Kingdom Under Fire 2 is a new and exciting MMO which tries to meld the RPG and RTS genres together. Although this melding isn’t without a few issues, overall, the combined package is a fun and entertaining game. Hopefully, it can find a sustainable balance to be around for a while.
The first stop in any MMO is character creation, and although it’s fleeting in comparison with time spent playing all of the other content, it sets the tone. The character creation system in KUF2 strikes a perfect balance between having enough options I felt like I could create my unique character, without having so many options I felt overwhelmed. I particularly like the wide variety of default settings, which helped me to have a solid jumping-off point for tweaking everything. Of course, I’m not the type to spend hours creating a character either, so other players might find they wish there were more options.
One aspect of character creation, which I have mentioned previously, is all the classes are gender locked. For some players, this is no big deal, but for me, it was quite disappointing. In single-player games, I am not overly fussed about playing female or male characters. Even if I am playing as a self-insert, I’m good either way. However, in MMOs, I do not like playing male characters as it feels like I'm being dishonest about who I am in some way. This is entirely my issue, but there are many players who, for whatever reason, wouldn’t want to play a gender different than the one allowed for the class they want to pick. People who prefer to play male characters also have the short end on this since only two out of the current five classes are for male characters.
I mostly played as a Ranger because I liked the ranged/melee options in that class. Also, the combat style felt quick, and I tend to prefer fast abilities and a lot of jumping around. Another interesting aspect, which reduces complexity a bit but made switching characters easier, is the fact most of the combos are the same across classes. The effect the combos creates is different, but the button combinations are the same. This is also a good thing because as I got into the higher levels, I realized there were a ton of different potential combos to use. If every class had unique combos, it’d make switching characters a real pain.
The majority of the 1 – 10 leveling experience is running around in the seemingly open world. There are boundaries, of course, but I had to go looking for them. On the upside, this makes the transition from other MMORPGs feel a bit smoother than it might be otherwise. However, players who are mostly interested in the RTS aspects might be put off a bit by this. In fact, there are only two missions in the early game where the player gets to command troops. Until level 10, most of my time was indistinguishable from playing other action MMORPGs.
Overall, questing was the pretty standard fare. Go over there, talk to that guy, gather these things, kill things, etc. There were a couple of aspects of the questing system which annoyed the heck out of me, though. The first is when I would be talking to one NPC, and I’d finish the quest, and they’d have another quest for me to keep talking to them. As I got further into the game, this happened less, but it still regularly happened throughout the game. Another thing that happened fairly regularly throughout the game was getting a quest to talk to someone who was standing right next to the person who gave me the quest. That annoyed me mostly because it felt incredibly pointless and made me wonder why the whole thing wasn’t a conversation in-game. Especially when I had to go from person A to person B, and back again.
Also, mob respawns were crazy. Most of the time, when I would kill something, it would instantly respawn. This made quests where I had to kill a certain number of a thing super easy, but it also made leaving once I finished the quest annoying as well. Additionally, the aggro range on some mobs seemed to be all over the place. There were times when I’d be standing on a mob and it’d ignore me, and others where they would run across the area to get to me. This specifically happened with some wolves. I was standing next to a wolf who just ignored me completely. Then one ran over from the far side of the field and attacked me. Neither of these things was a real problem though; they were just odd.
The option to join a guild doesn’t open up until you’ve reached Accolade, which for me was at level 10. The reason for making players wait until level 10 to join a guild is because it’s at that point, I had to make the choice between the two opposing factions: The Protection Alliance and The Revolution Coalition. In general, I like the idea of waiting on both choosing an Alliance and joining a guild, but although we meet members of the Protection Alliance early on, there didn’t seem to be anyone from the Revolution Alliance around before I got to the part where I had to choose. I would have preferred to have some time with each alliance and gotten to know them more than in just one conversation before being told to choose.
On the upside, though, picking an alliance is not a permanent choice. Anytime I was in Accolade and not in a guild; I could talk to Jade to change my faction. There are two caveats to this. If there is an imbalance in the number of people in one alliance vs. the other, there will be no option to pick the more popular alliance. While this can potentially be frustrating, this does help prevent one alliance from being too strong for too long. It also costs a camp change ticket to change your alliance, which can be bought in the diamond shop. Not sure how many Diamonds they are, though, because every time I opened the diamond shop only the cosmetic items would load up. So, although the choice is not permanent, it mostly was for me because I wasn’t able to access that part of the shop.
