TGS '07: Kingdom Under Fire: Circle of Doom Hands-On

Blue Side's hack-and-slash action RPG may have lost the strategy element of its predecessors, but it still seems to have tons of depth.

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TOKYO--Good news for fans of the Kingdom Under Fire series' unique mixture of strategy and action: We got it straight from franchise director Henry Lee at the Tokyo Game Show today that work is ongoing on a new KUF game in precisely the same vein. Bad news: That game wasn't at TGS. Good news: Blue Side is finishing up a new KUF action role-playing game subtitled Circle of Doom that will bridge the narrative gap between The Crusaders and that next, as-yet-untitled strategy game. Bad news: Actually, there is no more bad news. Circle of Doom seems pretty sweet so far.

Like its predecessors, the game has a bit in common with series like Dynasty Warriors, in that you'll play as one character hacking and slashing against tons of enemies--say, 20 or 30--at a time. But instead of also commanding a large army to do your bidding while you lay waste with your greatsword, you'll instead focus on building up your own character's level, as well as the impressive array of weapons and magical abilities available to you. There are six characters available here, all of which are taken from the past KUF games. In our demo, we had a choice between white knight Kendal, lithe Celine (taken from the very first KUF game on the PC), and monstrously armored Regnier, who was certainly the most badass of the three. Of course, we chose him.

The game will consist of six acts split up into between four and eight levels apiece, and the sample level we played with Regnier had us fighting through a foreboding forest against small lizardmen, some gigantic tree-like wood golems and monstrously large plants, and a few larger bipedal fighters. As you cut your way through enemies like this, you'll gain experience that will raise your level, and with each new level, you'll gain attribute points that you can cash in for extra hit points, skill points, and luck. Pretty standard action-RPG stuff so far.

But it's the extensive equipment and ability options that give Circle of Doom depth. You can assign two weapons to the X and A buttons, and two skills to the B button and the right trigger. The weapons and skills run an extremely diverse gamut, with all sizes and shapes of swords, axes, and other melee weapons; ranged weapons like bows and primitive shotguns; and magical abilities that let you dash, create an attacking familiar called a flesh spear, or spawn a demonic hand from the ground to swipe at enemies. You can carry a lot of weapons in your inventory at one time (and of course, you have access to all of your skills), and you can pause the game whenever you want to reassign new weapons and abilities based on the situation or your whim.

Lee said the move to an action RPG from the KUF series' traditional hybrid strategy/action gameplay was meant to simplify the series for new players. He further likened the mix-and-match nature of the weapon and skill systems to a pizza, saying that he wants players to add their own toppings and create the kind of pie they want to eat...er, play. (Too bad that meeting was right around lunchtime.) That analogy made perfect sense to us, given that you can not only swap all those elements in and out on the fly, but you can also upgrade your weapons to have all sorts of secondary properties. For instance, you can add a flame effect to a sword, or even an "excavation" property (which we assume will yield better items from downed enemies). Some melee weapons can also be thrown like a boomerang, and with even further upgrades, they'll stay in the air longer and hit more enemies. In another example, Lee showed us a bow and arrow that had been imbued with both the guidance and piercing powers. Guidance made the arrows seek to the nearest target automatically, and piercing made each arrow pierce through its first target and move on to subsequent nearby enemies. So Lee was able to simply fire a volley of arrows with this modified weapon at a group of foes and have the projectiles do all the heavy lifting for him.

To get these sorts of upgrades, you'll have to visit an idol, which can be found floating in ponds in most areas. The idols each follow a theme (idol of greed, idol of death, and so on) and each will have slightly different items for sale or upgrade. You can talk to each idol to acquire items or even sell some of your current gear to trade up for something else. While you're in the pond area, you can also put your character to sleep, at which point you'll walk around a dreamlike area and speak to some characters who will give you vague information about the storyline. They'll also grant you new abilities, though you have to go out and finish some massively multiplayer online game-style kill quests to actually access them. We tried to learn one new ability from an old man in Regnier's dream state, but he demanded that we go out and kill X number of one enemy and Y of another before he'd teach it to us.

