Kingdom Under Fire 2 launched its assault on gamers a little over a week ago and we’re taking out time to fully absorb the experience across the next few weeks. This is the first part of our review in progress.
Getting In Early
For those of you that missed the pre-launch Hype, Kingdom Under Fire 2 is a Korean MMOR RTS hybrid game that mixes a traditional RPG experience with the strategic combat systems of something like Total War. The title took around a decade to complete and clocks in as the most expensive MMO in Korean history according to the numbers we’ve been given. It took so long to make it to gamers that we all expected it to fade into obscurity. In the end, publisher Gameforge took up the banner and published the title as a buy the box endeavor and even gave us an advanced preview of the new MMO before it eventually went live on 14 November.
For players looking to pick up Kingdom Under Fire 2, this isn’t a traditional Gameforge affair. While the publisher is well known for free to play titles that push items into an expensive in-game cash shop, KUF2 brings the battle to players with an upfront box price. Starting at £26.99 and stretching all the way up to £89.99, or local equivalent, gamers can build an army and take on the world.
Time for a Hero
Set in the mystical land or Bersia, Kingdom Under Fire 2 is just the latest in a line of games that come from the Kingdom Under Fire franchise. While previous instances have skipped between RPG and RTS, this title takes on a whole new scale. Players find themselves in the role of a commander in the Azilia Knights, an elite group of mercenaries that fight for a realm that stands for the forces of light in a time that is about to turn distinctly terrible. Over the course of Kingdom Under Fire 2, players will level up their central protagonist, gather and build their very own army and deploy it in a range of scenarios that will push the boundaries between the traditional MMO experience and the RTS genre.
No matter how good the army, each battalion will need a commander and like any modern RPG, Kingdom Under Fire 2 first presents players with a character creator for their commander. Covering a range of five classes, this character creator provides a wealth of opportunity for different playstyles. Melee Berserkers allow easy access to the front lines of any combat and allow players who want to tank or prefer some forgiveness in their learning curve. The remaining Spellsword, Elementalist, Ranger, and Gunslinger all possess sufficient diversity and enough complexity to keep most playstyles entertained. The Gunslinger and Elementalist even manage something of a nice twist adding a pet mechanics to the Elementalist’s spellbook and turning the gunslinger into something of a mixed range line breaker, instead of a long-range glass cannon. It’s different enough from some of the normal RPG tropes that it proves inviting until you step through the looking glass and pick a class.
One of Kingdom Under Fire 2’s biggest barriers to entry for RPG players in the west is inevitably going to be one of the first things they come across and something I can’t avoid touching on so early in our review. While Korean MMOs, and MMOs in general, have a habit of putting female characters in suspiciously useless armor, gender locking is the issue that made me stop and stare.
If you fancy playing a Gunslinger then you’ll have to ditch the luxury of bikini-clad combat because you’re going to be playing as a male character and Elementalists are all demure female elves. This might be mildly less egregious if KUF2 was a first-person title but Kingdom Under Fire 2 is a third-person RPG game that takes an eagle-eyed view of the things as combat moves up in scale. This is an unfortunate issue and while games like Soulworker, another of Gameforge’s roster, have a very distinct narrative thread that allows players to play as a title character, this id an MMO. A player’s choices should be reflected in the character they create. It stinks of decade-old design decisions and is something we cannot ignore. Gameforge has, however, acknowledged that this gender locking an issue, but has not advised when this will be rectified.
Things do pick up after selecting a class, however. As our early preview showed, the character screen for Kingdom Under Fire 2 is more than up to the task of distinguishing your particular avatar and holds a plethora of sliders. You’ll be able to craft an adequately cute or cringe-worthy character, yet I found it only adequate. While I played with a great number of slider selections and parameters that are available, the obvious lack of body types and voice options is another notable problem. It left me feeling that the character creator is simply incomplete at times.
Introduction to Azilia
Stepping into Azilia for the first time is a distinctly MMO experience. With a massive attack ongoing, you are plunged into a battle against Encablosian forces and walked through the various control structures for the game’s central character. All the standard third-person perspective controls are in place. WASD movement, combat hotbars, dodge and attack systems are all relatively intuitive for any experienced MMO player. The initial tutorial does a reasonable job of easing more Fortnite orientated individuals into the MMO genre but as things progress through the first 15 levels or so there is a distinct possibility that the RTS style control systems will spin away from inexperienced players.
Kingdom Under fire 2 does a good enough job of balancing the complexities of character control and troop mechanics. Quest lines over the first 15 to 20 levels delve into the basic combat, troop control, and upgrade systems without throwing in too much information all at once. Ensuring that players learn by doing, coupled with some familiar UI design should find experienced MMO commanders flying through the early levels. Players who are not used to MMORPGs are, however, going to struggle to balance all the myriad of concepts that get crammed into the opening acts. This issue is largely unavoidable. Blueside is aiming high with Kingdom Under Fire 2 and the result is a complex set of ideas that need to be streamlined into the early acts.
What the opening acts of Kingdom Under fire do is manage to do is provide a good variety of content for the first 20 levels. The Opening narrative arc and tutorials provide plenty to do and what seems to present as a traditional character-based MMO quickly throws in a variety of very different scenarios. The game almost looks like it will descend into a myopia of kill ten rats but banishes the fetch quests within the first couple of hours, sending players skywards at the helm of a gigantic airship and taking part in a fortress siege. Between the trebuchets, flying contraptions and tactical combat instances keep things from getting repetitive.
While the change in content kept me content for the first part of our review, the tutorials keep on coming and up through the tens and into the game’s midgame where open-world situations feature more readily. While this isn’t an issue for me, it will cause definite problems for new payers. There is an expectation that you know what you’re doing with some systems and that could cause new players problems.
The UI, graphics and combat mechanics that Blueside has built into Kingdom Under Fire 2, are both a strength and a weakness. As we noted in our KUF2 preview, these are some of the systems that seem to borrow some inspiration fro NCSoft titles. The result is a game that clearly sets out to be an MMO first. It features some great graphics and engaging content at first, but do not come in expecting Dynasty Warriors or Total War. As you step up into your airship to take on the mid-game, there’s a long grind ahead.
We’re on the road to victory right now but the mid-game review and part 2 of our thoughts will be here as soon as I work out how to wield the strategic side of the game. Kingdom Under Fire 2 is out now for PC. You can check out our initial impressions or head over to the official website to find out more.