Kingdom Under Fire 2 is not free-to-play and has a base $10 purchase as of this review’s publication. While that certainly may change, the fact that this MMO charges you to play without it being based on a wildly popular franchise (like Star Wars or World of Warcraft) already makes players give it the gas-face. Let’s not focus on the negative so early on, though…
Developers Blueside and Phantagram spent roughly 11 years developing this game after the lukewarm reception of Kingdom Under Fire: Circle of Doom. Circle of Doom regrettably focused on the hack n slash aspect of the series gameplay rather than expanding on the hybrid RTS features that made the franchise stand out. Your characters were hero generals that were forced to actually command their troops rather than decimate armies of foes by their lonesome. Fans of the franchise loved upgrading and customizing both their heroes AND their troops.
Each battle would test your ability to choose the right mix of troop types to counter the enemy’s loadout and strategize how to approach their location. Everything from getting the high ground for ranged troops to ambushing spearmen before they can set up against cavalry troops is a consideration that had to be made. Then, in the thick of battle, you would turn the tide by taking on the enemy generals and killing their morale when their leader fell. Features like this were rarely done in other games, and Kingdom Under Fire felt like the franchise could perfect it.
For years, hack n slash fans have heard of the development of Kingdom Under Fire 2. During the first year of the PlayStation 4’s release (2014), Kingdom Under Fire 2 was teased at E3. Eventually, as the release in 2019 came close, though, plans for the console release were dashed, and the PC version was focused upon.
Kingdom Under Fire 2 seemed to be in development hell for quite a while as it progressed from a single-player title on the Xbox 360 back in 2008 to a free-to-play MMO in 2014. Either way, there is a chance that Blueside and Phantagram may have missed their window of opportunity for success.
Kingdom Under Fire 2 is an MMORPG/RTS hybrid. Mixed in, there are elements of an action game as you take on the role of a high fantasy general fighting against… well, to keep things simple, monsters. With 5 character classes to choose from, you must quickly learn both the skills and powers of your general as well as the art of war via commanding your troops.
An easier way to describe what most gameplay is like is more easily displayed by its single-player original Xbox predecessor called Kingdom Under Fire: The Crusaders. In that game, you controlled your general much like a Dynasty Warriors hack-n-slash game. Your general would crash into scores of enemies and blast away battlefield fodder on your way to the enemy general. To mix things up, The Crusaders also expected you to command your own troops in real-time strategy style to take on the enemy as well. The purpose was to lessen the Dynasty Warriors ‘uber general’ effect and force you to use strategy and your general’s strength and battlefield ability to win. The results made the game a cult classic.
The hack n slash / RTS hybrid structure of Kingdom Under Fire 2 works really well from the jump. You control your general much like any other third-person view action game. The right mouse button is used to indicate where you move to or attack. The left mouse button uses your primary skill or attack. The number keys activate spells, attacks, or skills (all of which have a cooldown after use) that your general has as well. Then, press the tab button, and you switch to the RTS style strategy mode. The camera pans to an overhead battlefield view where you select and order one or more of your troops to move or attack. There, you can activate their skills and powers, cooldowns included.
This gameplay is quite fluid, and the control scheme works well. Whether trying to fight a boss or general, you can activate attacks, skills, potions, and so forth easily. The screen, of course, will get filled with battlefield fodder at times, making things hard to see, but never to the point that it costs you a battle.
If this were the only mode or aspect of the game, it would be plenty. Instead, the developers decided to appeal to their Kingdom Under Fire: Circle of Doom fans and incorporate a hack n slash only mode. These areas are considered Exploration missions and come across as a half-hearted open world mode. In these missions, you are treated with fetch quests that have pretty poor combat sprinkled in between. The combat boils down too tightly grouped enemy spawns with poor AI. The controls are the same as in the other missions, and only you do not have troops to command. You progress across the open-world map areas collecting items and defeating enemy clusters in hopes of farming gold and other resources to upgrade your armies and your hero’s gear.
These exploration mode missions and areas are not fun or challenging in the least. Early on in the game, these areas feel more like busywork to give you a break from the army missions. The fact of the matter is that the army missions are the game’s strong suit.
The game has no game-enhancing microtransactions, though. Instead, you are given cosmetic items that you can pay real-world dollars for. The premium in-game currency called cubics is earned primarily through gameplay. You are given daily missions and log-in bonuses geared towards enticing you to spend countless hours playing the game. Thanks to the requirement of upgrading your troops as well as all of the gear your hero equips, you will need to spend a LOT of time grinding in this game. Every mission available will be judged on how much currency it provides to either upgrade or unlock something.
The grind-heavy aspect of the game is where the game’s current state has an issue, though. Since you are required to spend a lot of time playing, there are several army-based missions that, unless you are overpowered, require you to play with another player coop style through matchmaking. Since there aren’t many players, though, matchmaking can and will take forever to find someone to help. While this doesn’t make the game unplayable, it does force you to grind previously played missions more to unlock more troop slots and craft better hero gear. Grindy, grind, grind.
All in all, Kingdom Under Fire 2 has a great framework that works well. The focus on PvE will seemingly appeal to the masses, but somehow the game misses the formula needed for lasting success. Hopefully, the developers can find a way to restructure the open-world areas so that exploration becomes more fun. Doing so might find a way to attract more players as similar games like Conqueror’s Blade focus more on PvP.
Kingdom Under Fire 2 Review
Kingdom Under Fire 2
While the Hack n Slash / RTS hybrid battles are great, the exploration is dull and laborious. Something needs to change to bring in the masses but after 11 years of development, it may be too late.
Great mix of hack n slash and RTS combat during battlefield missions
No OP microtransactions
Classes play fairly differently
Not many players makes it hard to do multiplayer missions; Bring a friend
Exploration mode is uninspired and boring
very grindy, even for an MMO
player appearance is very static outside of costume changes