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Platform

Xbox

 

Genre

Role-Playing / Strategy

 

Publisher

Microsoft

 

Developer

Phantagram

 

ESRB

M (Mature)

 

Released

Q4 2004

 

 

- Stunning action
- Once the complexity is understood, becomes engrossing
- The mix of genres works
- Four campaigns

 

 

- Learning curve is steep enough to scare off casual players
- Miserly amounts of XP and gold

 

 

Review: Kingdom Under Fire (PC)

Review: Aliens vs. Predator - Extinction (XB)

Review: Pikmin 2 (GC)

 

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Kingdom Under Fire: The Crusaders

Score: 8.0 / 10

 

kingdom under fire the crusaders review          kingdom under fire the crusaders

 

If you’re a real-time strategy buff, you’ll already know that Kingdom Under Fire’s first incarnation appeared on the PC, which received lukewarm reviews from the critics. Kingdom Under Fire: The Crusaders could probably be deemed the official sequel (though nowhere on the packaging or manual does it state there was a previous game). There is still a strategic element to consider but role-playing and action aspects have been stirred into the mix. It’s a good effort at combining the elements and succeeds on several fronts but the complexity is sure to stymie some gamers.

The bulk of the game is spent running around the battlefield engaging in skirmishes, which are all part of larger confrontations. Admittedly there is a Lord of the Rings feel to it all but Crusaders allows you control over the camera and the battles are less scripted. Mayhem, described the battles pretty well. There are literally hundreds of figures swarming the field of battle, in various weather

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conditions, without a hint of slowdown. It’s the first game in a long time to coax a “Whew!” out of me after a really pitched encounter.

An enemy group can be cut down rather quickly if you can pick out the leader and vanquish them. For some groups finding the leader is simple because they stand out in some obvious way, like being mounted, but all too often I was left running

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around the group seeking out the leader.

Across the four campaigns, to help your character you have a couple of “lieutenants” that can be pressed to your aid. When you’re not charging around the field in various formations, your NPC troops can look after themselves most times but it should become regular practice to use the lieutenants to thin the enemy crowd. To order the lieutenants around your hero must earn Skill Points by attacking enemies. Though the controls for combat are straightforward, when you’re required to switch between multiple combat groups while fighting these pitched battles frustration starts to creep in. Having archer support is great but flipping to them mid-battle to get them into a better position… well, there’s a reason most real-time strategy games take place from an overhead perspective. It’s just easier to track events on the battlefield. It gradually becomes easier to deal with this as the game progresses but in the initial stages it’s overwhelming and might force the casual player to just give up.

 

kingdom under fire the crusaders review          kingdom under fire the crusaders review


Between battles you have the opportunity to plan for your next foray by distributing experience points you earned on the battlefield amongst your troops and/or buying better equipment. Developer Phatagram is a miserly bunch when it comes to XP and gold. It’s definitely another level of strategy getting your soldiers in fighting shape with limited resources but it can be agonizing trying to choose wisely.

It’s also during this down time that you can listen in on what your troops are gossiping about. More importantly, this is the time you can save your game since there’s no saving allowed during the battlefield fights. (This save system will produce gray hairs as you attempt the longer and more difficult battles since it can mean replaying battles from the beginning if you fail in your objectives.)

One-on-one multiplayer battles over Xbox Live really boost the shelf life of Crusaders. You’ll probably get your money’s worth from the campaigns as long as you’re not expecting a 100+ hours role-playing game – the multiplayer is gravy. Maybe not as chaotic as two-on-two multiplayer (which the manual erroneously stats is included) but there’s always the chance it will be included in a sequel.

It’s a trite phrase that’s been used so often the tread on it has been completely erased but Kingdom Under Fire: The Crusaders can be a rewarding experience if you’re willing to put in the time to really get a grip on the controls. After some initial frustration, which I’ll admit was high, it’s really a game worth playing for the epic feel and chaos of open-field warfare.

- Omni
(November 21, 2004)

 

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