As our opening salvo on Kingdom Under Fire 2 fades back into the distance we are on a road to victory and ready to take a look at the mid-section of MMORPG Kingdom Under Fire 2. Since it launched last month, we’re been hard at work squirreling in time where we can to keep abreast of the pace and getting through the mid-section of this brand new MMORPG from Blueside and Gameforge. Initially, we were impressed with the variety of content, character creation, and diversity that the game includes. Now it’s up to Blueside to strike a balance between challenge and time gate.
Get to the Airship!
As we left the late teens and twenties, Kingdom Under Fire 2 settled into a rhythm that swaps between local quests and instanced dungeon encounters. Drawing players around a series of lavish castles and huge forts then tossing them out into the open world, the game uses this interplay of objectives teaches each player how to handle the potentially quite powerful systems on offer in Kingdom Under Fire 2. Over eighty types of troops, a plethora of command options and all the trappings of a traditional MMORPG are also in place here and slowly drip-fed to each budding adventurer during this period of play. From quests that encourage individuals to upgrade and maintain their troops, to the more traditional craft and enhancement systems there is a ton to learn as individuals grow into the hero that saves a kingdom. Still, the mid-game tempo that the latest from Gameforge settles into is almost comforting in its predictability. The swap between single-player narrative and multi-player, open-world instances means that players can pick up a new skill and try it out almost immediately on the battlefield.
Nothing New to See Here
Out in the open world, players navigate a mess of mountain ranges and tundra’s, choosing to drop into one of several dungeon instances. Ranging from solo missions to multiplayer encounters, each of these comes with a set of very clear objectives and tend to focus on utilizing the skills that whatever flavor of the moment troop is capable of dispensing. As an example, players introduced to wizards in the early mid-game will be drawn through a tutorial in a hub city area then tossed out into the open world where these troops are particularly useful. This process is repeated for some time and seems intent on teaching an aspiring commander how to navigate around a range of encounters.
Upgrading the Difficulty
Thankfully just getting through each of these instances isn’t particularly difficult. Any player with a reasonable level of competency can chew through a 4, and even eight, player instance without too much problem. Unfortunately, this is more of a necessity than a choice. With two servers showing a low population across the EU zone, I found that setting up a party in the open world was both easy and incredibly difficult. While searching for available parties is easy enough, the number of players still present in mid-game dungeons and looking for groups is limited. This results in a lot of running solo through the main meat of this MMO. If you aren’t one for running solo in mid-game then find a guild and find it fast.
As the main protagonist overcomes these encounters and main player levels up, it quickly becomes clear that there is a lot more to progression in Kingdom Under Fire than simply equipping the next best set of gear and moving on. While the obvious level grind is present, character stats are generally influenced by gear. While some RPG will allow individuals to assign attribute points, this is generally handled as part of the protagonist’s base leveling experience and additional enhancements come in the form of gear and set stats. This can be further increased by crafting or enchantment systems too.
Creating your own style of play really comes into its own when the game’s skill system rear’s its head. Player characters have a range of defensive, offensive, and utility skills that can be assigned points, earned during the leveling process. It’s nothing too unusual and doesn’t lead to a massive amount of variety. Where Kingdom Under Fire 2 really starts to diversify the player experience is in troop progression. Just as player characters are subject to the level grind, so are troops. Of all the squads of soldiers that you can collect, each has its own level, grade, gear, and skills. If you have had the opportunity to play a deck builder mobile title, like Food Fantasy, then this will be entirely familiar to you. Unlocking troops provides a blunt instrument to take into battle but refining these soldiers into an elite force requires experience. Troops taken onto the battlefield can level up, given time and gold their skills can be enhanced, and you’ll even find slots for gear. The entire process means that commanders will either choose to specialize with a few powerful brigades or dive headlong into a leveling grind that requires some serious time investment.
The Same Old Grind
This leveling grind would not be much of an issue if the mid-game content was able to be as engaging as the early level content. While the rhythm of hub city to the instanced arena is almost comforting in its consistency, the repetition is rarely punctuated by anything truly engaging. The single-player narrative content that acts as an interlude to this practice is, at best, fairly uninteresting, if beautiful to look at. I found myself following arrows and spamming F as NPCs with uninteresting fetch quests and even the od piece of unfinished dialogue asked adventurers to go bash some faces on the farm and come back. It is a distinct change from the epic escape of the earlier episodes. It’s in stark contrast to the instanced combat which leans heavily on the RTS element and feels a lot more engaging without the kill ten rats problem to face.
A Shining Blade
These instanced encounters are arguably where Kingdom Under Fire shines during the leveling process and my initial reservations around the control systems were laid to rest as things got more and more manic. My hesitation that no click and drag control system exists became mute as I fell into a pattern of using hotkeys to direct support units then swapping back into dole out damage on my main character. The variety of troops available kept me from getting bored and allowed me to take on quests in more than one way. Ironically, it is the hero character that particularly lets the game down here. While the mind-boggling array of troops on offer and a good mix of situations keeps these instances engaging, solo combat still seems to be stunted. While the game innovates with the troop combat, the single-player controls lack some more modern nuance. Characters cannot jump, dodge doesn’t appear to include iframes, and the casting feels like it intermittently locks players in place making casting skills an almost tactical choice in itself.
The Middle Road?
What I found in Kingdom Under Fire 2 was a mixed bag of loot. The game isn’t particularly difficult to chew through. In some instances, this is a blessing, in others, it is a reflection of the mundane fetch quest mentality of the RPG game design. The game innovates in areas and it is worth your time for the way it mixes together deck building mechanics, RTS systems and a hero based RPG, yet the RPG doesn’t feel too special throughout the level grind. Once you’ve got the hang of the basic systems, grab a guild and get through this because there’s plenty waiting on the other side when we get into the endgame and into the final part of our review.