Kingdom Under Fire is a console-based realtime strategy series in which you lead fantasy forces in mass conflict. It owes a lot to Dynasty Warriors and really, I feel the most defining aspect of the titles are their Korean origins, which are readily apparent from the visual design. Circle Of Doom (due for release in February in Europe, out now elsewhere) is a spin-off title, focusing on the series’ heroes. In essence, it’s the same game, without the mass of allies in tow. Instead of facing thousands of enemies alone, you’re wading your way through a couple of dozen at once. I played the game for some six hours last weekend.
The game makes up for its diminished scale with a focus on building your character. If you’ve played Diablo or its like (for instance, the fun Throne Of Darkness on the PC), you’ll feel right at home. Right from the start, you’ll be amassing ever better gear, combining them to make them more potent, buying abilities and juggling your loadout of weapons, armor, accessories and skills to match your opposition. And that’s the whole of the game. Despite the rather intriguing characters, nothing much is done with them, content with advancing the storyline via dialogue. You have half a dozen characters to choose from, and they do play differently, but I would have hoped some more variance in the content to go with that.
You’re free to revisit areas of the game you’ve already cleared – and you’d better, too. The point of the game is to grind the masses of enemies and locate better gear, in order to be able to tackle the harder difficulty levels (and score even better gear). After a handful of mostly linear stages, you face a boss, and then it’s onto a new area. Rinse and repeat. All of this is facilitated by randomly generated environments, which help to keep things somewhat fresh, but the overall look is a bit too gray and lifeless to really excite.
If you’re into the whole Diablo loot-feast, you won’t go too far off with this, although it can get repetitive (yet addictive). The major complaint I have is the lack of local multiplayer. The combat could do with more depth, but the practically limitless combinations of items and abilities keep things interesting. Then again, there is nothing here for you if you’re looking for story content or an overall arc, with a beginning and an end. On the PC side, Hellgate: London is a recent very similar game, executed better.