The game will also support online cooperative play for up to four players, and you can bring your character from the single-player game into the multiplayer. You'll be able to double, triple, or even quadruple up on the same character in co-op, and Lee gave us a hilarious demonstration of how you'll be able to distinguish one Kendal from another in the online setting. There will be an extensive list of accessories you can slap onto each character. For example, Lee put a red baseball cap on Kendal, which really, uh, complemented his plate-mail ensemble. Other examples included amusingly oversized yellow feathers and face masks based on some of the developers. More accessories will apparently appear on Xbox Live Marketplace sometime after the game ships.

This may not be the most graphically complex game on the Xbox 360, but it looked fine to us, and Circle of Doom's engine was doing a good job of displaying a lot of enemies at one time while maintaining a smooth frame rate. We tend to become bored with pure button mashers fairly quickly, so we're glad to see that this game has all that potential combat variety going on under the hood to keep things interesting. Given that Blue Side does have that proper Kingdom Under Fire sequel coming up on the Xbox 360 in the future, fans will likely want to check this one out just to keep up with the ongoing storyline.

Discussion

31 comments
risingxlegend
risingxlegend

Just take into fact that this is a TRANSITION game. BlueSide is trying something new and from the demo, its looking pretty good. Its in depth with the SP system and how the gear affects it. The only real downfall I see so far(and this is just going off of the demo) is that its quite repetitive as far as combat goes.

ocdog45
ocdog45

casutionly looking foward to it. im not convinced to be honest. never herd of this game until now.

xRandyx
xRandyx

no, this will kick ninety nine nights in the face. I don't know why they keep comparing it to dynasty warriors, its nothing like it in my opinion. I don't see the comparison

xRandyx
xRandyx

no, this will kick ninety nine nights in the face. I don't know why they keep comparing it to dynasty warriors, its nothing like it in my opinion. I don't see the comparison

xRandyx
xRandyx

no, this will kick ninety nine nights in the face. I don't know why they keep comparing it to dynasty warriors, its nothing like it in my opinion. I don't see the comparison

digitalgawd
digitalgawd

is this at all like ninety nine nights? anyone know?

ZJohnnyZ
ZJohnnyZ

Wow finally they actually made it an RPG this time I might actually play the game!! Although I do miss Duck Hunt where you just button mash and receive no character development for it (RPG)!!! Diablo Rules!! I hope the next one is also Action RPG or this will be the only one I’ll play.

beastmr2
beastmr2

yeah, those guided arrows from diablo 2 were pretty cool

atombomb1
atombomb1

Why are there swords mixed with modern guns? One guy had a chain gun in the pics....j/w thanks

mutanthippo
mutanthippo

Any former diablo 2 players? im excited for the return of the piercing guided arrows =D. looks like a cool game overall.

jackyroberts
jackyroberts

I have to agree with you Donk3ysm3ll alot of games these days do call themselves RPG's and it's getting me worried aliitle bit. But non-the-case this games looks good and i'm pretty sure i'm going to get it

Gwarpup
Gwarpup

To the guy who said its great to hear great metal in a wargame like the KUF series for a change. Check out a sertain Machinima Ful Length fantasy movie called BloodSpell all done to PUNK and Rock music that is just fantastic. The entire feel of the film is unique, and it uses the Neverwinter Nights game engine to make the entire film with more special effects created themselves and camera techniques than you'd ever imagine in such a game engine. Quite cool stuff.

Donk3ySm3ll
Donk3ySm3ll

It seems that any game can call itself an RPG these days?? This game looks like great fun and it's absolutely on my must play list. But it's clearly not an RPG.

darkagent7
darkagent7

the step from rts to rpg is a big step. Fans Will be supruised of of this game... hopefully. but they should keep the rts formula.

koffer87
koffer87

Actually lookes pretty fun:P

SkankForCrack
SkankForCrack

Sigh, Still no release date? Quit the teasing, if anything this will be better then N3 and I really liked N3. Online co-op. Mmm.

sniper2k0
sniper2k0

I enjoyed both KUF games on the Xbox. Hopefully this would be even better...

