Every single review or interview I did in Gamescom can be accurately prefaced with my complaining about the heat and how warm I was. Today instead I'll start with complaining that I was running late for my meeting with Blueside to see Kingdom Under Fire II.
Blueside was represented by SeJung Kim, CEO at Blueside Inc, Jessie Lee, their Manager of Business Development and finally Jong Kyoung Park who ran the demo.
Despite the fact that some of the screen details showed off the control methods for a Playstation, when Mr Park told it to sit down, shut up and work, it did. In a way I am glad it was a hands off session, he'd have wiped the floor with me without even trying.
So what is Kingdom Under Fire II? KUF2 (much easier) is a merging of the spirit of earlier Kingdom Under Fire titles with a new beautiful engine. In short, KUF2 is a cross between RTS, RPG and MMO. Playing out in front of me it looked like the sort of thing Peter Jackson dreams about when he considers battle scenes.
KUF2 runs on the in house created Blueside engine and it really really needs to. A PvE battle, just you against the computer, can run to up to 10,000 units going at it with extreme prejudice. I'm not sure the battle I watched played out at that scale but even so it was a huge affair that had all the fantasy warfare things you'd hope for. Cavalry rushed against troops who tried to form pike walls. Aerial bombers came in to lob artillery against on coming Orcs. Elven archer squares formed up and rained pointy death on anyone in range.
Then someone called down meteors to blow holes in the line...
Troops matter in KUF2. Troops can be levelled up separately from the Hero character. They come with their own abilities like calling down spells and they move in beautiful sweeping formations. The RTS component of KUF2 plays out wonderfully in that regard. Set someone to attack, set others to defend, order your units to sweep to a location and try to break the other side first. There is the normal convoluted RTS rock, paper, scissors determination going on. You don't sent calvary to die on spears when there's infantry or archers to crush.
In my opinion the MMORTS sub genre is still lacking in a proper RTS entry, though I am sure someone is going to point out ones that I have missed. While I didn't get my hands on the game itself, it walked like a duck, quacked like a duck, leading me to conclude it's a duck. There is plenty of pedigree in the Kingdom Under Fire games so I have no qualms with the RTS side. Naturally what is exciting is the addition of the heroes.
You can swap at any time between the eye in the sky RTS view and your hero down on the ground. The RTS view is of course good for strategic considerations, for working out where you need your troops to go or checking how things are going. When you need to break a siege or punch a hole, then you want your hero front and center. Mr Park was playing a Gunslinger who came equipped with a sword and two guns.
This I think is the siren call of the game and the thing that will also separate good players from bad. Hero view was just fun. We've all grown up on movies where a hero can turn the tide of battle. Legolas and Gimli dive into armies and come through bantering and comparing kill counts. KUF2 invites you to do that, to leap into an enemy troop with guns blazing or magic blasting. Get caught up in the spectacle of you winning the battle however and it may cost you the war. Heroes are strong and flashy but if they really could take on thousands by themselves, there'd be no need to even bring an army with them.
The switch between the modes was smooth. Need some more support? Pop out to the RTS view and bring in reinforcements. Has your hero punched a hole you can take advantage of? Send in the troops. Or alternatively play the RTS game and bring out your hero when you really need to turn a tide. Blueside really have themselves a title that appeals to that movie feeling where you can be both the hero out in front and the brilliant General somewhere behind the lines.
There will be both PvE and PvP content in Kingdom Under Fire 2. PvE consists of Missions which will play out the story behind the game and have escalating battles, Raids which...are raids... and Invasions which come across as a sort of Last Man Standing slog to the end against progressively tougher and more numerous foes. There's also the Field Map which acts as the MMO overworld for players to meet up and get around on.
PvP has a few different options. You can go right for Hero Combat and pit your hero against others. Troop Strategy, which sounds like classic RTS multiplayer, is an alternative if one on one isn't your style. Finally there is Guild battling as well as the Faction war between the three different player factions in the world.
Guild Wars and alliances did come up in the conversation. Guilds will have a cap of how many players they can have. No one Guild is going to end up running the world and squeezing out competition, not unless they have the members and mettle to form their own alliance.
Of course now the question is when do we get it? Kingdom Under Fire 2 will start service this year in the East. It is slated to come to Playstation 4 and PC as well as eventually making its way West. Blueside have their reasons for the different launches as they want to put some added work into the game to appeal to Western audiences who admittedly do seem to prefer more "realistic" fantasy versus the flashy abandon of some Eastern fantasy outings.
Ultimately it was a thoroughly enjoyable presentation and if you're reading this Blueside, I apologise for turning up late and sweaty. Also if I appeared to not be listening at times, there was a guy spinning around and shooting Orcs in the face while aerial bombers strafed the area. It was ... distracting... and I liked it.