Kingdom Under Fire: A War of Heroes

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List Price: $45.99
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Stop us if you've heard this one before: orcs and ogres battle against humans and elves in a war for ultimate domination of a fantasy kingdom. It's not the most original premise for a game, but Kingdom Under Fire does try to innovate. The game diverges from similar titles like the WarCraft series in that it really makes an attempt to meld two distinct types of gameplay. On the one hand it tries to be a real-time strategy game, with buildings to be built, technology trees to climb, and epic battles to fight. One the other hand it tries to be a role-playing game, with heroes to develop, quests to complete, and plenty of scripted events to further the plot line. There are main characters that carry over from mission to mission, and if they die the game ends. This adds a strategic element that most games of this type lack, and the missions are designed to take full advantage of this twist.

Kingdom Under Fire's disparate elements would make for a memorable game if each was executed properly, but execution is precisely where the game falls short. It suffers from graphical glitches and horrible voice acting that do little to draw players in. It also has few of the conventions that gamers have come to expect from real-time strategy games, such as combat formations and the ability to select and control an unlimited number of units. The pathfinding is terrible, as units often get stuck on some impassible terrain and must be guided by hand where you want them to go. This is frustrating under normal circumstances, let alone during a heated battle.

Kingdom Under Fire tries hard to be a great game, but the designers should have shed the tired theme and polished the gameplay if they wanted it to meet modern expectations. --T. Byrl Baker

Pros: Terrific mission design Role-playing elements add strategic considerations to this otherwise tactical game Cons: Poor production values Can't select an unlimited number of units

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