BAD'S Commentary Page


|| TITLE || Force Of Habit
  || WRITER ||   BAD
  || DATED ||   03.12.2009


When people see Kingdom Under Fire - Circle of Doom, they tend to look back to the previous entries in the series to compare. But the game has been changed considerably enough from its predecessors that the only things they really share are the gothic flair and popular name. Its predecessors brought a unique, strategic breed of hacking and slashing to the table, with respective tweaks to make them each distinguished. Kingdom Under Fire - Circle of Doom, however, is a different animal entirely. A different approach was taken, and though it is widely considered to be an "action-RPG," it reminds me more of a side-scrolling fighter in the league of Capcom's 2-D Dungeons & Dragons and Alien VS Predator games. Read on to find out why...





For those of you who don't remember (or have never even seen) them, they added a spell and item stock to the distinct jump, attack, combo-driven side-scrolling fighter formula. The games were unique, and probably even ahead of their time. They are regarded by fans to be of Capcom's greatest works (even in good company like Alien VS Predator and Armored Warriors). Capcom has upped resurrection of the classics recently (Bionic Commando, Commando, etc.), but no re-makes of their side-scrolling fighters have been announced...

Despite their success, though, Capcom never made a follow-up to them. We have waited a long time for a successor, and it's finally here. Sort of. Is it made by Capcom? No. Made by anyone from Capcom who worked on the original CPSII D&D games? Probably not. But I believe the game turned out how Capcom would have made it. Even if only by pure coincidence, I believe that the game is, quite possibly, one of the best spiritual successors ever. If the development staff aren't fans of Capcom's D&D CPSII game, I'd be surprised; KUFCOD is a complete throwback to those 2-D D&D games that we loved so much back then (and still even today). Although it's not made by Capcom, KUFCOD resembles their 2-D side-scrolling masterpieces in more ways than one.

This game has been reported as an action game (an action RPG at that), but I think it's more like a side-scrolling fighter than anything. Essentially like a 3-D, HD revision of Capcom's Dungeon's & Dragons titles on the CPSII hardware (from back in the day)! Even in its early beta stages, the characters looked like 3-D renditions of the ones Capcom had in their 2-D D&D games! From Celine (the elf chick) and Kendell (the cleric dude), to Mutant Curian (the main character) and Regneir (the fighter), the similarities to the main characters in those 2-D Capcom D&D games are striking. The most striking of which is Celine, who bears and uncanny resemblance to the Elf in Capcom's 2-D D&D games.

But it doesn't stop there; there's also a lot of overlapping with enemies. Both games share expendable skeleton warriors, little goblins, annoying scorpions, and reptilian warriors. The Lizardmen in KUFCOD look like the Troglodytes from those D&D games, and even weild the same weapon (a spear). Loose similarities would be the sculptors in KUFCOD, whose height (or lack thereof) and weakness resemble the D&D Kobolds. There are also Golems in both D&DTOD and KUFCOD, and the Blacksand Warriors in the latter loosely resemble the Ogres in the former. A closer look reveals various enemies that resemble the Ghouls and Gnolls, too. The screen-filling, monstrous bosses will remind you of the ones you fought in those old D&D games (if you played them as much as we did).

If you haven't already noticed from the screenshots, the 3-D graphics are great, and are comparable to the splendor of Capcom's 2-D classics. Cool-looking hit sparks, blood spatter, and a plethora of other fireworks (from spells) accompany the game's moody environments (all of which are every bit as beautiful as art director Se-In Lee herself). The lush wilderness of The Forest of Embracing sets an entirely different mood than the cold silence of the Valley of Solitude. Likewise, the immaculate marble floors in the Hall of Arrogance are relaxingly passive compared to the profound gore of the Road of Chaos; for crying out loud, it's the only destructible game environment I've ever seen that bleeds when you hit it; sick! These backgrounds must have taken a long, long time to make; is that why the game too so long to come out?





















Speaking of the stages, they are randomly-generated, so that means critics can't just call the game "linear" (like they do with most titles in the genre). For some, however, the game has the same unfortunate flaw that that prevented Capcom from achieving perfection with D&D - Shadow Over Mystara. And that flaw would be completely frustrating maze parts that interrupt the otherwise fun 3-D side-scrolling fighting. They really try to compensate for it, though, by giving you fun rapid-fire parts (in the vein of AVSP) where you mow down hordes of smaller monsters with weapons like crossbows and gatling guns. Those parts fit seamlessly into the game to divide the progressive, combo-driven fighting that it was built on.

Though enemy numbers are far greater in number than those 2-D D&D games (due to the advancement of technology), the close camera positioning and moderate speed make it more of a side-scrolling fighter than anything else it has been classified as (even if it lacks the Jump button Capcom's 2-D D&D classics had).

Hit detection and speed are similar to those old games, too, but the attack system couldn't be more different. Attacking in this game requires a certain timing, rhythm, and item knowledge; failing to rythmically use White Potions can leave you short of actually finishing combos! This completely unique system deflates the whole "button-mashing" line of bullshit that is typically used against the genre (as a whole). Multiple weapons also make it like a side-scrolling fighter (even though it wasn't much emphasis in the 2-D classics). Had Capcom paid any attention to how many fans their 2-D D&D games had, a next-gen sequel probably would have had an evolved attack scheme like this.

Capcom made their 2-D D&D games unique by adding spells to the trie-and-true attack formula of the genre, and KUFCOD carries over familiar spells like Petrify, Ice Storm, Lighting Bolt, Invisibility, and Fireball (all of which are accompanied by equally cool effects). Potions and keys, too, are used as frequently and still essential. Spells and items are designated to specific buttons as in KUFCOD, so they can be used on the fly; healing and curing are done seamlessly during the heat of battle (and with more ease than the classics)! This is another area the developing team did a great job with.

Like Dead Rising, though, an unnecessary first-person aiming view rears its ugly head; in both games, they could have just invested more time into polishing the calibration of auto-aim, instead. Certain parts rely on its use, so this one "feature" is what distracts most people from seeing KUFCOD for what it really is (a side-scrolling fighter).

Some may disagree, but as a long-time fan of the genre, I'd say the combination of item trading and "synthesis," network play, customization, and downloadable content all make it a true evolution of the genre. Together with randomly-generated stages, the combination makes for endless possibilities. The customization is cool because equipped items can actually be seen on your characters (even downloaded ones)! The network play is also a blast, and will remind veteran game fans of when American arcades had good games. You can even trade items with other players!

Aside from the aforementioned, obligatory first-person aiming view, KUFCOD could have used just a little more audio polish. Not that the soundtrack and/or sound effects are all bad, but there are areas that could have used it. The soundtrack really fits the mood of the game, but sound effects seem a bit off sometimes. Funny, because I remember noticing something similar about the 2-D D&D games back in the day. The spoken dialogue isn't bad, though!














And if my convictions missed the mark completely (that is, none of the development staff are fans of, or intended the game to be like Capcom's D&D classics), then I would still give Blueside great respect for unintentionally making it so similar to Capcom's classics. We'll just say they're picking up the weight for what Capcom has ignored for quite some time with the new generation; the game may be flawed, but that doesn't mean it's any less enjoyable than the classics. Moreover, Capcom's classic 2-D D&D games weren't even perfect, for that matter! By yourself or with friends over the network, KUFCOD is a very enjoyable game. Whether they did it inadvertently, or intentionally, KUFCOD is worthy of being a spiritual sequel to the 2-D D&D classics from back in the "good 'ol daze." Most fans of the 2-D D&D side-scrolling fighters would love this game.