Kingdom Under Fire: Circle of Doom
The Kingdom Under Fire series has tried a lot of things and genres. Circle of Doom for the Xbox360 is the latest attempt in the series where just about all strategy is thrown overboard and the card of full hack&slash gameplay is drawn. Unfortunately it didn’t end up in triomph.
A first disappointment already is the storyline. Where we hoped in the preview that the immersion would become bigger further in the game, the reviewcode quickly makes it clear that the game up until the end remains vague, complex, and clearly made for fans of the series. We only managed to remember that you can choose one of six typical characters (you know, a tough guy or a sexy lady with a bow) and that you get to learn bits and pieces of the story through a by other characters populated dream world that you can only enter now and then through an Idol. In this parallel world you also get the necessary quests and new spells. Just to say: fight you will and all the rest doesn’t really matter.
Luckily you have a whole armada of enemies and opponents of all kinds to get rid of. The makers clearly have spent a lot of time thinking and consistently designing a varied bunch of misery (from statues to zombies) to stand in your way. And you can take that literally as the challenge in the end comes down to the numbers and the length of their energy bar. Intelligence is an alien subject for the hostiles except for the piece of script: “See player = run towards him + attack”.
Although making a hole in those defenses and killing all those colorful enemies is quite enjoyable, the constant succession makes this game so… repetitive. There too little depth and too little possibilities to keep you interested for the entire course of the game. Only the most persistent lovers of repetition will have fun, spending hours and hours with the same action despite the many different weapons and magic. This is even worsened since there are only six dungeons present and you’ll have to go through them multiple times, and the fact that some quests lack quite some inspiration. The same can be said about the way you can get new spells. First you have to select them and start learning, after which you need to kill a certain number of opponents, and only then you’ll be able to use your new trick. Stupid as that means you’ll often have to go looking for hostiles and get to go over the same paths once again. Result: you’ll quickly get fed up with acquiring new spells.
If you’re resistant to the combination of brainkilling repetition and a lack of story to make you continue, you’ll probably get discouraged by some other frustrating flaws. The camera has ADHD and rather tries to play hide and seek behind all kinds of objects than to make your life easier. The dungeons are often tight and limited which doesn’t go well with the large hordes of opponents who often succeed in stunning you or throwing you on the floor, something that can get boring after thirty-two times.
As so often, you friends bring rescue. If you succeed to find up to three other gamers with Circle of Doom in their Xbox360, you can kill the overload of freaks together through Xbox Live. These co-op possibilities are just about the life-saving feature of this game as also graphically you won’t be using it to show off your new HDTV. The design does deserve praise for its colorful, with some beautyful and nicely filled surroundings (this is how the woods look nice) and enjoyable special effects.
For those that love hack&slash gameplay, Kingdom Under Fire: Circle of Doom can be quite an enjoyable game. The six characters offer different storylines and playing style which makes the replayability as well as the hours of gaming rise quite high. What you buy, however, is little more than a fighting engine that doesn’t look bad but doesn’t give much motivation to continue playing or immersion. The repetition and limited amount of dungeons decrease the effect of the couple of lights like the variation in enemies and a good adaptation in mana so that for the average gamer this title becomes too niche and boring.