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Kingdom Under Fire: Heroes Reviewed by Cyril Lachel on . Action packed gameplay? Check! Hardcore heavy metal soundtrack? Check! A great online mode that keeps you coming back for more? Check! A seriously steep learning curve? Check! Kingdom Under Fire: Heroes has a lot going for it, just as long as you have the patience to figure it all out. Rating: 85%
Kingdom Under Fire: Heroes
Kingdom Under Fire: Heroes Kingdom Under Fire: Heroes Kingdom Under Fire: Heroes Kingdom Under Fire: Heroes
  • Review Score:

  • A-
Let's just get one thing out of the way before diving too far into this review, Kingdom Under Fire: Heroes is a difficult game. It's not that the missions are too difficult or that you're asked to do things that are too frustrating. Rather, this game is hard because it's vague, to the point where you might need to restart once you've figured out how to play the game and what you are supposed to be doing. But don't rush away from Heroes too fast, because once you've mastered the controls, know how to upgrade your characters, and fight with the best of them, you'll find an entertaining experience that will have you going for more than a few hours.

Kingdom Under Fire: Heroes is the prequel to Kingdom Under Fire: the Crusaders, the 2004 game that surprised just about everybody with its unique blend of balls-to-the-wall action and strategic game play. Like the 2004 game, you take control of one of the heroes who leads his army into battle against all kinds of enemy fighters. But this game is more than just an action game; it requires you to control multiple units - archers, sappers, spearmen, etc. - and fight on a number of fronts. At first this all seems pretty simple, but once you've taken control of three or four different types of fighters you will need to constantly be switching from group to group making sure they are doing just what you want them.

If switching between groups and managing units sounds familiar, then it's because those are some of the tried and true elements of the real-time strategy genre. Even though it may seem like odd, real-time strategy in not a strange thing for Kingdom Under Fire, as the first game, 2001's A War of Heroes, was an RTS game for the PC. But Heroes is not your traditional strategy game, it plays more like a merger between those strategy games and the all-out action of titles like Dynasty Warriors. It may seem like a strange combination, but after you've gotten used to it you'll find that Heroes is one of the most exciting games of the year.

But Kingdom Under Fire: Heroes is not an easy game to just jump in to. You start with only two Heroes available to you (Ellen and Walter); as you beat their stories more of the characters will be unlocked, ultimately allowing you to play through seven different adventures, each filling in more of the overarching story. Unfortunately, none of these characters really come with the adequate tutorial you'd expect from a game as complex as this. Unlike most action games, Heroes requires you to learn a lot about the control, managing your units, magic, and even upgrades, all without much in the way of help. From time to time a box will pop up on the screen providing some hints and control clarification, but it's hardly enough information for a game with just a steep learning curve.

If you're familiar with Kingdom Under Fire: the Crusaders then chances are you'll feel right at home in this installment. Heroes ends up playing quite a bit like the Crusaders, which certainly isn't a bad thing since that was a spectacular game with a lot of great gameplay mechanics. This is really more of an expansion pack, adding onto what needed to be fixed and leaving the rest well enough alone. If you haven't experienced the Crusaders don't worry, you can get into this adventure and have just as much fun ... it's just going to take some work climbing the steep learning curve.

As I mentioned earlier, you have the chance to play through a number of different campaigns filling in a large story. Unfortunately that story isn't all that interesting, and seems overly convoluted and poorly translated. These story driven moments groan on for quite awhile, usually without a great dramatic payoff. Some of these cut scenes are done in the game's 3D engine (although, their lips do not move), but by and large the dialogue sequences are presented with a still image and a lot of text. None of this is very interesting, and it is easily the worst part of the whole experience.

Each character has a series of missions all their own, generally offering between 5 and 10 main missions (with a few side quests that are not required, but are still fun to play). That may not sound like a lot, but since a mission can last for a half hour, you may find yourself working on things for quite awhile. Some of these campaigns are no more than a few hours long while others manage to keep you busy for a number of hours. The good thing is that the events in the campaigns are often varied, not only with new tasks to complete but also a number of different locations to fight in. Though you will be doing the same kinds of things from area to area - seek out a bunch of enemies and annihilate them - each mission is different enough to keep you going and for it to still be exciting even when you're about to beat it.

The fighters themselves are all different, each with their own set of unique moves and weapons. At first you'll be using nothing but broadswords, but as you play through the game with more advanced characters you'll find yourself using all kinds of interesting weapons. Rupert, for example, uses a large war hammer that is able to bat away a dozen enemies at once with one mighty swing. Perhaps my favorite is Vellond, a dark woman who uses this insane looking Iron Chains that can be used to grab an enemy and literally whip him into a group of his peers. And if weapons aren't your thing, then the extremely tall Urukubarr and his bare fists are going to be your best friends. You never get to fight with more than your one hero character, which means you can move other units but never fully control their action (though, you can order them to do specific tasks). The rest of the non-playable characters are pretty smart when it comes to fighting, so these large battles are usually as simple as running around looking for people to slaughter. If the battle gets to be too much for you it's easy enough to retreat and regroup.

Although your hero is strong with a mighty weapon you won't be fighting all by yourself, you will have two partners (officers) next to you ready to defend you and use magic whenever you call for it. If that doesn't do it, then perhaps the large army behind you will help you out. Between these non-playable characters you should have enough back up to take on just about any type of enemy. Thankfully there are a number of cool characters to take on, from orcs and elves to flame wraiths, ice maidens, and flying wyverns. Each of these enemies have different vulnerabilities and some awesome moves (including magic). Early on you'll really learn to hate these characters, but they'll grow on you after you've spent some time playing on the dark side.
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