Those that haven't played any other Kingdom Under Fire game needn't worry -- this is a title that can stand on its own. The game combines the epic action of large-scale battles with the online functionality found in massively multiplayer online games. That formula alone sounds fantastic, but Kingdom Under Fire II is made all the sweeter by its incredible visuals.
I, unfortunately, wasn't able to play Kingdom Under Fire II for myself, but I didn't need to. The raw enthusiasm and pride the folks at Blueside have for their game is palpable and they played several missions for me to show me exactly why people should be excited about their project. Kingdom Under Fire II allows players to create their own hero that can belong to one of four different classes (more classes will be added later). Not only do players control the hero character on the battlefield, but they can also command troops at the same time, giving the game a pinch of real-time strategy.
In the game, players will be able to execute traditional combos with their hero character and cast a wide variety of spells, including techniques that assist the friendly troops around them. When I was watching the game being played, the hero would charge into a group of enemies and unleash a torrent of attacks, while his troops charged in behind him. I was especially impressed with the camera work during battles, as the screen will shake and shift with the action, making the experience much more urgent than if the player's view was static.
Although it looked like a button-masher at first, Kingdom Under Fire II requires some definite skill, as players must jump between troop divisions on the fly to issue commands. During one particular mission, the Blueside representative had to continuously switch between his main troop and a ranged support troop further up the battlefield. These support troops would unleash deadly volleys that peppered the hero's enemies from afar.
The real beauty of the game, however, comes from the sheer spectacle of what's happening on the screen at one time. Hundreds, if not thousands, of nicely detailed units clash on the battlefield as arrows and gunfire saturate the sky. I was blown away when massive monsters entered the fray, stomping across the war-torn hills and scattering soldiers like pebbles through the air. In a trailer that was shown to me, a small group of dragons descended on the battlefield and unleashed green fire onto the helpless soldiers below.
The action of Kingdom Under Fire II was fantastic, but there's plenty of hardcore RPG goodness as well. There's a robust character creation system in place for designing your ideal hero, and almost everything in the game can be tweaked, from your clothing and accessories to the troops under your command. In fact, I was told that there would be more than 100 different troop types available at the start, meaning you will have tons of soldiers to work with as you travel across the world.
This is where the game's massively multiplayer functionality comes into play. The world of Kingdom Under Fire II is a persistent one that can be accessed by thousands of players at once. When you travel across the world map (on foot or by airship, which you can purchase further into the game), you'll see other players traveling in the same environment. Although only eight players can participate in a battle at once, many more will exist in your game world, which is designed to enhance the feeling of community in the game.
Kingdom Under Fire II is an example of a low-profile game that's impressive because of the great efforts of the developers behind it. Of course, there's no way for me to know at this point in time if the game controls well and is fun after extended periods of play, but I have reason to suspect that this game is one to look forward to.
Kingdom Under Fire II is tentatively scheduled for a North American launch at the end of next year. The game is being developed for PCs and consoles, though console specifics have yet to be unannounced.