Kingdom Under Fire: Circle of Doom Review

I never really liked the original Kingdom Under Fire games, having only played the first for an hour or two, but I understand the appeal. They were a nice mix of genres, and because of their unique blend and gameplay they developed a pretty enthusiastic cult following. Unfortunately for Blueside and Microsoft, the games never made it to that level where most gamers have played the series; hell, most people probably have never even heard of it or knew it existed before this most recent title. So with that kind of background, out comes Circle of Doom, the first Xbox 360 title in the series, looking to gain a whole new audience for Kingdom Under Fire in this generation of games.

In an attempt to appeal to more people, gone are a lot of the aspects of the former KUF games, replaced by a hack ‘n slash formula that would make even the most hardcore Diablo fan cringe at its repetitiveness. While each of the six characters do have separate styles of play, nothing is that different, and the entire game boils down to hitting the button to attack until you need to take a rest at an idol, store up your items, or synthesize to create better ones.

Other than slight differences in gameplay style (get this: one guy is slow and strong, and one guy is fast and weaker!) the characters also have their own “storylines,” making it at least somewhat different when you play through the game again, assuming you ignore anything and everything to do with the gameplay itself.

One of the biggest knocks against Kingdom Under Fire is that even with its repetitive gameplay and two button combat (possibly three or four, but that’s rare to use) the game is still 30-40 hours long for a single playthrough. For a normal action RPG, that’s an already long time-but for a hack ‘n slash game where there’s little difference between enemies encountered (they have the exact same AI, I’m sure of it) and where the action gets boring less than 5 hours in, it’s a huge length to trudge through.

Despite the flaws which will cause most people to shy away, Kingdom Under Fire isn’t a total failure due to one thing: the incredible multiplayer experience. By connecting to Xbox Live, you can join up with friends and play through the campaign/story mode of the game co-op style. This turns the game from being a repetitive single player hack ‘n slash into something more closely resembling a Phantasy Star Online type of game, and makes it not only bearable, but fun.

Oddly, the only multiplayer play supported is via Xbox Live. No matter how much I wanted to relax on the couch with a buddy and play through the game together, it’s just not possible. I’m not sure what the developers were thinking there, but that’s a huge letdown and would have been a feature to make this game one of the more enjoyable two player experiences on the Xbox 360. As it is, with support for multiplayer only over Xbox Live, it’s a good-but-not-great one at best.

If you’re the type of person who can get hours of enjoyment out of even a mediocre dungeon crawler, or if you’re still to this day playing Diablo’s single player on your PC, then Kingdom Under Fire is the game for you. For everyone else, it’s a game marred by repetitive combat featuring little else to actually do. The online co-op via Xbox Live makes the game a blast to play with friends, but the complete lack of an offline co-op feature is perplexing. With Kingdom of Fire: Circle of Doom, Blueside was looking to bring in a new generation of Kingdom Under Fire fans. They may have done so, but in the process they likely alienated those dedicated gamers who have loved the franchise since the first game came out on the original Xbox.


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Author: Brendon Lindsey View all posts by

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