Real time strategy games are few and far between on Xbox, Kingdom Under Fire Crusaders was one of the only RTS’s (well, half-RTS) on the system but now charging in is its sequel; KUF Heroes.
KUF Heroes takes place before and during the events of Crusaders and follows the story of seven warriors during a war in the once peaceful continent of Bersia. Of course these aren’t just any seven warriors, these guys ‘n’ gals are Generals of different armies, and will all collide along the way.
I mentioned that the game was sort of a half-RTS because KUF:H throws a few other gameplay types in the mix at once. You’ll command your legions RTS-style with pointing and clicking on a mini map and strategically placing units where they can do the most damage. But once you send your generals unit into battle you gain control of your General and a Dynasty Warriors-style hack and slash mode commences with you smashing enemies out of your path while fighting along side your legions of troops. There are literally hundreds of enemies on screen at any time which makes for some manic game play. You can still command your whole army whilst in the middle of a melee battle, so you can call in archer support and give them some arrow rain!
The commanding of your units can get a little fiddly at times due to the amount of things happening, and sometimes the camera gets confused as the terrain gets in the way. The AI sometimes gets bewildered too; if you tell your troops to advance straight ahead and there is a stone pillar or a small hut in their way they’ll just run into it and then stand there or slowly go around it. Or if there’s a river and you tell them to go to the other side they’ll just stand there unless they’re at the crossing point. You soon get the feeling that you have to keep an eye on your ‘grunts’ at all times.
So what sort of troops will you be commanding? Well there are infantry, cavalry, archers, pikemen, giant elemental creatures, dragons, orcs, giant birds, catapults… it all depends on what faction you choose - Human, Orc or Dark forces. Of course not all of the units are available to you from the beginning but once you get the bigger units what are already impressive battles become even more remarkable when you witness infantry units go flying from the force of explosions or just good ol’ brute force. All of the units are upgradeable from experience gained from previous missions. The upgrades are how you gain the better units; for example if you want some cavalry you’ll have to buy the ‘horse riding’ ability then the other necessary abilities.
As well as the huge campaign missions you’ll also be able to play skirmish or Xbox Live battles. There are three Live Game Modes: 4-Player Troop Battle, 6-Player Hero Battle, and Invasion Mode. They play pretty much the same way but with the obvious difference of playing against a human opponent while on Live. In these battles you’ll be able to build your own army up starting off with maximum experience points so you’ll be able to build a very impressive army to unleash on the world. So you’ll be coming up against a variety of army types where you’ll have to use different strategies, and defeating an old mate on Xbox Live never gets tired.
KUF Heroes isn’t lacking in the graphics department. All of the individual units look very nicely detailed then once you get about 200 troops on screen it looks very, very nice. Any shiny armour reflects in the sun, sun shines on icy surfaces, and all without the fog that other games like Dynasty Warriors require either, it all combines to make a very impressive looking spectacle.
The sound is decent, the battle sounds are very good with all the sword clanging and frantic shouting you’d expect from a large scale battle. The soundtrack is all heavy metal rock music, while not being my cup of tea when I listen to music, it fits well into the game and the on screen action. The voice acting is decent enough – and a lot better than some we’ve heard of late.
Overall Kingdom Under Fire: Heroes is a respectable and polished effort in an under-populated genre on Xbox. While it might not suit everyone, it is an impressive game with a lot to offer, if you put the time in.