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Doomed to the bargain bin

February 13, 2008

By Daniel Barron - G4 Canada

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It's rare for a game sequel to get things so wrong as in Kingdom Under Fire: Circle of Doom. Whereas previous entries in the series had you controlling several troops in a real-time strategy setting, 'CoD' has you controlling one character in a hack n' slash (and I use that term loosely) free-for-all, with some role-playing elements scattered here and there.

Kingdom Under Fire: Circle of DoomWe've seen all these RPG elements before, from upgrading personal stats such as strength and stamina, to earning new special magical powers, to personalizing weapon sets. Though they're fairly basic, these elements can work very well in a good game, ('Fable' being a perfect example). In 'CoD', though, these upgrades are just boring precursors to further mindless battles.

The action itself is so painfully repetitive and poorly executed, it feels like a chore getting from one section to the next. The environments are as linear as they come, too. Yes, you can ocassionally take different paths here and there, but you'll always end up at the same point and often will end up backtracking because everything looks the exact same. Not to mention the gawdawful map that requires a magnifying glass to see properly, even on a 32" LCD TV. There's no way of zooming in, either.

Back to the gameplay though, which most games live or die by. The main problem in 'CoD' is that besides a health meter, your character also has a Skill Points meter, which is for all intents and purposes a stamina meter. Run out of stamina, and you'll not only be unable to do special moves, but you won't even be able to swing a weapon or shoot an arrow, depending on the size of the weapon you're carrying. The majority of my battles consisted of a few swings at a group of enemies, then moving as fast as I could away from them while my SP meter slowly, painfully began to fill back up. Also keep in mind that your the larger characters move like a tank underwater. You can use potions to instantly regain SP, but again, two or three swings later and you'll be back to where you started, and you can only carry so many potions.

The developers at Blueside did admittedly do a good job with how the game looks. The environments are gorgeous, and though much of the game takes place in enclosed areas such as forests, the moments when you do get to gaze out on a giant canyon or glimpse the sun rising over the trees, it's a wonder to behold. Again, even this is ruined by clipping and increasingly awkward camera angles. Often I found myself hacking away at a large group of enemies, only to have the camera covered by the leaves on a tree. I was completely blind to the action going on onscreen and was forced to move just so I could see everything again.

Kingdom Under Fire: Circle of Doom.  Running in Circles.There is an escape from the tedium of the battles, and that is the ability to sleep at certain points in the game and enter a 'Dream World'. While here, you'll be able to walk freely and talk to 'dream dwellers'. These people will give you backstory, hints and the chance to upgrade powers. While the rest of the game is almost completely void of voice acting, this area is full of chatter, which is done very well. Again, there is one big complaint here, and that is that if you're in the middle of a lengthy conversation and just want to skip through and read at your own (usually much faster) pace, you can't. Hit any button, and the entire conversation gets skipped.

Boss fights are a little more interesting in Kingdom Under Fire: Circle of Doom. They're challenging, without being unfair, and they feature some large creatures that require a bit of thinking to take down. Again, it's a very welcome relief after going through screen after screen after screen of the same battles with the same creatures.

It was a noble effort by Blueside to try and change around the Kingdom Under Fire formula, but it seems the developer may have tried to hard to make things too different. Circle of Doom is simply too tedious and uninspired, even with available two player online co-op.


Kingdom Under Fire: Circle of Doom
Format: Xbox 360
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Developer: Blueside
ESRB Rating: M for Mature 17+
Official Site:

Rating: 4.0 / 10


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