Kingdom Under Fire: Heroes

Arron waves his "sword" at Phantagram's latest...

In 2004, Phantagram unleashed the sleeper-hit title Kingdom Under Fire: The Crusaders for the Xbox. Being a sleeper-hit meant that Kingdom Under Fire: The Crusaders didn't get the chance to shine in many gamers Xboxes, however the critics did take a shine to it. So here is the sequel to KUF: The Crusaders, KUF: Heroes. Kingdom Under Fire: The Crusaders was an RTS title combined with hack 'n' slash elements, similar to that seen in Dynasty Warriors. With the formula largely unchanged, KUF: Heroes takes off where its predecessor left off, but with developers adding an in-depth online multiplayer mode, the opposite of Crusaders.

Heroes puts you in the shoes of one of seven characters (good and evil) and each have their own campaign to show the many sides of a continental war. Once your character is selected, it's onto the battlefield to slay the thousands of enemies with your army. While it may seem a simple hack n slash title, the placing of troops is vital to defeat your enemies. Troops vary from soldiers to archers and beasts to dragons all of which are useful, although dragons are not controllable in flight. As aforementioned, placing your troops is vital, whether you're going for a full on attack or defending a castle, no matter what you do, locating your troops correctly is the key to victory.

When they're on-screen, controlling your troops is easy, with your main character being the one you control to slaughter enemies as the rest of your army automatically hack the enemy down around you... although each unit has to be controlled singly: archers, soldiers, horsemen, etc. Moving troops around is easy with a simple cursor that points in the direction you want your troops to move to, easily stopping and moving them. When in battle, the armies are in their thousands, with up to 3000 soldiers on the battlefield and as many as 200 of them on-screen at any one time. Kingdom Under Fire: Heroes

Each of the controllable units have their own unique skills, and use combos, specials or magic spells to slay your enemies to the ground. Archers come in useful when you are wanting to destroy an enemy camp, as you can use HP (seen on the bottom of the screen) to fire fire-arrows into the camp; using anything like this (special skills) or magic spells drains the HP at the bottom of the screen, but it is replenished when enemies are killed, particularly the leaders. When playing through the campaign, each character has their own levels and whatnot, but all contain similar scenarios to what the game offers. Whilst the staple gameplay remains firmly hack n slash throughout, different levels have different scenarios, for example: defend the castle, scout trapping and full scale battles.

After a battle has occurred, you can train troops and purchase new equipment with the gold and experience acquired in the previous battle, so upping your troops does happen after every battle if needs be. There is a total of 35 troop classes on offer, with diverse abilities, these range from simple soldiers, dragons, beasts and catapulters; with other items expanding the scope. As well as buying equipment and training troops up, you can hire mercenaries to lead or aid your armies in battle with their attack or healing skills.

As mentioned at the beginning of the review, developers Deep Silver and Blue Side Studios have focused much more on the online side of things this time around, and Heroes offers 3 distinctive modes on Xbox Live: 4 or 6-Player Troop battle and Invasion mode. While these modes are straightforward, you can now watch games in progress, either your own one or others with the Spectator mode: something which is coming in to use on Project Gotham Racing 3 on the Xbox 360. As well as this, you can watch replays to see where you went wrong so you don't get defeated by a mistake you made in the game before.

Visually, Kingdom Under Fire: Heroes is a clone of its predecessor and the graphics are poor in general as is the FMV sequences, but being set in the past (the same time as Crusaders), Heroes' visuals does suit the setting of the game at least. FMV's still look edgy and could be improved dramatically, but we yet again can't really complain due to the immersive and atmospheric gameplay that is still on offer. Having played both titles, we can't help but praise the effect the graphics have on the overall game, jagged they are, but suitable none the less. Kingdom Under Fire: Heroes

The sound in the game is pretty awful at times, as in Crusaders, but it's all a matter of taste. If you like the rock genre, you'll no doubt enjoy running into the battlefield with the bass going wild, but this wasn't my taste in music, and would've much preferred a Braveheart/Gladiator theme to stir the emotions. Comical voice acting is an issue here as it was in Crusaders. It's hard to explain why it's so dreadful, but the lip-syncing is totally off, the script lacklustre.

Kingdom Under Fire: Heroes is Kingdom Under Fire: The Crusaders with a few subtle changes. Whilst the developers have focused more on the online side of things, the single player campaign is more of the same. While there's over 50+ hours of gameplay to be had over the 50+ campaign missions, Heroes is basically a replica of Crusaders with extra online modes. Gamers looking for a good RTS with elements of hack n slash Dynasty Warriors and haven't tried Crusaders will be impressed, but those (including us) wanting a true sequel to Crusaders will be disappointed, give or take the online modes.

E3 Trailer