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Action / Strategy









M (Mature)



September 20, 2005



- Great big, epic feel is still there
- Some funny localization
- Lots of play options
- If you’re familiar with last year’s Crusaders you’ll be able to jump right in



- Difficulty level is very high
- Tutorial is all but stripped out of the game making newcomers feel overwhelmed
- Save points between missions only



Review: Kingdom Under Fire: The Crusaders (XB)

Review: Battalion Wars (GC)

Review: Gladius (XB)



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Kingdom Under Fire: Heroes

Score: 8.3 / 10


kingdom under fire heroes          kingdom under fire heroes


Some games surprise me just by showing up on my desk. This was the case with Kingdom Under Fire: Heroes, a sequel (actually a prequel to last years Kingdom Under Fire: Crusaders) that should have enjoyed more media exposure leading up to it’s launch about a week and a half ago. But when someone like J Allard, Corporate Vice President and Chief XNA Architect, tells you at E3 2005, “We’re not doing Xbox 1 games anymore. We’re done. Done. Conker is the last one, which is in manufacturing. All our attention is on Xbox 360,” you have to wonder how far under the radar Heroes was when one of the head honchos over at Microsoft doesn’t even realize it exists. However, fans of Crusaders will have seen Heroes coming.

Set in a period five years before the conflict recounted in Crusaders, Heroes revels in its Kingdom Under Fire universe. It’s a clichéd place with plenty of fantasy




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retread but most won’t be playing Heroes for its story.

Really, the story is the only significant change from Crusaders. Everything else, including the graphics, control elements (though a full-featured tutorial is all but stripped out of Heroes) and audio, is not far removed from the original. This shouldn’t be taken as a negative though – battles are still epic in size and scope, the strategic elements still need to be thought


over and it’s probably the most unforgiving action/strategy title ever. While Crusaders was difficult, Heroes likes to kick the player in the groin, repeatedly and often with a steel-toed boot. When the player does triumph there is a real sense of accomplishment especially after fighting through some titanic, multipart mission that not only test your button-mashing abilities but also your strategic senses.

The player has specific control over one hero during melee combat – that starts when two or more groups of enemy soldiers clash – and has general, on-the-fly, control over groups of soldiers, telling them to “move there” and “kill that” on the more strategic and somewhat overhead view. Positioning troops before and during attacks is the key to victory. Positioning archers on a hill with the sun behind them offers decent attack bonuses, and anyone or anything on higher ground has the advantage. The player also has to be wary of the rock-paper-scissors nature of the units. (Sending cavalry against spearmen is not a good idea.) Unfortunately, some of this can only be discovered with a bit of trial and error and on a mission that might last upwards of an hour – I’m not kidding – suddenly running up against some “trial and error” elicits the kind of language you’d expect from Tony Montana if he had Tourette’s syndrome.


kingdom under fire heroes          kingdom under fire heroes

Once the player learns the basic ins and outs of the each unit, the frustration diminishes somewhat but the save system steps in to ensure continued annoyance and numerous play-throughs. The player only has the opportunity to save between missions. If there was one “feature” I could banish from gaming it would be between-mission save points. Heroes doesn’t even have the courtesy of a checkpoint system! This necessitates blocking off a few hours at a time to even complete one mission.

Also between mission, the player gets to allocate XP among the troops and officers and spend gold to upgrade armor and weapons. Like Crusaders, there just never seems to be enough XP or gold to go around and you’ll wind up spending an inordinate amount of time weighing the pros and cons of each choice.

If the player gets completely stymied there is the option to play one of the other Hero campaigns (there are seven) but most don’t become unlockable unless extensive progress has been achieved in select campaigns. Fortunately, Heroes features a full roster of online modes that heighten the overall value of the game. Hero Battle Mode has two options: Hero Battle (basically team deathmatch) and Invasion, which pits up to three players against invading enemy controlled by the computer AI. Troop Battle Mode offers Friendly and Ladder Matches, but my favorite online mode was Invasion. Even playing with a competent squad of human players, it always offered a good challenge and a lot of fun.

Strangely enough, I continually came back to the campaign mode. Am I glutton for punishment or does Heroes contain a magic mix of gameplay that makes it thoroughly addictive? It must be a bit of both – and I wanted to see what other strange localization issues cropped up. (There are some truly hilarious translations!)

If you liked Crusaders, you’ll be pleased with Heroes. While it’s comparatively short development cycle might be a danger sign, Heroes still manages to fire on all cylinders. But the same advice I offered for Crusaders still applies: it’s “a rewarding experience if you’re willing to put in the time.” It also doesn’t hurt if you can withstand a moderate amount of frustration.

- Omni
(October 6, 2005)


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