all giddy. Boss fight are set up like wow raids. The bosses have a ton of health and take a coordinated effort by the heroes, and upon defeating them they drop one ultra-rare item to be rolled upon by the party. They they drop a massive hoard of other rares and nice equipment like a pinata.
Speaking on items that is half the fun in this game. The Synthesis process is amazingly deep and insanely addictive. You can splice together nearly any object in the game with weapons, armor, and jewelry to create more powerful versions of them. You can even put your own characters abilities on the weapons as a proc, and even put multiple versions on them. This adds up to allowing you to create a massive sword that causes an explosion on impact while also having a chance to send hands from hell cracking from the earth towards your foes. This is only a VERY short description of what is possible, and many will find that maxing your level is only the begining as the real hunt to create items seemingly crafted by Zeus himself and bring them to the battlefield.
With abilities the system is also new and fresh by not letting you pick abilities at level up. Instead you go to the dream world and pick a skill you want. You will then be given a quest to complete to attain the skill. These range from killing certain mobs, to finding rare monsters to even slaying bosses. It is a very fun and much more exciting than a button click at ding. These abilities are also consumed when imbued into a weapon meaning you will need to quest for it again for yourself, but also adding another layer or strategy and excitement as you can have way to increase your power and build up endlessly.
On the topic of levels you can take your character up to level 120! There are 5 different characters and one unlockable. This gives you an insane amount of gameplay. When you add this to the fact that there are three difficulty modes, each unlockable as you beat the previous mode, and that each mode has stronger enemies and better items it sweetens the deal.
By the top difficulty enemies become a real challenge and the items drops are amazing, even before synthesis.
Can it get any better? Actually it can. This game allows for solo play of course, but you can also easily and seemlessly take any of your characters online for up to 4 player co-op through all of the modes. The developers were smart enough to also give nice trading tools similar to guild wars' system and a way to inspect other characters like World of Warcraft.
There are a couple flaws to this great system. Occasionally a piece of loot can get stuck "out of bounds" where the player cannot reach it. This is not an often occurance, but you will see it. Because of this and the simply ok music I have deducted one point.
Other than these issues you are ending up with a solid, and fun hack and slash game with a wide variety of characters, an insanely deep synthesis system, 3 varried difficulty modes, online co-op that is stable and nearly lag free.
It is a no-brainer for action fans.
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Product Release: Kingdom Under Fire: Circle of Doom (US, 01/08/08)
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