The Kingdom Under Fire franchise is one that I used to enjoy back on the Xbox. It managed to merge fantasy combat, massive armies, and engaging visuals to craft a game that drew players in.
Ever since Kingdom Under Fire 2 was first announced back in 2008 I was eager to see how it would fit the franchise, and how the hybrid MMO/RTS would work. Now, over a decade later, the game is finally ready to be unleashed on Europe and North America for the first time, and while there are a few rough edges, this could be an exciting entry in the MMO landscape, if it is managed right. At an event held in Germany, CGMagazine got some of the first hands-on with the game, to see how this new entry in the series holds up after so many years in development.
The game quickly starts players off by introducing them to the five classes they will get to play at launch — Gunslinger, Spellsword, Berzerker, Elementalist, and Ranger. Gameforge also announced sixth class, the Dark Sorceress, will also make its way to the game post-launch. Each offers a unique and diverse style of play, from the ranged attacks of the ranger to the rage-filled close combat of the Berserker, there should be a class for everyone. Each offers different levels of difficulty but can also offer a level of reward once the classes are mastered.
Selecting the Spellsword as our class of choice for the on-site demo, we dove headfirst into a battle, aiding in defending a castle against an onslaught of monsters from hell. Utilizing spells for healing and fast agility to complement her close combat sword-based attack skills, the class made short work of the creatures looking to take the castle. From demonic beings to titans dominating the battlefield, this early tutorial gave the raw backstory needed to understand the world, along with giving the right amount of hand-holding to usher new players into the mechanics at play within Kingdom Under Fire 2. Fighting alongside NPC soldiers, it was easy to dive into the combat, quickly pick up the different nuances of how the Spellsword played, as well as the overall mechanics under the hood within the game.
Combat in this early segment of Kingdom Under Fire 2 feels solid for the most part. Due to the lack of real challenge in this tutorial segment, it can at times feel like Dynasty Warriors, with your hero slicing through demons and other enemies like a hot knife through butter. But it also gives a good taste to how you can chain your abilities and use what you have at hand to wage some devastating strikes. It feels like the decent blend of challenging action title gameplay with elements of absolute god-like destruction and manages to be damn fun as it maintains that balance.
Fighting a series of different enemies along with a large boss-like monster, this tutorial gives a solid taste at what the full game will throw at you, along with an early look at how your powers can be used in a massive conflict. Yet, despite your character’s overwhelming power, the tutorial battle is ultimately lost, and the kingdom falls with the death of the King. It is at this point the MMO segment of the game opens up.
Now, it is hard to say if this sort of MMO is still what people are looking for from a modern game, but Kingdom Under Fire 2 does an admirable job giving an early series of quests that set you onto your path of becoming a world-renowned commander. From accepting quests from a series of NPC’s to killing monsters, the quests early on are standard MMO fare. It does not shake up the formula too much in this regard, for better or worse. This feels like a classic MMO, one that would have come out when WoW first launched, and while that has its place, I am unsure if modern audiences are looking for this sort of entry to the MMO space.
But, that is not the reason players will want to pick up Kingdom Under Fire 2. The appeal of this installment is the RTS elements blended within the MMO, and this worked better than you would think. Switching between the commander and the battlefield, while not complex, worked and got the job done. With basic commands you can work to control the battlefield, from taking down dragons to setting up your defences, Kingdom Under Fire 2 manages to blend MMO and RTS well. Granted, you will not find a full-featured RTS, but Blueside has worked with the elements that make sense for this title, making a streamlined experience.
Gameforge and Blueside assured us that while there would be things you could invest money on, anything of value that could change the course of the game would be able to be earned with in-game money. There will be plenty of different outfits, cosmetics and the like to be purchased if Gameforge and Bluieside can keep the gameplay unaffected by microtransactions, for an MMO with no monthly cost, it could be very exciting for people looking for a new experience.
But there is also the question of how the monetization will work for content updates moving forward, and when asked Botond Nemeth — Executive Producer of Gameforge outlined that it is “too early to say? I would like to say we have the perfect business plan in place, but that is certainly not the case. But we are currently focusing on the launch. And I can only say there’s the free content that we already announced that is going to come. But what future updates might how a typical those might be monetized, I can not say at this time.”
On the graphics side though, this very much feels like a game that started life before 2010. While it still manages to look good, it does lack the level of polish and definition we have come to expect from games in the genre. From Black Desert Online or even World of Warcraft, people expect their games to take advantage of the improved graphical power now at most players’ hands.
Much of this can be forgiven, however, as Gameforge and Blueside are working to make a game that works first and foremost. Graphical fidelity can come in time and once people experience the final product and get a taste of what can be done, it will give a better idea where the team needs to focus attention, along with how they can make it the most rewarding experience possible for those who enjoy it.
“There were a lot of different visual characters that the current game inherited from previous versions. But then our core focus with Kingdom Under Fire 2 is, rather than to provide the best visuals or graphics we want to provide a sensation of being a commander in chief in the battlefield, which means that we have to focus more on creating a grand scale army, which is rather than spend more time on the visual aspects before launch” Jubo Kim Creative Director for the game at Blueside outlined at when asked about the current visual look of Kingdom Under Fire 2. “We’ve finally been able to perfect the game and achieve what we wanted in the first place. So I believe in the future updates, we would probably look forward to more visual design aspects in the future.”
With a production cost of $80 million and over a decade in development, Kingdom Under Fire 2 has some lofty expectations to live up to. But from what was on site, and what the development team have outlined for the future, this could be an exciting MMORPG and one that could offer something new to the segment landscape. Launching November 14th in North America and Europe, players will not have long to wait to find out, but all I can say for sure is that I am excited to dive back in and see what the game feels like when it fully opens up, giving access to all the elements that make it unique.