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Kingdom Under Fire Review
developer: Phantagram Interactive
P200, 32MB RAM, 1.2GB HDD, 4X CD-ROM
|ESRB rating: T
release date: Jan 18, 01 (released)
|» All About Kingdom Under Fire on ActionTrip|
Branislav "Bane" Babovic
Kingdom Under Fire is not Warcraft 2.5. This is the first thing that I have to say in this article, but I guess it's quite OK for the guys in the Korean based Phantagram to worship Blizzard Entertainment and sacrifice a couple of fresh virgins to them daily. Come to think of it, it seems that our EIC would like to be worshiped that way, too. KUF is sort of a tribute to Blizzard Entertainment as it unites the features of the "craft" serial and Diablo, introducing some modern aspects. Unfortunately, besides this good concept it still had a couple of flaws.
The game features a single player mode including a campaign and custom game, a multiplayer mode and a tutorial. Custom game will let you determine the number of players and the type of map. The campaign takes place on a fantasy world called Bersiah. You can learn more on the history of this typical "fantasy realm" in our preview. You'll find heroes and villains, orcs, demons, dwarves, dark elves and noble knights here. All you need for a standard fantasy plot.
Gameplay is the same as in any other RTS. You have a basic unit (Human peasant, Gnome slave), which is capable of building and repairing structures and gathering resources: mana, gold, and iron...
After a couple of minutes of play, you'll realize why I started this review the way I did. This game is more than similar to Warcraft 2. You'll have to use Barracks to build basic combat units, and you'll have to build some advanced structures in order to be able to build the advanced units (like Ancient Candle in order to produce Ogres when playing on the Devil's side). Some structures are also used for upgrades and researching special abilities (for instance Bloodrage ability for Ogres). The usual concept of tech-trees is also present. The campaign will gradually introduce you to the available units, buildings and technologies. In custom game, you'll be able to access the entire tech-tree, as usual. The only downside to unit production is the lack of the unit queuing option. You can easily become frustrated when having to carefully follow the production progress in the middle of a battle.
The buildings and units are nice. There are two categories of units - ground troops and air forces. Some units get upgraded in specialized buildings, but they also gather EXPs and levels in combat. I liked the possibility of having units of the same class, but with different capabilities. This feature will increase the number of possible strategies. There is a great number of different special features: for instance, Knight Templar cavalry can develop three skills: Holy Aura (posing as a shield), Charge (speed-up) and Divine Light (revealing invisible and stealth units in the vicinity). Weaker units can develop less special skills (Archers can only use the flame Arrow specialty). Units are highly versatile. You will be able to control more than twenty of them with different skills and characteristics.
The "magical" side of the game is really impressive. Hell, this is a fantasy game! It just wouldn't be a true fantasy game without the magic. The guys in Phantagram took that quite literally, and introduced three spell-casting units on each side. One of these is in charge of the healing and blessing spells (for example, human cleric), and two other cast slightly more aggressive spells. The mages have about ten different spells like teleport, speed-boot, concealing, or gathering Mana. Sorceresses feature some offensive spells like fireball, meteor strike etc. Units are perfectly balanced, and they all bear marks of the race they belong to.
The heroes are a special treat. No, it's not the well-known bunch The Seventh Dark Elven Clan of the Noble Lords of Saardakh From The 15th Kaalzah Realm (Er, he's referring to our Loser's Guide to Counter-Strike: Part 2 - Ed). These guys left a serious mark in the history of the Barsiah continent. They will be the pillars of the story, and you'll only be able to summon them using some highly advanced buildings. Some campaign scenarios will allow you to use particular heroes without having to summon them.
If we disregard the disgusting Curian, the gay knight who should be the main hero in this game (a really repulsive creature and his voice-over just goes to prove it), the rest of the heroes are really cool. The first becoming hero is the funny blob Likuku, who claims that he's the last remaining red Ogre. He is less than na´ve when it comes to combat as his axe inflicts area damage, making him ideal for skirmishes. Each of the heroes has special characteristics which are best displayed in missions where the game turns to 'dungeon crawling' where you have to lead up to three special characters through a dungeon in order to find a powerful artifact. The game looks just like Diablo in these segments, and just like in Diablo, you'll have to take care and avoid traps while slaughtering hosts of enemies with your sword, spells or just plain wits. Each character has his own characteristics and skills, which will let him solve a problem in a specific way; for instance. Riock Blood has a flaming sword with which he can simply set his enemies ablaze, whilst Richter, the vampire can stand in the darkness and summon bats to do the dirty job for him.
The graphical design is quite good for a 2D RTS/RPG (And it looks a helluva lot like Warcraft II -- Ed). Unfortunately, the fact that it only supports 800x600 and 640x480 resolutions spoils the impression a bit. Kingdom Under Fire is very contagious, and considering the fact that it is based on two titles that had been true hits in their own time, it's bound to achieve a notable success on the market. It might be in many ways unoriginal, but the balanced gameplay and fun heroes should easily compensate for occasional feelings of d'jÓ vu (i.e. Matrix glitches).
8.4 Very Good
Two modes of play, challenging campaign, interesting heroes, a lot of spells for an RTS;
Low resolution, no production queuing, AI seems daft at times.
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