LibertySaint
LibertySaint

i kind want more rpg...i don't want another baluder gates game on consoles..u know what i'm saying right? ...

Pyrosa
Pyrosa

Two more comments: Re: Release Date? This never means much, but one of the major online game retailers shows an updated "placeholder" date of "01/01/2008". Personally, I'm more than happy to wait a bit longer if they release a well-tested, stable, balanced game. -More on inventory: (aimed at pretty much any RPG developer, but especially Blue Side on this 1st attempt)... Unless you're going stat-heavy, like (the EXCELLENT) Oblivion, avoid using "weight" as a factor. More importantly, *NEVER, EVER* use that "physical/graphical space" crap that started (iirc) with the Diablo games. BioShock had some innovative ideas on ultra-minimization of inventory, but perhaps it was TOO minimalist... Again, Two Worlds is a perfect example of AWFUL inventory mgmt (weight AND space?!?), whereas Oblivion is "about as good as it gets" with its sort-able, auto-stacking, endless list system. Bioshock only shows particular item counts when those items are relevant -- it's VERY convenient -- but perhaps the addition of a "view inventory" tab in the screens would have made it ideal for those who like the detail. Lastly, avoid too many button presses when picking things up (chests/crates?) or manipulating menus... Save those button hits for the action/combos! [BTW, GameSpot had "Inventory Management" on a hilarious and well-written "Top ten things we hate" list last year... It might still exist in the Feature articles section.]

Pyrosa
Pyrosa

While I'm still a bit disappointed in the lack of strategic army command (let alone the amazingly in-depth army leveling, equipment,etc.) from the previous excellent Xbox titles, I'm hoping that they bring that same kind of customization depth to this Action RPG version. Let's hope that they keep a sort of rock-paper-scissors weapon/resistance system (instead of army types/counters), but with plenty of balance testing and NO HASSLE in the multi-weapon system. (4 equipped options = good; how about an add'l shift-LB or RB for another 4? Players don't want to be in the inventory system all day... See Two Worlds for *awful* inventory, fwiw...) Let's also hope that the mentioned side quests/kills aren't too tedious -- the Dynasty/Samurai Warriors titles always seem to suffer from such repetition, but the KUF games' strategic elements kept players on their toes. Nearly forgot: They better keep the ass-kicking metal soundtrack!!! It was refreshing to have ass-kickery-inspiring metal, as opposed to the stereotypical, sweeping, pseudo-classical from most fantasy ARPGs. Optimistic on this one...

termadoyle
termadoyle

I hope it's more action and less boring RPG.

JTH_22
JTH_22

Hype wise this game has kind of gotten lost in the shuffle. This preview plus watching the gameplay demo video from XBL really has my interest peaked for this one.

ironcreed
ironcreed

Sounds like it is going to have a fairly long single player as well, as a proper RPG should. I am also glad that it is going to have alot more depth and availible options than I was previously thinking it would have. Definitely in my top list of must haves.

FiddleStick
FiddleStick

so awesome. i cant wait to play this game. keep bringin on the RPGs people. the more action RPGs the better i say.

1PSman
1PSman

Yes it will Icekxg.

Icekxg
Icekxg

Loved the KUF series, and can't wait for this game. Kinda wish there were a same-system multiplayer option though. Also, it would be nice to know a release date, hope this doesn't come out around November or it's going to get crushed under the wave of AAA titles coming out.

great_rulo
great_rulo

after halo this will be the best game of the year!!

ironcreed
ironcreed

Even more excited for this game than I already was. Now, when in the hell are they going to announce a release date for crying out loud? Is it still coming out this fall or will it be pushed to next year, which is what I am betting?