Siliconera tried out Kingdom Under Fire 2 at a preview event in Germany, getting a feel for its action-based combat and its RTS-on-the-fly army battles.
MMOs often aspire to high-stakes combat against massive groups of foes, taking the player to worlds at war with various armies. Still, when you’re supposed to be facing an army, you’re more likely to be pit against a few dozen enemies, most of which can only be fought a few at a time. Narratively, you’re at war with an army, but in practice, the melee is against a handful of foes.
Kingdom Under Fire II is looking to bring that scope of all-out warfare to MMOs, having players face down hundreds of enemies all at once. Through single combat with your chosen character class (perhaps with a few allies) and through large-scale troop command with its RTS mode, the game seeks to make the player feel like they’re actually in the middle of a huge conflict.
At a recent preview event in Germany, Siliconera got to try out the massive battles of Kingdom Under Fire II. Deep within the towering walls of Reichenstein Castle, amidst the clash of actual steel as knights fought in the courtyard, we played through a sample section of the game, experiencing the frantic, lively combat, testing out the offensive power of the Spellsword.
Kingdom Under Fire II was quick to throw players into grand-scale combat against a few dozen foes at once, even in its tutorial chapter. A few moments were spent on allowing the player to get the hang of their character and their cooldown moves, but then players would find themselves up against a wall of gargoyle-like monstrosities.
Combat will be instantly intuitive for those who have experience with action games like Devil May Cry and Dynasty Warriors. Characters have melee attacks that can be fired off at about the same speed as you can press the button, allowing for some satisfying button-mashing battles against hordes of enemies. Cleaving through those conveyed a sense of power in your hero – that you were someone who truly stood above the rabble.
This is something unique it did compared to MMOs I had played previously. In most MMOs, players must work together to face down mobs of enemies in instances, but here, they could carve through dozens of enemies. It can be hard to feel like you’re an all-powerful savior when an enemy or two could cut you down. Here, you’re the all-powerful one, which loans credence to your status as a new, yet powerful, hero.
Not that the game is too easy, though. While you can cut down many enemies at once, there are still many more who were capable of striking back. These foes could quickly chew through the health of the Spellsword (although other classes possessed far more health), meaning players had to be careful not to get carried away in their assault, keeping an eye on the enemy.
Various foe types added new challenges to each fight. Larger foes and different monsters would often stand out in the sea of enemies you’d be facing, drawing your attention to them. These large enemies would telegraph attacks you needed to avoid, or else you’d see that health bar plummet in a hurry. This meant keeping an eye on the large foes, as well as the teeming mass around you, to stay alive. It loaned the action an intensity that made each fight, even early on, quite compelling.
To deal with this onslaught, you could use your character abilities. The Spellsword had an array of attacks that would stun or paralyze foes in a certain radius, encouraging you to use these attacks to tie up foes in one direction and give you some breathing room in a fight. Each move felt like a valuable addition to your repertoire, and again made me feel powerful from the start.
This focus on live action combat over the slower-paced combat of other MMOs appealed to the action game fan in me as opposed to the MMO fan. Combat felt livelier than clicking through a cycle of high-damage moves, with more emphasis on moment-to moment movement than on waiting on cooldowns for the right attacks. Not to say that other MMOs can be slow or uninteresting within their combat systems – just that Kingdom Under Fire II seems to skew closer to an action game, which may appeal more or less to some players.
This play might change a bit depending on which class you choose to use. Berserkers can soak up damage and attack from closer range, while the Gunslinger gives a bit more flexibility between ranged and melee attacks. Rangers offer speed with their daggers, and the Elementalist can call upon summoned allies to give the enemies someone else to focus on. Each offers a little unique twist on how you can play, offering variety to combat.
