Reviewed by Downtown Jimmy
Oct 12th 2005
Introduction:The unique strategy action series Kingdom under Fire has returned for another Xbox Exclusive adventure. KOF: Heroes, like 2004's KOF: The Crusaders has more of the same elf human drama, fast paced action and RTS strategy all rolled into a stylized heavy metal package.
The Game:Kingdom Under Fire: Heroes takes place five years before The Crusaders and it has the same drama-esq squabbles of kings, allies, alliances and Dark Legions to draw you in before, after and while you do your killing. If you never played the first title don't worry, it's not essential that you know whats going on. Even without the story attached the game is still fun to hack-slash and strategize, but even if you don't want to you will pick up the story because these characters are always blabbing on about something and usually it's in the middle of frenzied battle. Kingdom Under Fire has it all and if you are into medieval stories then I'd have to say Kingdom is pretty intriguing on that level.
In Heroes you can control up to seven warriors from each side of the war that is arising. On the humans side there is the elven half breed Ecclesian Captain Ellen along with Hironeian Warrior Rupert, and the agent of god Walter. For the Dark Legion we have the Dark Elf Cirith, sexy half vampire Morene, King Valdemar's vampire Knight son Leinhart, Cirith and the huge ogre of destruction Urukabarr. Each character has their own set of attributes, moves and special abilities to keep it interesting. Of course the Dark Legion characters are a little more satisfying with a more unique move set and interesting plot details.
For the gameplay Heroes is set up like two games, one real time strategy and the other is your typical hack n' slash action. The thing that makes the Kingdom under Fire series unique is that you will be doing both at the same time. Both portions of the game are pretty strong and although the game helps you out in the beginning you will be more on your own as things progress. This combination of action and strategy still hasn't been touched by another game and fans of this new series can still feel some pride in discovering this little gem.
You won't have to worry about the action stopping too soon because there are over 50 missions which boasts at least 50 hours of gameplay time. Each mission will have some objectives to complete but usually you don't know what you will be doing next until you are half way in the mission. This helps keep you on your toes in your first play through. The difficulty ramps up gradually and has a really gets tough near the half way mark in the game. KUF: Heroes can get a little crazy when trying to control you're a few groups of solders at once, but on their defense it's handled the best it could with the Xbox controller. It's good to have some patience with Kingdoms and and if it's hard at first, don't worry you will get the hang of things quickly.
When the action is thick there are lots of combos and physical and magical special attacks that can be learnt so try and keep up with the little helper screens to vary up your attacks. Like I mentioned earlier, every character in the game can be customized to an extent with new weapons, equipment, magic and skill levels. This is a important part of the game and take your time and think ahead before throwing your xp points around. The characters can even be upgraded into new classes to more specialize and diversitize your armies. Flowing more into the RPG side strategy, Kindoms has it all nicely foiled up into a nice meal of gaming goodness.
KUF: Heroes is more then a single player game and Blue Side Studios made sure we had our Xbox Live support. Even though the gaming community is at large as most other Microsoft titles you can still participate with the few games that are running. I'll take a minute to go over the multiplayer modes. First is "Hero Battle". Which is 3 on 3 battle where you can divide you duties and combine efforts to the scenarios."Troop Battle" is next which supports up to six players. You choose a hero and units and go into battle. This system works on a point system so winning or loosing will help you gain points which you can use to build up your online army. The only portion is pretty interesting and can heat up with die hard fans and if you think the story mode is lacking I guarantee you will find a few changes within the ranks of Xbox Live.
Really what doesn't KUF: Heroes deliver on? This game is a tightly produced action strategy game of perfection. It's really great to see Microsoft behind this title even when the sales numbers of the last one didn't break any records. They really didn't improve much on the gameplay beside giving a little tweak here and there, but they didn't have to. Even in chaos KUF: Heroes plays like a gem.
Graphics & Sound: Kingdom Under Fire is proudly a visual stylistic game with some great remarkable creatures and characters. Blue Side and Phantagram do a great job in creating a sense of realism and scale within this fantasy world. Besides the interesting character design the graphics have a punch and KUF: Heroes boasts a high amount of characters on the screen at once. The graphics are streamlined to run smoothly and crisp without any frame rate issues. If I had to pick spot where the graphics falters it's in the environmental textures. The textures of the trees, ground and other background environments could have been more refined and detailed because the just feel washed out and dull. Besides minor pick nicks Kingdom Under Fire looks great, and even better it has style.
Get ready for the metal-rock gods! KUF: Heroes audio is a joy considering the background music is so not appropriate for the fantasy time period. Who would of thought the fantasy setting would work so well over heavy metal guitars grinding away. This is KUF and now I would have to say it's a classic trademark. Doing it any other way would be bland. Besides the metal beats the sound effects are pretty dull, it's unfortunate that nothing really stands out. The voice acting is pretty good even after re-casting the talent. If anything was strange it would be the OC dialog in the game. Overall this game presentation, graphic style and performance is excellent along with a satisfactory audio section of aggression fueled metal.
Mojo:The sex-tastic Morene Strident is back and that puts a smile on my face considering she was my favorite character in The Crusaders. Morene and the rest of the freaky girls give this game a little mojo boost. What a battle techniques too! Getting a Half Elf woman to run around in a metal G-String, that's hardcore and a little distracting. Hormones aside this game has the mojo. It's the perfect blend of thinking and stabbing on an epic scale. I really dig the Dark Legion characters and that Kingdom lets you play from every perspective. It's metal, it's tough, it's raw. I'm hopefully this series carries over to the 360 because it could be something even more fantastic! It's mojo magic.
Lowdown:Fans of the game have already grabbed this off the shelf and they know what everyone else is missing. Heroes is just as great as The Crusaders and every gamer should at least give this a rental, if not purchase. With over fifty hours of gameplay and a strong multiplayer aspect you just might get your fill of the best action strategy game going.
Gameplay: 9, Graphics/Sound: 8, Innovation: 7, Mojo: 9. Final: 9/10