Preview: Kingdom Under Fire 2 blends RTS and action well, but MMO not so much

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After 12 years of development and $80 million spent, Kingdom Under Fire 2 is finally getting a full release. With developer Blueside and publisher Gameforge finally ready to show off their decade-plus of hard work, we finally got to see the title in action. Needless to say, our thoughts are mixed.

 Throughout our time with the title, we’re told that it’s been a tough time to find the perfect balance between MMO, Hack-and-Slash and RTS. We’re glad the team has found their perfect balance: the developers appear confident that KUF2 is the game they’ve always wanted to make. Unfortunately, we’re not sure it’s what everyone wants to play.

As soon as we start we’re introduced to the five classes: the melee-and-firearm Gunslinger; the magical-melee Spellsword; the rage-filled Berserker; the pure-mage Elementalist and the dagger-and-bow Ranger. We’re told that a sixth class, The Dark Sorceress, will arrive post-launch.

We started out with a Spellsword: in our infinite bouts of creativity her name became MSPoweruser. She loved her name, or at least she never complained. And so our journey began: Miss MSPoweruser was immediately thrust into battle alongside an impressive army of mindless NPC soldiers. Despite being a major instance-based battle, our introduction to the world of war-torn Bersia is purely action focused.

We move our way through hordes of blood-thirsty enemies. Their attacks do little on our health, but our attacks strike them down in one or two hits of the left-mouse button. By combining our heavy attacks with right-mouse and our skills on the number bar, we’re able to deliver devastating but beautiful dances of destruction.

Kingdom Under Fire 2’s combat feels fantastic. While enemies are somehow less engaging than your average Dynasty Warriors goon, fighting them always feels satisfying. Feedback is good enough and the drowning destruction of hit-after-hit of constant battering on an entire army makes you feel incredibly powerful, even in the early levels.

This battle doesn’t last long. Despite our power-level being on-par with the Legendary Super Sayain, our efforts are all in vain. The castle is lost, the King is dead, our skimpily dressed Spellsword is still without any effective clothing. Our army retreats.

It’s here where Kingdom Under Fire 2 starts to incorporate its MMO portion. We’re told to talk to people who tell us to talk to more people. Occasionally, we’re told to kill a couple of deer or heal some wounded soldiers.  It’s as generic as MMO content gets and, as part of a preview event, seemed like a weird section to show. We’ve seen elements of later sections, ones that better incorporate MMO structure into the instance-based MMO/RTS cauldron to create a wonderful elixir of unique gameplay opportunities.

It’s only twenty minutes in where we get to see that combination take form, but Blueside’s initially dull MMO structure feels like an eternity.  In fact, just after we acquire our mount through chatting to three people in a triangle, bouncing between them like a socially incompetent pinball, we’re able to finally get our hands on the true appeal of the title: an awesome mixture of large-scale action goodness and effective RTS control. Unfortunately, our time with the demo ended just before we got to experience the RTS section… So we snuck back, booted up someone else’s save file and finally got to experience the main draw of the game.

So, now in the shoes of a Gunslinger called Janus, well, actually janus as the fantasy-cowboy’s creator had no love for the existence of capital letters, we stepped into a terrifying portal swirling in demonic reds. At this point of the day tiredness had taken over: that demonic red appeared warm and inviting. I welcomed its evil and begged it to take me. It took me to a field, a field full of men. One person’s nightmare is another’s dream.

After a short cutscene were introduced to the simple RTS mechanics. They aren’t very in-depth but their effectiveness can’t be understated. As numerous dragons fly into the air, we command our archers to fire a blanket of arrows deep into their necks, sliding between the scaly skin. The dragons crash to the floor. Unfortunately, or fortunately, our troops are unaffected: streams of fire leave us unaffected and the crashing of bodies doesn’t turn our armies to red sludge. It’s less realistic: the grand scale of battles doesn’t quite have the effect trailers would have you believe.

But that snap-shot feeling of moving between commanding troops from above and fighting alongside them with the press of a button is remarkable. Battles here are colossal displays of thousands upon thousands of steel cleaving through flesh and I’m excited to see more. Outside of a constrained preview environment, it’ll be fun to fight through this explosive and exciting mixture of opposing genres.

If Kingdom Under Fire 2 looks like your cup of tea, you can check out the title on Steam.

More about the topics: Blueside, Gameforge, germany, Kingdom Under Fire 2, Korean MMO, pc, RTS, steam