After two long chapters to this immense collection of information about Kingdom Under Fire: Circle of Doom
, with the first two parts being here
. To finish this whole piece off, I've decided to do an in-depth review of the game before it comes out here in the States in order to give my fellow D-toid members an idea of what to expect when they pick the game up this week.
Being Naked Makes Elf Chicks Invincible
In order to understand the game, you've got to understand the story. The premise is, for the most part, simple: two gods decide that in order to prevent a massive war between their followers, they agree to a pact that allowed each of them to rule the world for a few eons while the other god rested. Once the other god was done sleeping, he would show up and take his turn at running things while the former ruler goes to take a celestial nap. This creates a cycle of light and dark, the titular 'Circle of Doom'.
However Nible, the God of Light, grew tired of watching his peaceful creations being warped by the 'Age of Darkness', and so he betrayed the pact and refused to give up his rule to Encablossa, the God of Darkness. Understandably Encablossa wasn't pleased with this, reaching from the darkness where he was resting to summon forth legions of evil monsters and men to take the world for him through force.
This would lead into the events of the first two KUF games, which ended with Encablossa's source of power in the world being destroyed once and for all. The result of this created a Sauron-like banishing of Encablossa back to his 'Dark Dimension'. However he didn't leave without stealing away several major players in the war he started, trapping them within the labrynthian depths of his lair.
That's where you come in, taking control of each of the six characters in this game and leading them on their personal quests. Some of them seek power, others seek love. Then there are those like Duane, who are just narcistic pricks with delusions of grandeur. Most of the stories are alright at best, serving as more of a quest chain than a deep, intricate narrative. This at least will give people something to do in single-player, but it's hardly a concern for those seeking this game out for multi-player purposes.
I'm You! But I'm Me!
One problem that becomes apparent over time is the overall lack of true character customization. There's only five or so armor variations (all of which do look pretty sweet as you go higher in level) meaning you won't find anything like in WoW with the myriad of armor combinations to make it tough to find a true clone. The same goes for weapons, with each armanent having around six or so different skins.
But I would be an idiot if I didn't mention the fact that you can synthesize dozens of Enhancements to your weapons and armor, thus allowing some measure of individuality as you tweak your gear to meet what you want out of your character. For instance I've created a Duane that uses weapons with the 'Profit' Enhancement, which enables him to earn extra money from defeated enemies. This allows me to build a lovely purse of gold with which to purchase the necessary health potions that I go through due to Duane's slow speed in escaping enemies.
However there isn't so much customization when it comes to your attributes, with only HP, SP, and Luck being available whenever you level up. Each time you level up you earn points that can be distributed amongst these three stats however you see fit, though putting points into HP quickly becomes useless as you'll find armor along the way that will boost your HP far higher than you'll get by using points. So that just leaves you with SP, which is necessary for using abilities and being able to equip higher level gears, and Luck, which is needed in order for the better loot to drop from enemies. The higher the luck, the better the goods.
This means then that all your physical damage is reliant on your weapons and upgrading them constantly to keep up with the tougher enemies as opposed to increasing a Strength stat. As for your spells, well, they do more damage if you hold down the button you have the skill equipped to drain more SP into it. This either causes more projectiles to be unleashed or even your healing spells to generate a longer lasting field of health regeneration.
In a way this system isn't so bad, but I'm a bit of a numbers freak. I always enjoyed being able to tweak and tune my characters in Diablo and other such RPGs, even if you really only had one right way to distribute points when playing each class in those style of games. So I guess they removed the more time-consuming point management in order to make the game not as frustrating for newcomers to the genre.
Three's Company, Four's a Massacre
One of the key draws for this game is the four player co-op through Xbox Live. Yes it's only through Xbox Live, which I know has already made a few people pissed off. As cool as playing online is, I'd rather have the option to somehow play with someone on the couch next to me as well.
Despite this the four player is quite fun, especially with people you know. It can also turn into quite an obsession for those looking to reach level 120 or even unlock Extreme difficulty for the ultimate challenge. Not to mention the guilty fun of running around after a boss fight and trying to out-grab your allies for the sizeable treasure horde dropped upon the creature's death.
A great feature the game implements to keep the challenge up is the scaling of enemy stats to match the number of players in the game. So while their levels remain the same, their HP and damage output increase and decrease incrementally as players enter and leave the game. This also translates into more experience points and better loot drops as the game seems to combine everyone's Luck stats in order to affect what drops for which character.
There's also a rather easy-to-use trade menu in the game which makes exchanges between players a breeze to navigate. Hell you can even check out what the other guys/gals are wearing in case you want to assess their skills or just show off your well-earned equipment. This is a definite plus for making the multi-player aspect of the game a bit smoother. Well...that and the fact that there's barely any lag in the game at all, even when connecting to players from Japan and Australia. Take THAT Two Worlds. (yeah yeah I know I shouldn't editorialize in a review, but I couldn't resist!)
With an enjoyable multi-player experience, great design in both the enemies and characters, and a somewhat familiar franchise backing it up, Kingdom Under Fire: Circle of Doom
should appeal to those looking for something different on Xbox Live. There aren't alot of Action RPGs on the 'box, especially those that feature an online component sans monthly fees. Not to mention the promise of content downloads, which could very well include new characters and levels, should keep fans hooked until the next iteration in the series.
However I can't entirely forgive the flaws of this game either, be it the bleh soundtrack, the barely-there storylines, or the high learning curve for the synthesis system. I think this game should really include a tutorial of sorts to teach people the finer points of fusing weapons together instead of forcing them to search message boards for advice. Also if you don't get into hack-n-slash games, this game will probably not convert you into a fan of the genre because it is quite hack-riffic.
So in closing:
Higher Difficulties add length and challenge that are rewarded with better gear
Voice Acting is, with a few exceptions, well-done
Lots of skills to learn
Plenty of Enchancements to tailor your equipment to your needs
Single-player is boring
Music is non-existant at times
Synthesis can be too daunting for new players
Not many options for giving your characters a 'unique look'
'Destructible environments' are anything but that
Small number (6) of worlds to adventure in
Final Score: 6.5/10
Yes that's right. It's a somewhat average score. Personally I love this game, but I'm not everyone now am I? So I feel that for a good portion of people, especially with the demo out, this game is a pass. But I'm sure that hack-n-slashers, dungeon crawlers, or people who like Action RPGs will enjoy this title despite it's flaws, especially those looking forward to four player co-op in a title like this.
Will this game sell millions? Probably not. Will it find an audience? I'm sure of it. If Koei's anything to go by, it's not always about selling millions of copies; it's about selling enough so that you can keep bringing more of what your fans love to them, and I look forward to more games in the Kingdom Under Fire
franchise for years to come.
However I may give up hope if I start seeing Kingdom Under Fire 5: Xtreme Metal Legends Empires
(with more elf tits and vampire fellatio!).
I kid Jim, I kid....sorta =P read