Kingdom Under Fire: Circle of Doom Xbox 360
Published by: Microsoft Game Studios
Developed by: Blueside
Release Date: Out Now
The Kingdom Under Fire series has never been one to stay still. In fact, it’s a series that constantly seems to undergo some rather dramatic changes. It began life as a PC RTS game that was only ever mildly popular before being reinvented as a rather impressive action RPG on the Xbox. We reviewed Kingdom Under Fire: Heroes on the Xbox and we were both surprised and impressed. It wasn’t simply a Diablo clone; there was much more to the game than that. You directly controlled your own character but you also had several legions of troops that you could give orders to. In many ways it was a great mix between an action RPG and an RTS. Naturally then we were excited when Circle of Doom arrived for review. Surely the game had to be as enjoyable as Heroes?
In Circle of Doom you’ll get to play as one of five characters (a sixth character can be unlocked) ranging from the half-vampire prince Leinhart to Celine, the Elf who is desperate to cure her love, Curian. Regardless of whom you choose to play as however, the experience is pretty much the same although there are some slight storyline differences for each character however it’s fair to say that neither character has a particularly interesting storyline. The game can either be played as a single player experience or co-operatively online. Unfortunately, there is no offline multiplayer support, which is rather disappointing.
Circle of Doom couldn’t really be any simpler to play. You’ll attack by pressing the A and X buttons (holding down the buttons for a charged attack). Attacks drain the stamina from the SP bar so it’s not possible to blindly mash the buttons continuously when fighting your way through the hordes. Each weapon drains the SP meter according to how powerful it is with the more powerful weapons draining the bar more quickly. Thankfully, the SP bar doesn’t take long to refill. You’ll also have special abilities (the use of which also depletes a meter). You’ll press the Y button to pick up items that fall from your slain enemies. The game is played from a raised third-person perspective but you can hold down the LT button to switch to the aiming view, which is ideal when using ranged weapons.
When levelling-up, you’ll get the chance to improve three attributes: HP, SP and Luck. Learning new abilities is rather more cumbersome. When visiting the Dream World, which you’ll visit when you’re given the option to sleep, you will have the option to choose which ability you want to acquire. It’s all well and good selecting the ability but you’ll have to complete a mission just to be able to earn the ability. These missions usually involve you killing a large amount of enemies. The problem is that these missions are tedious and the abilities you’ll acquire simply aren’t worth the amount of time (25+ minutes) you’ll have to invest earning them. Of course it gives you further opportunities to grind your way through the levels but in the process it also adds to the tedium giving you hundreds more enemies to wade your way through.
The presentation of Circle of Doom can be described as adequate. The game’s few cutscenes are subtitled and although there are no character names or portraits placed alongside the dialogue, it shouldn’t cause any problems. The game’s tutorial messages are shown in text too. All quest details are shown in text and can be recalled at any time. You’re notified when your character has levelled-up and when attribute points can be allocated. Graphically the game looks quite good and the character models look quite impressive. There are a good variety of enemies in the game and some particularly impressive boss characters. The frame rate for the most part is fine but the camera can be rather troublesome. There are certain locations in the game which are quite confined and it’s in these areas where the camera angles really go awry which can certainly make battles more difficult than they need to be.
Circle of Doom sees the Kingdom Under Fire series complete the transition from being an RTS to being an action RPG. All of the RTS elements that were blended so well in Heroes have been tossed out of the window and what we are left with is a game that is nowhere near as impressive as the Kingdom Under Fire games that appeared on the original Xbox console. What we have in Circle of Doom is a decent action RPG that has solid battle mechanics and a decent multiplayer experience but as a single-player experience it takes all of twenty minutes to become tedious. There’s no quality storyline here and no real reason to keep on ploughing through the masses of enemies you’ll encounter from the game’s beginning to its end. It’s just one long level-grinding experience that’s difficult to stomach for more than short durations, especially if you’re playing solo.