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Kingdom Under Fire: Heroes Xbox

Published by Deep Silver
Developed by Phantagram
Release Date: Out Now
Price: £39.99

Kingdom Under Fire: Heroes, an introduction.

The Kingdom Under Fire series began life as a RTS game on the PC. To be perfectly honest it's probably fair to say that it was only a mildly popular game and it's no surprise that a sequel for it never arrived. However, the series was to get a new lease of life when it arrived on the Xbox. Kingdom Under Fire: Heroes is the third game in the series and the second one to arrive on the Xbox. We never played the original Xbox game but judging from the reviews we've read about it, it was definitely a hit with gamers.

What's the game about?

Kingdom Under Fire: Heroes is essentially a combination of a hack 'n' slash action RPG and strategy game. The game has a fantasy setting and the races in the game include the likes of Orcs, Vampires, Elves and Dark Elves. As you can imagine a world with so many diverse races cannot be at peace and battles are frequent. As with most fantasy settings, it has a kind of medieval feel to it and you'll notice traditional swordsman, archers and siege weapons fighting with mythical creatures such as Black Wyverns, Swamp-Mammoths and Earth Golems. Heroes offers a single player mode with has 7 different campaigns (each revolving around a hero character). As well as the 7 set campaigns you can also create you own set of battles if you wish. Multiplayer is Xbox Live only and supports up to 6 players including 3 vs. 3 hero battles.

What's good about the game?

Without a doubt the intensity and epic scale of the battles is definitely the highlight of Kingdom Under Fire: Heroes. Once you're comfortable with the game you'll find yourself issuing orders to several troop units and still managing to fight in the thick of the action without any problems at all. You'll have direct control over your hero character most of the time and at any time you can give commands to all of your troops at once or individually. You can tell your troop of archers to go behind the enemy and fire whilst your other troops engage the enemy head on. Orders are given via the mini-map and you can set up to 8 waypoints for each troop in this manner. Your hero will level up and as well as earning experience, you also earn funds that can be used to customise and improve your army. During battles you'll earn skill points (SP) and these can be used to call sub-heroes into battle to give you a hand. Health bars for you and your troops, as well as your enemies, are always shown on the screen which makes it easy for you to keep an eye on your progress.

What's not so good about the game?

The main weakness of Kingdom Under Fire: Heroes is that it lacks a story of any real quality. What plot is here is simply to take you from one battle to another. To some extent this doesn't represent a problem as many people's focus will simply be on the battles. However, with 7 different characters to play as (each with their own campaign) it's a shame that time wasn't taken to develop a quality story for each one of them as it would have added more depth to the game. Occasionally the pathfinding can be a little troublesome. I've noticed that if you set waypoints that require your units to navigate an obstacle, sometimes it really throws them and they just end up going round in circles. Of course you can counter this by placing waypoints around the obstacle but it's a shame the pathfinding isn't better. Whilst the game does offer tutorial tips in Ellen's campaign, the game could have done with a standalone tutorial to gently ease you in to the action. The tutorial tips are OK but they don't cover as much of the basics as they should. The game manual is a little better in this respect but it still doesn't replace a proper tutorial.

How does it look?

Heroes looks pretty impressive and shows off the Xbox's capabilities quite nicely. The battles can be quite large and there are often large numbers of enemies onscreen at any given time. The developers obviously chose to make the game have a cinematic feel to the game and the presentation of the battles is very dramatic and very intense. You actually feel like you're part of a large scale battle rather than simply fighting it out with a few dozen enemies. You'd probably expect the frame rate to nose dive during these thrilling moments but it always seems to remain constant. The camera angles can be a little annoying at times though (the camera seems to have a mind of its own when your units are nearby or walking amongst trees) and in the course of a dramatic battle not always being able to see exactly what you're doing can be irritating. The size and presentation of the battles in this game also makes you wonder how a Kingdom Under Fire game will look on the Xbox 360 given all the extra processing power the developers would have at their disposal.

How deaf gamer friendly is the game?

Heroes is absolutely fine for deaf gamers. The game is subtitled (in fact you can't turn the subtitles off) and you'll be able to enjoy all the dialogue and cutscenes (which makes it all the more unfortunate that the story isn't as good as it could have been). As we said earlier the Ellen campaign acts as a tutorial and all tutorial messages in this campaign are shown in text. In most places the text requires you to press the A button before it continues (with the exception of certain cutscenes and dialogue that is delivered during a battle), so you'll be able to read it at your own pace which is great. Briefings are also shown in text and again you can read this at your leisure. On certain screens you can also press the Y button for text help messages. Certain, non-important, comments made during the heat of battle are not subtitled though. The Xbox Live experience is again not as good as it could be for deaf gamers due to there being only voice communications. As we've said many times before though that is a problem with the current Xbox Live service rather than the game itself.

Final thoughts.

Kingdom Under Fire: Heroes (along with its prequel on the Xbox) definitely offers a unique experience and whilst the combat elements of the game may be slightly reminiscent of the Dynasty Warrior games, the game as a whole is very different from anything we've played before. There are some problems with the game such as the poor story and irritating camera angles etc. but overall the game is very enjoyable. The dramatic, large scale battles are impressive and really show what the Xbox is capable of. If you like hack 'n' slash action RPG games (and also have a taste for RTS games) you should definitely give the game a go.


Overall Game Rating: 8.5/10

Deaf Gamers Classification:

(Click the letter or here for details)

Kingdom Under Fire: Heroes really has to be played to be believed. The epic nature and intensity of the battles more than make up for any shortcomings the game has.