Published Jan 23, 2008Kingdom Under Fire: Circle of Doom is a substandard Action RPG that will quickly leave you bored and suffering from thumb strain. You begin by choosing one of four characters, each with their own semi-specialised abilities and vague storyline. Without further ado, or plot development, you are dropped into the world of Bersia, which will at first seem to be a large, open landscape, but upon minimal exploration reveals itself to be a forest of invisible walls and linear maps.
The incredibly linear landscape is made more frustrating by the fact that there seem to be areas off the beaten track. Sometimes these are just useless nooks and crannies designed to lure experienced gamers into thinking that maybe, just maybe there will be a treasure chest or other typical "secret object hidden away. And other places are simply blocked by a frustrating "invisible wall that will leave you running on the spot like a brain damaged mime.
After a brief tutorial explaining the games basic controls, you are free to wander along the pre-set trails and encounter groups of mindless enemies. Fighting is accomplished with the use of either ranged or melee weapons. Ranged weapons can be employed at a distance using a standard targeting reticule, while melee attacks are accomplished by simply charging into the fray and smashing down on your controller. With no block ability, combo moves or variation in attack animation, fighting is a repetitive, dull experience that mainly requires enough hit points and health potions to survive the fight.
The story, or at least what there is of it, is relayed to you as you sleep, which can only be accomplished while you are in the vicinity of Idols. During sleep, your character can converse with friends and mentors wholl begin to fill you in on who you are and what your goal is. Your sleep friends give you quests that you must accomplish in the waking world to further the plot; they will also teach you your magical/special abilities. Quests and qualifying for magic upgrades are basic "go here, do that, kill X number of creatures tasks, which may require you to repeat levels that you have just finished in order to fulfil the requirements of the objective.
The tedious game play is made worse when you have to wander through a linear level a second time. Although, on your second time through you will be so strong that the creatures pose absolutely no challenge, leaving you to simply wander around pressing your A button until youve found enough enemies to fulfil your challenge requirements.
There is an online component to the game that allows co-operative play with up to four other people. The game play is not changed other than an increase in enemy strength to compensate for the multiple players. You may also trade found items with your online companions. Players can drop in and out of the game at will, though new players, as well as those who die during battle, will be forced to start at the beginning of the level and catch up with the rest of the team. Co-operative is a somewhat misleading description of the online play, as the fighting system doesnt require players to work together, only to run around, slashing at the same group of enemies while they attempt to grab all the best items for themselves. There is the opportunity to talk and "make new friends online, though theres little strategy to discuss and most of the conversation is limited to "which way are we supposed to go and "where are you?
Kingdom Under Fire: Circle of Doom meets the minimum requirements necessary to qualify as a "game but it is so simplistic and repetitive that its only somewhat better than watching paint dry. It almost seems as if the great leaps and bounds in game play innovation over the last ten years passed the developers by, leaving only the bare bones of a less than stellar PS1 game wrapped in some graphically enhanced skin, like some sort of digital Leatherface. Save your gold coins for something worthwhile. (Microsoft)