Kingdom Under Fire: A War of Heroes takes place in the land of Berish, a fantasy realm with a shady past. Rick Miner, a hero who perished in battle against the Black Dragon Nibles (we can only assume it's not pronounced "nibbles"), has been resurrected. But his resurrection is twisted and he's returned as Rick Blood, possessing all the powers of Nibles and worse.
While the game is reminiscent of WarCraft, enough innovation and gameplay make it formidable and excellent in its own right. As befitting what is primarily a strategy game, the main character, Curian, must sally forth on various missions, all inevitably involving large-scale warfare. Like the Heroes Chronicles series, buildings are created to supply various troops, resources culled to feed and clothe them and heroes lead armies into battle.
Combat is conducted in real-time, which creates a sense of immediacy that separates it from turn-based role-playing strategies. When orcs come in waves to attack human villages, each raid heightens the tension. When an entire army of knights comes galloping onto the screen, there's a palpable sense of relief. This ambiance alone makes Kingdom Under Fire a real treat.
Flaws in the game are minor. For example, with a synchronous strategy game of this type, you're often forced to scroll quickly from one part of the overland map to another, which can make for some dizzying situations that a better interface could have eliminated, such as a means of flipping quickly between structures. This is not a new concept, as games like Daggerfall that easily handle distance travelling illustrate. Some players may dislike the save option, available only at the end of each scenario.
Graphics constitute one of the great strengths of the game. Each character is meticulously detailed as they walk, work or engage in combat. Whenever a character type is selected, a 3D animation of his or her head appears. While the animation is not coordinated with the audio, it does provide a more intimate contact with troop types that would otherwise be lost from a bird's-eye view. Between scenarios, animated CGI-movies tell the story.
There is no lack of audio in Kingdom Under Fire: A War of Heroes. Clicking repeatedly on a character isn't as humorous as WarCraft but there's enough variety in the responses to make them entertaining. The voices representing the various troop types are unique enough to distinguish who is who by sound alone, an important factor when frantically sending orders.
Overall, Kingdom Under Fire provides just the right mix of graphics, sound and strategy to make for an entertaining evening of orc-bashing.
Graphics: An animated map displays troop movement as the story unfolds. Meticulous detail, good animation and excellent perspectives make the graphics memorable.
Sound: Complementing the detailed and important voice work is a narrator who reads every word of the scrolling text between scenarios in a magnificently knowledgeable voice, sprinkled with a good dose of humorous asides.
Enjoyment: Kingdom Under Fire has addicting gameplay, an intuitive interface and balanced scenarios. The game is by no means easy but it's just challenging enough to keep you coming back for more. At times, the game's titles make for unintentionally humorous encounters. The main villain is a guy named Rick and adding Blood as his last name doesn't make him any more imposing. The first villain Curian faces is the horrible Red Ogre Chief, Likuku (pronounced, leh-KOO-koo). 'Nuff said?
Replay Value: Multiplayer mode via LAN or Internet adds to the replay value but lack of a save function within scenarios can be annoying.
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