STAFF REVIEW of Kingdom Under Fire: The Crusaders (Xbox)

Tuesday, November 2, 2004.
by KmanX

Kingdom Under Fire: The Crusaders Box art Kingdom Under Fire: The Crusaders is an RTS (real time strategy) game and I made a very critical error very early on. My mistake? Being too aggressive? Nope. Too conservative then? Pffft, hardly. The tactical error that has crippled my progress in this game was throwing out the press materials that came with this review build. Discarding the materials without reading them to be exact. Perhaps if I had read the materials I would have understood just what exactly this game is supposed to be. I say that because it?s not like any RTS (this one does have some RPG elements to it as well) I have ever played before. I found this to me a hybrid ?hack n? slash Command and Conquer for dummies? type of game. It?s weird.

The story of Kingdom Under Fire centres around the standard theme of all RTS games ? war. This war sees a human consortium batting the Dark Legion, gang of thugs comprised ogres, orcs and other assorted creatures bearing a similar likeness. With all wars you battle for territory and supremacy. That?s the gist of the story anyways. The plot developments unravel during terrible cuts censes that are in the form of the text-based chatter. This on screen banter is terrible. It occurs after you have completed a battle. The heads of characters appear on screen and yammer back and forth. To say the least it?s disappointing. After epic battles you would expect some kind of cinematic cuts scene. Instead you are treated to headshots of characters and a lot of incessant babble. I grew very tired of this very quickly and skipped 99.9% of it, thus missing out on some plot development.

Its too bad they developers chose not include cut scenes because they would have been a great compliment to the in game graphics which are well done and they get better as the game goes on. I say that because as the game goes on the battles get larger and there is a lot on going onscreen but the performance does not suffer. The game does not experience any chugging and the frame rates seemed to stay strong. This is important, especially when there are up to 100 combatants on screen at one time. The last thing you want is for the game to start chugging. It?s easy enough to loose a character in a battle of that size so not having the game chug through is a nice touch.

What?s also a nice touch is how the developers handled these massive battles. As I just mentioned, its very easy to get lost in the crowd when fighting. To help combat getting lost in errrr, ummm, well, combat, you will notice that some characters will go transparent. That effect is neat because it helps find your way, kind of, but also because those translucent characters keep on fighting. This can be a bit of a hindrance though as you can?t always tell which direction you are being attacked from.

The environments these massive battles take place in are really quite lame as the battle areas are usually one big square and they always seem to look the same. They have the same features ? trees, creeks, hills, etc. and open fields. It?s these open fields that the battles take place so there really isn?t much to talk about. The environmental effects are ok but bad.

I will reserve the term bad for the music. No I won?t actually because that would be kind. In fact I would go so far as to say that this is the worst music I have heard in a video game to date and yes I am the one who reviewed Sudeki. Why is this music so bad? Well, you fight against orcs with what?s basically gladiators so you would think the music would feature a score that would compliment the period right? WRONG! Instead they pass off the worst cheesy rock music that sounds like it was picked up off of the cutting room floor a 1980s wrestling co-op arcade machine. The soundtrack is just one electric guitar track after another and it?s horrible. The first time I head it I actually rebooted the game because I thought I was hearing things. Sadly I wasn?t. Who knows, you could play this game and dig the music but it certainly was not for me. They should have had period music. Imagine what it would be like listening to 50 Cent?s ?In Da Club? in the Lord of the Rings when Frodo was fighting the spider. Just makes no sense. It?s just weird as the voice acting is decent. Just like the graphics, one area really stands out, albeit bad in this case, where as the rest not out of the ordinary.

Ordinary is also a good word to describe the game play. As mentioned the game is pretty much a hack n? slash which translates to the game play is nothing special. It can get intense for the massive battles but the controls are so straight forward it?s not really an issue. As the levels are loading, tips for different attack methods will be offered along with instruction for how to do them. Don?t worry about trying to memorize them quickly; you will have a lot of time because the load times are long. Painfully long to be more precise. Actually I thought Kingdom 2 had been released during the time I was waiting for the very first mission to load. OK so that?s a bit of an exaggeration but its bad. Almost as bad as the thought of a sequel to this game.

It?s too bad too because I was looking forward to this game but in the end, I was really disappointed with it. The combo of RTS, RPG and HnS was just too weird for me. To be fair I didn?t take this one online. Maybe it?s a lot better on Live but if I couldn?t get into this one offline then there was no way I was going to take it online. There are games that aren?t too hot offline but are a rockshow online.


Overall: 6.0 / 10
Gameplay: 6.0 / 10
Visuals: 6.0 / 10
Sound: 2.0 / 10


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