That said, the preview offered little to show the interplay between these classes in multiplayer. Seeing as most of these classes seemed offensive-based, it’s hard to tell if parties will need to draw from certain classes for co-op instances to be completed efficiently, or if it will focus more on just having a bunch of players beat foes down. Not that this may be a negative trait, but it will be interesting to see how boss mechanics and major battle mechanics will be made interesting in a game where, essentially, everyone seems to be playing DPS.
Outside of the major battle that starts the game, Kingdom Under Fire II falls into somewhat typical MMO fetch-quests and battles. Kill X number of enemies, get X number of items, talk to this or that character. The text boxes move by quite quickly as you do filler quests, though, which was a positive thing to note while trying to get to the next story beat or instance.
After a few minutes of these quests, players would find themselves drawn into another large-scale battle. Here, after a few minutes spent battling large groups of enemies, they would find themselves receiving reinforcement from an army. Here, you could begin to see the RTS element that Kingdom Under Fire II was also touting as a big piece of its play style, guiding a massive force against your enemies.
To exit one-on-one melee and send commands to your army, you only had to hit a button. This would switch you to a bird’s-eye-view where you could select groups of units and give them commands as to which enemy or group to attack. The preview playthrough was brought to an end just after a tutorial on this combat style, so there was no much room to experiment, but what was there seemed to offer a unique twist on combat.
Large beasts were swooping over the field. As a single unit, you couldn’t do much about it, but if you switched to your army, you could command archers to strike at it using regular attacks or special cooldown abilities that did a lot of damage. It was an interesting addition, as the game often adds large enemies or massive groups when armies are in combat, encouraging you to give your army orders to deal with these dangers rather than take care of it all yourself. Given how fast players could die against large foes with a few mistakes, it’s wise to put your army to work.
Being able to swap views and give commands that would be carried out in real-time around your character made battle into quite a spectacle, with armies clashing around you in ways that you could affect and control. It all felt chaotic and thrilling, yet completely under your control at any moment. It would have been nice to play around with it further to see what sorts of commands were available (as the game touts that there are eighty different troop types, and one must wonder how they all play differently), but what was in place showed hints of it being an interesting system.
While all of this worked well together, it again begs the question of how it will work with multiple players. Perhaps you will need certain units to have a chance in co-op instances, or certain classes may help more than others. Seeing as troops offered more obvious advantages/disadvantages (archers better against aerial foes, etc), perhaps the armies will be where the multiplayer component shines more. At this time, it is still unclear how the interplay between classes/characters/troops will encourage players to work together beyond just finding a friend to bash skulls with. Even if that’s it, though, it is already an entertaining, compelling experience.
Not that the preview was without some flaws. We were told that the build was from earlier on, which was why some things hadn’t been translated yet and the tutorial played without any music. Still, some foes look quite dated for modern visuals, showing a hint of the game’s long development history, or perhaps some of the limitations that come from having so many enemies on screen at once.
The game did have an appealing visual theme, with classes pushing for a kind of absurd fantasy with their towering knights and iron-bikini clad heroines. The enemy leaders were equally colorful, standing out with over-the-top looks as they made their appearances. It loaned the game a sense of being action-packed, yet ridiculous (giant scorpions seem to show up constantly in this world), creating a lively tone for the game.
Kingdom Under Fire II, in ways, felt more like a mixture of action game and RTS, with some MMO sidequesting to fill in time. The preview didn’t really press that connection that MMOs bring to players, or how its classes or instances will encourage working together, but it did throw the player into some appealing fights against tons of enemies, giving them flashy, carefully-designed tools and attacks to use against them.
Despite some weak visuals in places that harken back to the game’s original release window back in 2009, Kingdom Under Fire II shows signs of being an interesting game, although one that may work best for fans of twitchy combat with hints of strategy. If you’ve ever pined for a Dynasty Warriors feel in your MMO, you’ve found the right game.
Kingdom Under Fire 2 releases for PC via Steam in November 2019. The game is also in development for PlayStation 4.
Much thanks to our good friend @Joel_Couture of Indie Games+ for the preview , be sure to check them out for more on all-things indie games.