Before I get started, I’d just like to make it clear how much I really enjoyed this game. Kingdom Under Fire: Crusaders is one the most enjoyable games on the market today. Unfortunately, this game may fall under a lot of people’s radar because of the rather large shadow cast over it by all the big releases this fall such as Mortal Kombat: Deception, X-Men Legends, and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Those who are fortunate enough to play this game will find a very deep and enjoyable experience that is unlike any game you’ve played before.
Kingdom Under Fire: Crusaders takes place 50 years after the War of Heroes experienced by those who played the first game on PC. Playing as either Humans or Dark Legions in 1 of 4 campaigns, you will be fighting to control the Sacred Lands and to annihilate the opposing armies. On the immense battlefields you will wage truly epic battles with orcs, humans, elves, dragons, dwarves, and a variety of mythical creatures. To wage these battles, Kingdom Under Fire combines elements of action, strategy, and role-playing to create a game that really can’t be experienced anywhere else. These battles can get near 1000 characters on the screen creating hugely epic battles. Kingdom Under Fire even manages a very compelling story, although not entirely original, it keeps you intrigued and inspires you to play the additional campaigns. Between the epic battles, unique game-play and intriguing story, this is not a game you should miss.
The story of Kingdom Under Fire can be simply explained in its subtitle—Crusaders. You will begin as the finest officer in the Hironeiden Army leading the way in the crusade to reclaim the Sacred Lands from the Dark Legions. Needless to say, it gets much more complicated and has its share of twists and nothing really turns out as planned. Most of the story is told through pictures of heads while on the world map screen, and it is all voice acted. Surprisingly well voice acted, I might add. Some of the dialogue can get a little cheesy at times, but for the most part it is very well written and spoken. Occasionally, you will also be treated to some beautiful cut scenes while on the battlefield. These are, quite simply, cool. The characters just really have that hero look and the cut scenes capture it very well. While you will notice the story isn’t completely original, it will definitely keep you interested. Since no one campaign tells the entire story, it compels you to play the rest of the heroes to discover the rest of the story.
With all that is always happening on your screen, Kingdom Under Fire looks very good. All the characters are very detailed, with a very original and cool look to them. One of the characters in particular you will notice always seems to be chewing on something. Gum? Tobacco? I still don’t know, but it fits the character very well. While the heroes seem to have been more detailed, the troops and creatures look very nice as well. They seem a little blocky during some close ups, with several hundred running around on the screen killing each other it is hardly noticeable. The battlefields are also well detailed. You will get to fight in forests, deserts, and snow, all of which look very good and just seem like the right place to have a massive battle. There is even rain in a few battles, which was quite impressive. I even tried to wipe my screen off when I first experienced the rain, not realizing. Unfortunately, in the forest battlefields you will sometimes notice some major clipping problems between your larger units, like catapults, and trees. This does seem unavoidable, though, because otherwise there wouldn’t be any other way through the woods with the trees as dense as they often are. The majority of the graphical issues seem to come up on the world map. It just doesn’t look as good as everything else in the game. It has a distinct lack of detail. It is also missing key features, such as rivers, which wouldn’t be such a big deal if several major battles didn’t focus on a river that doesn’t seem to exist on the map. In addition, when moving to various locations on the map, things just look out of place. Like a small group of ants scurrying along with a flag. More effort could have been made to give the appearance of real soldiers moving about. Luckily, most of your time will be spent on the battlefield or in the troop management menus. These management screens are fairly intuitive to use but requires a little bit of learning.
While navigating all these various parts of the game, you will be treated to some very fine audio. The fine voice acting can be found in all parts of the game and is used quite often. At all times however, you will notice the very appealing soundtrack. That is if you like rock. Kingdom Under Fire has a very appropriate hard soundtrack. There is real sense of satisfaction that comes from wiping out an entire troop during a guitar solo. The sounds of battle are also good, but nothing spectacular. The sounds of swords colliding, cavalry charging, and fire exploding all get the job done but won’t thoroughly impress. Luckily, most of the time you will be listening to the various commands you issue or the sound of fellow troops calling for help. These sounds are what you have to pay attention to, or you could very easily lose the battle.
Kingdom Under Fire has a great many game-play features, both on and off the field of battle. On the field, you will begin by ordering your various regiments to locations by map or just by moving the cursor over the desired area and pressing the “A” button. While en route, you can change your formation or use various abilities that you have learned. You can quickly switch to another troop by simply pulling the triggers and issuing new commands. This is where the strategy some into play. You must learn what troops are good for and position them accordingly. Your hero will command a force of infantry, and when you troops come into contact with the enemy, you seamlessly transition into the action game-play. You take control of your hero and fight face to face with your enemy using the attack buttons and creating a variety of combos or special attacks. This works flawlessly, and you can still switch back to other troops to give orders when fighting without worrying about the AI getting your hero killed, it will probably do a better job than you would. Of course you will be destined to fail unless you continue to upgrade and level yourself as well as your troops. This role-playing element requires you to gain exp. and gold on the battlefield and then upgrade when you get back to base. The leaders and the troops both will need various equipment upgrades, but only the leaders will need to spend exp. to level. This works very well, as your troop's skill is based on your leaders. The same is true on the battlefield, if you start getting whipped by elves you will notices your comrades start to die off. This innovative technique works out well and helps simplify a very complicated game.
The multi-player, which is Xbox Live only, is probably the weak point of the game if it has one. After signing on, the first thing you will have to do is create your army. Which I guarantee you will do wrong the first time, leading to your slaughter in the first match. You will also notice only a handful of servers online, and will have difficulty joining a match. However, if you have a decent connection then creating your own server is very easy and someone will join very quickly. Unfortunately, the game only supports 2 players at a time, but the option to change that is present but currently doesn’t work. This leads me to believe it may be changed with downloadable content. As far as lag, I didn’t experience any. If you pick a server with a good speed, which is displayed for you it just isn’t a problem, which is always nice. Once you get into a match, then the fun can begin, and it is very fun. It could definitely be improved with a bigger community and the ability for bigger maps with more players.
Kingdom Under Fire: Crusaders is a truly unique and enjoyable experience. The graphics are nothing short of amazing, especially considering the size of the maps, and the massive number of troops on screen. The brilliant soundtrack and excellent voice acting keep the game sounding great, and the story will keep you wrapped up in this medieval fantasy world. The well-combined elements of role-playing, strategy, and action make this a game you will not want to miss out on. Kingdom Under Fire does an amazing job, and will keep you playing for many many hours with its 4 campaigns and huge replay value. If you are looking for a truly different game that is just plain fun, look no further than Kingdom Under Fire: Crusaders.