Developer(s) – Blueside
Publisher(s) – Microsoft Game Studios
PEGI – 16
The latest release in the Kingdom Under Fire series, pending the release of Kingdom Under Fire II, announced at the Tokyo Game Show, Circle of Doom follows the less familiar hack and slash formula of the series, as opposed to the more familiar gameplay aspects that the series is known for, which is real-time strategy. It received mixed reviews from critics following it’s release, and after having played it for some time, It’s pain to see why.
Graphics – 7/10
One good thing I can say about the game, however, is that it does have some fairly attractive graphics, both technically and conceptually. It actually does a decent job of displaying early on what kind of visuals the Xbox 360 was capable of running. There’s also diversity in level design, from stages ranging to vibrant forests to gloomy canyons to hellish caves. Enemy design, however, are very generic, with same kinds of enemies appearing in multiple stages of the game, but simply palette-swapped.
Gameplay – 3.5/10
The game’s play revolves simply around hacking and slashing from point A to point B with a boss at the end of each stage of the game. Though Hyrule Warriors is fairly bad for repetition, the degree that this game takes it in is unfathomable from very early on. There is some basis in variety, as there are multiple playable characters to go through the story as, who all have their own sets of abilities, but in all honesty, that’s as far as variety goes. The second biggest focus in the game, I found, was learning all these different kinds of abilities. To learn an ability, the player must kill a pre-designated amount of specific types of enemies. When this is achieved, the player can then enter safe sanctuaries, which are scattered all throughout the game, to collect a new ability and then begin to learn a new one. Annoyingly, only two abilities can be learnt at a time, adding a little bit of unnecessarily longevity to the game.
Controls – 8/10
Although there is nothing wrong with how the control scheme is mapped out, I found that movement could be particularly stiff. In a game whereby movement plays a pretty pivotal role during combat, this can cause a few unnecessary complications while playing, and the last thing anyone needs whilst playing a hack and slash game, or indeed any other type of game, is an element of unfairness hindering the game’s sense of challenge. Apart from that, however, I found that there were thankfully no issues that needed to be addressed.
Lifespan – 8.5/10
For those who are willing to soldier through the sheer level of repetition attached to this title, this game can actually be made to last particularly long for a hack and slash game. If players desire to reach 100%, learn every character’s every ability and reach the level cap with every character, it will most probably take around 45 to 50 hours. But how long the game lasts ultimately depends on player’s reaction to the gameplay. If players are much more lukewarm to the style of the game than I was, then they will be playing for a long time.
Storyline – 4/10
There isn’t very much in the way of story of Circle of Doom, but rather a mere basic premise and back-story. Nibel, the lord of light, and Encablossa, the lord of darkness, made a pact, stating that each would take turns ruling the world. However, weary of the mistreatment of his creatures, Nibel refuses to relinquish his rule to Encablossa, infuriating him. Encablossa in response, gathers his army to attack and the word, and it is now the quest of the payable characters to defeat Encablossa and his army. Beyond that, the story is elaborated on a whole lot, and it certainly could have done with being explained a lot more in depth than what it was. Though of course it works better for fans of the series, I don’t think it works at all for players who started the series with it, and will inevitably think much less of it as they may have done if they started from the beginning. The character who I think makes for the most interesting plot threads is Regnier. As his campaign unfolds, a dark back-story is slowly revealed, and that does add a nice shock factor to the game. But apart from that, I don’t think the story was expanded on as much as it should have been to properly introduce newcomers to the series.
Originality – 4/10
Though the developers tried something new with the two hack and slash games in the Kingdom Under Fire series, it didn’t work, since they didn’t really add anything to it to differentiate it from the many other games that have been developed under the same genre. I think there are many things the developers could have done to try and remedy that problem, such as make the story more interesting, or take a lot of the repetition out of the game and add much more variety to it. But ultimately, it just feels like a very generic hack and slash title.
In summation, Kingdom Under Fire: Circle of Doom is definitely one of the most unimaginative and repetitious games ever developed for the Xbox 360. Though not one of the worst games I’ve ever played, and that it can actually offer quite a few hours of play to those willing to overlook how repetitive it is, it does feel like the game really needed an extra push, and the developers just didn’t try.