Kingdoms Under Fire: Heroes

Review

posted 12/5/2005 by Cyril Lachel
other articles by Cyril Lachel
One Page Platforms: Xbox

Let's just get one thing out of the way before diving too far into this review, Kingdom Under Fire: Heroes is a difficult game.  It's not that the missions are too difficult or that you're asked to do things that are too frustrating.  Rather, this game is hard because it's vague, to the point where you might need to restart once you've figured out how to play the game and what you are supposed to be doing.  But don't rush away from Heroes too fast, because once you've mastered the controls, know how to upgrade your characters, and fight with the best of them, you'll find an entertaining experience that will have you going for more than a few hours.

Kingdom Under Fire: Heroes is the prequel to Kingdom Under Fire: the Crusaders, the 2004 game that surprised just about everybody with its unique blend of balls-to-the-wall action and strategic game play.  Like the 2004 game, you take control of one of the heroes who leads his army into battle against all kinds of enemy fighters.  But this game is more than just an action game; it requires you to control multiple units – archers, sappers, spearmen, etc. – and fight on a number of fronts.  At first this all seems pretty simple, but once you've taken control of three or four different types of fighters you will need to constantly be switching from group to group making sure they are doing just what you want them.

If switching between groups and managing units sounds familiar, then it's because those are some of the tried and true elements of the real-time strategy genre.  Even though it may seem like odd, real-time strategy in not a strange thing for Kingdom Under Fire, as the first game, 2001's A War of Heroes, was an RTS game for the PC.  But Heroes is not your traditional strategy game, it plays more like a merger between those strategy games and the all-out action of titles like Dynasty Warriors.  It may seem like a strange combination, but after you've gotten used to it you'll find that Heroes is one of the most exciting games of the year.

But Kingdom Under Fire: Heroes is not an easy game to just jump in to.  You start with only two Heroes available to you (Ellen and Walter); as you beat their stories more of the characters will be unlocked, ultimately allowing you to play through seven different adventures, each filling in more of the overarching story.  Unfortunately, none of these characters really come with the adequate tutorial you'd expect from a game as complex as this.  Unlike most action games, Heroes requires you to learn a lot about the control, managing your units, magic, and even upgrades, all without much in the way of help.  From time to time a box will pop up on the screen providing some hints and control clarification, but it's hardly enough information for a game with just a steep learning curve.

If you're familiar with Kingdom Under Fire: the Crusaders then chances are you'll feel right at home in this installment.  Heroes ends up playing quite a bit like the Crusaders, which certainly isn't a bad thing since that was a spectacular game with a lot of great gameplay mechanics.  This is really more of an expansion pack, adding onto what needed to be fixed and leaving the rest well enough alone.  If you haven't experienced the Crusaders don't worry, you can get into this adventure and have just as much fun … it's just going to take some work climbing the steep learning curve.

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