Last week I had the opportunity to get some hands-on time with Kingdom Under Fire 2, an ambitious MMORTS. There’ve been a few attempts to meld the MMO and RTS genres over the years, but it’s proven a hard nut to crack due to the considerable differences in the two genres. From what I saw last week it looks like KUF2 might have been able to combine both into an exciting and compelling gameplay experience.
KUF2 starts with a reasonably typical MMORPG experience. After I created my character and picked my class, I was met with a story where I was fighting with an army to stop an invading force. A heroic leader is killed, but another general arrives and helps us win the day. Then it’s off to talk to people and help villagers to learn more about the various systems in the game. The early story and tutorial sections are well done and fulfill its role well. However, things didn’t seem to pick-up until after moving out of the tutorial section, which is expected.
The combat style with the Hero character follows an action RPG style, and it reminded me a bit of how the Blade & Soul combat works. Every ability can be augmented by other skills to create different chains and combos. I found it easy to pick-up on these combos naturally just by trial and error, and not assuming I was animation locked during any ability. However, there is also a useful menu that listed out the different combos which is helpful for people who learn better that way. Or to remind players later in the game.
I played the Ranger, Berserker, and Elementalist classes during my playtime, and one thing I noticed was the combos were the same across the classes. This is good with respect to playing alts or changing characters because your muscle memory from one character would carry over to the new one. However, this does reduce the complexity of play somewhat which may deter some of the more hardcore players. It’s possible more skill combos open up further into the game, but I haven’t had a chance to see if that’s the case yet.
After playing for about an hour and a half, I was reading all the text and taking my time the first time; I made it to where the RTS aspect is introduced. The mission tutorial for this was extremely helpful and was a highlight of the demo for me. There are two views players can switch between with one button press. The first view is the traditional third-person MMO view, where players control their hero. The other is the RTS view where the hero goes on auto-attack if already in combat, and I could issue commands to my troops. Switching between each mode was seamless, and the two modes seemed to complement each other well.
Although controlling the troops and switching between modes is easy to understand, the melding of these two modes is where the real complexity of KUF2 comes in. The tutorial ran me through the essential use of the default troops, but even with the limited options there I could see there’s some real potential for actual strategy and coordination between different players. Not just in how you use the troops in addition to your hero, but also which forces you bring with you to an instance. The multiplayer instances have some real potential to be an absolute blast while challenging players, and this is what I am looking forward to the most going into launch.
In addition to having a chance to check out the early gameplay, I also took some time to look at the cash shop as well. I’m always nervous about the cash shops in games because how they are done can sour a game. There are some boosts that help with leveling or help your hero to be stronger, but all of those can only be bought with the in-game currency. The cash shop on the other hand only has cosmetic effects for sale. Think armor/weapon skins or different skins for mounts. There also did not appear to be any lootboxes, which was a pleasant surprise.
Honestly, the only real issue I have with KUF2 so far is the hero classes are all gender locked. A Berserker can only be male, and a Ranger can only be female for example. This doesn’t break the whole game for me; I just prefer to play characters that match my gender in MMOs. I’m also aware this can be a massive issue for some people and would prevent them from playing in the first place. Also, a lot of the female armor can be…quite revealing.
Overall, I am very much looking forward to the launch of Kingdom Under Fire 2 on November 14th, and I can’t wait to delve deeper into all the systems. Plus, actually getting to participate in some of the larger-scale battles and try out more of the different troop types. This is one MMO that seems to be carving its own unique path, and I can’t wait to see how it all turns out.