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Developer:
Phantagram
Publisher: Microsoft
Platform: Xbox
Release Date: August 2004

by Jason Ferguson




Kingdom Under Fire: The Crusaders is an interesting mixture of action, strategy and RPG. Think Dynasty Warriors with more depth. So, how does it turn out? Read on!


The story of KUF revolves around a powerful artifact known as the Ancient Heart. The Dark Legions begin spreading through the land in search of the artifact, so the human Kingdoms of Ecclesia and Hironeiden build up to defend themselves. An epic war that covers all of Bersia ensues! That just scratches the surface of the story. Itís full of twists and turns, and it ends up being pretty interesting. Youíll have the chance to play as both the humans and the Dark Legions, so youíll get both sides of the story.


You start the game off with the option of choosing from two campaigns. Once youíve beaten those youíll unlock two more campaigns of increased difficulty. The characters in the game are fairly interesting. I personally enjoyed Lucretiaís campaign. Listening to her bicker with Morene, her half vampire overseer, was hilarious.


Your officers, such as Lucretia, are what the gameplay revolves around. By leveling up your officer you level up the rest of the unit. Also, your units can be upgraded to more powerful units once the officer reaches certain skill requirements. There is actually a good deal of depth and character customization here. Each of your officers and their units can be equipped with armor and weapons and learn skills.


As a general rule, RTS games arenít particularly successful on the consoles, largely due to controls. To get rid of the need for micromanaging, KUF allows you to control your army as a whole, or control each specific troop. You can send your cavalry off in one direction, while keeping your paladins back to heal. Once you enter combat, though, you gain direct control over your officer and can hack and slash your way through hordes of foes.


Combat is a lot like youíve seen in other games. Just button mash the controller and watch the enemies fall down dead. Youíve got two normal attacks, a special attack, a defensive move and two officer abilities. Combat can be fun, but itís generally really chaotic and difficult to tell whatís going on. To make things a bit easier you can end a battle by simply killing off the leader, but amongst the chaos itís often tough to find the boss.


The game gets difficult at times, so even though itís a hack and slash at its core, youíre going to need to use a lot of strategy. The game features over 30 different unit types, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. Make sure to use them wisely. Managing your army throughout the battlefield is easy. You can open up a mini-map for easy viewing, and can even command your troops through it.


The missions offer a good deal of variety, not only because youíll have a different race and different unit types at your disposal each time, but you have a nice variety of objectives. One mission will ask you to destroy all enemies. Another will ask you to protect the ballista or breach a wall. This helps to keep the game fresh and interesting.


Graphically, the game has a nice medieval design. Character models look and move nicely, and the environments are highly detailed. The camera can cause a lot of problems, especially when youíre in a woods surrounded by trees.


The game has some good sounds in it. The sounds of battle, like swords clashing and orcs roaring, bring the battles to life. The voice acting ranges from okay to poor depending on the character. Some of the accents might take a while to get used to, but overall theyíre not too bad.


Overall, Kingdom Under Fire is a lot of fun. It offers a good game length, nice graphics, lots of strategy, deep customization, and fun combat. Anyone looking for an action game with a bit of depth will find themselves pleasantly surprised.


Final Grade: 85%




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