Kingdom Under Fire: The Crusaders

Review by Stephen

2004

The Human Alliance is in constant war with the Dark Legion, who are mainly Orks and Ogres with some half-vampires and dark elves thrown in. When the Dark Legion becomes more antsy than normal and attacks a human stronghold, it's up to a few brave humans to find out why and stop them before they find the sacred Ancient Heart, a holy artifact said to give immense power to who ever posses it. Or play as the Dark Legion and try and take the Heart before the Humans have time to react. Each character in the statue room has their own storyline, two for good and two for evil, but all of their stories come together in the end to an exciting climax, that I refuse to go into because it shocked me and I want it to shock you too. The story lines are riddled with twists and turns that would take me forever to explain, so just play them through. Believe me, you will be glad you did. This was an Xbox exclusive title.


Game Play ________________________________________________________________________

At the opening of the game you are met with a beautifully designed menu that is interactive. You have a choice of either reading up on the history of the game world in a book on the table or entering the statue room where you can begin play. At the beginning of the game you are given only two choices out of the four statues in the room. You can play as the human Hironeidonian General, Gerald or the Dark Elf, Lucretia, leader of the Vellond army. There are two other characters in the room as well, Kendal the General of the Ecclecian Holy Knights and Regnier Lord of the Hexters, but these two are locked until you play through the Gerald and Lucretia campaigns.

Upon choosing Gerald, it throws you right into the action with a little bit of dialogue between you and your lieutenants Ellen and Rupert. But after that you are in the thick of battle. You fight through the initial Orks with your lieutenants giving a kind of tutorial on how to fight and block, which is very easy to learn and the controls are nice and smooth, so killing Orks is easy. Then after the battle you learn how to move your troops and navigate using the mini-map. This is best part of this game because it allows you to move units individually from one another to construct strategy and defeat your opponent. There are several different types of units that have important roles that you need in certain situations. For instance, archers, infantry, calvary, sappers, spearmen, and support troops like giant eagles and dwarfish battleloons, that you can move around the battlefield where they are needed, while all the while being able to fight the battle yourself as Gerald and turn the tides with one swipe of your own blade. It's tons of fun!

The Gerald campaign is a little more limited than the other campaigns when it comes to unit upgrades and story. But as you play through each character's storyline, you are able to completely customize units from their arms and armor, their jobs on the field and their special magical abilities, with experience points you earn after each battle. Just to name a few of the magical abilities: there is Fire, which gives you the ability to launch meteors at oncoming enemies, and you can also enchant your soldiers weapons with fire that adds extra damage when you upgrade this ability. Also there is a Holy upgrade that allows you to heal your troops and gives your special troops enchantments to fight the special enemy troops, which you learn later in the story. But you must remember that all of these things spends SP points that are shown at the bottom of the screen. All of these abilities are governed by upgrading with points in the Barracks.

You can only upgrade units and abilities on the map section of the game. Which is a kind of battle map that you use to move from battle to battle. This is where you get most of the story line, and the Barracks are where you can go customize troops. You'll want to use this part often to make sure your troops are upgraded appropriately. There is a Pub option also, where you can buy mercenaries or listen in to what your soldiers are talking about. Along with Operations there is the Mission tab that allows you to begin your next battle. As for upgrades and such, they are all very similar from character to character. The Dark Legion has a few special things that the Human Alliance doesn�t and vice-verse. But for the most part they play the same.

Graphics ________________________________________________________________________

The graphics are amazing for an original Xbox game. Especially when you see the scale of some of the battles. The character models are all very well done, even though they use the same model for troops, you can't even tell because it's so fast paced. The backgrounds are what you expect for a fantasy type game: trees and grass with some huts thrown in on open battle fields and much more detailed when you're in a city or behind walls. Everything about the graphics are satisfactory, and I give it an A+.

Sound _______________________________________________________________________

The soundtrack is amazing with heavy metal riffs throughout the game to keep you pumped for the next fight. The sound effects are very effective with men yelling and orks grunting and swords clashing. It is intense at time. The voice-overs are very good; heroic when needed and evil when the bad guys are talking. Everything fits beautifully.

Overview ________________________________________________________________________

This is one example of what Xbox could do if they put a little time and effort into their games. This a wonderful game with all kinds of replay value, and a game you should even consider getting an Xbox for if you don't already own one. I would rate this game in my top 10 best games of all time, that's how much a enjoyed playing it. From the customization, to the strategy, to the hack-in-slash, to the lady elves in skimpy outfits, this has it all for the RTS fantasy lover.

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