As I mentioned previously, after reaching Accolade, the focus of KUF2 shifts towards the RTS aspects more than the standard MMORPG experience. The positive of this shift is the RTS aspects stopped feeling like they were an extra thing added in and felt more integral to how KUF2 works. The downside for me was the game also suddenly felt smaller. Despite the world map opening up and having an airship to travel around in, only having one area, which wasn’t a city or an instanced mission, made me feel like I had less to explore.
One of my favorite aspects of MMOs is wandering and exploring, but in missions well, there’s some objective to accomplish, which makes it feel like walking around is not a good option. Especially considering how long it takes to finish a mission does factor into the score at the end, which determines the quality of reward. For anyone more interested in progressing through the story and just doing the missions, this shift won’t bother you because although it can feel like the world shrunk, it didn’t. There’s still a ton of things to do and new areas did open up, I just missed my typical MMO experience a bit.
Though I started the game with only one troop, I acquired more reasonably regularly as I worked my way through the storyline. Switching between controlling the forces directly and controlling my character directly was seamless, and I encountered no real issues other than I occasionally would forget to tell my troops to do something new after they completed one task. Most of the time, when doing missions on normal, I was able to stay in hero mode and have them be on the offensive. This method did get more difficult as I moved through the game, though, and there were a few missions where I had to control the troops directly. Although I learned the hard way, it’s also essential to make sure my character wasn’t standing in AoE or anything while I was busy directing the troops. It seems obvious, but it’s easy to get wrapped up in leading the troops and forgetting about your character.
There are two methods of progressing the troops, gaining experience to level them up, similar to how the hero character progresses and ranking the troops up. Troops earn experience by being used in missions, but there’s also a general pool of experience that can be used on any troop I own. This allows the flexibility to level up troops even if they aren’t the currently strongest ones owned and are thus used less. Increasing a Troop’s rank opens up the ability for them to have more skills and will also allow the equipping of gear for them. To rank them up, I can to collect specific types of visionstones and pay a gold cost. The cost in gold was nominal, but the visionstones were a bit slow to come by. On the upside when the choice of the type of visionstone was offered in-game, the tooltips let you know if the visionstone was for a troop I owned.
Of course, when a troop ranks up, they can only use skills that have been unlocked. The primary way I seemed to get these skills was through random troop skillbooks. These books are genuinely random and will open skills for troops regardless of if they were owned or not. This got a bit frustrating when I got multiple skills for troops I didn’t have yet. However, when I did obtain those troops at least, they would have more skills unlocked. It’s an ok system, but I’d prefer to be able to pick what skills my troops learn more directly. Ranking them up should be enough, why introduce this bit of RNG? Sure it’s fun when you get things for something you have, but most of the time, it was just a letdown.
When it comes to buy to play games, inventory space is often squeezed to encourage players to pay some money for more space. However, the inventory space given from the beginning is quite substantial at 16 slots. Of course, that might not sound like a lot but in addition to those slots, there’s also a tab for visionstones and another for quest items. With those two item types having their separate areas, it keeps the inventory much cleaner than in most other MMOs. My one real complaint is every time I got an item that added to a stack I already had; it was marked as a new item. I don’t like seeing the indication of a new item, so I always had to open the inventory and mouse over everything to clear out the notification.
The Party Bulletin is the looking for group tool in KUF2, and it works reasonably well. It’s not an automatic system; you have to list your groups manually and go into the tool to find groups to join. On the info screen for each mission, there is a button to queue group, which works ok. My main issue queuing for things was while I was still leveling, I’d have max level players join my group and want to do the mission on hard. This was a bit frustrating for me because since I was still doing everything for the first time, I didn’t want to rush through things, and I didn’t know if I would be able to do hard mode at all. As a result, I ended up doing the group missions alone, which is doable… but some of them were pretty hard on my own. I’d like for there to be an option to only group with other people leveling. This way players could choose their experience rather than hoping to find someone looking for the same type of experience.
One of the better aspects of KUF2 is the fact mounts are unlocked at level 4, which is early for a lot of games. The method of acquisition is a simple quest chain as part of the main story, so it isn’t something that can be missed. While the horse is relatively plain, no fancy armor or anything, it’s a great way to move around quickly and bypass things I didn’t want to fight through. Also, thankfully, I was able to talk to NPCs while mounted which is a huge QoL thing for me. Although, when I tried to ride my mount into the pub, I was greeted with the message, “You can’t ride it at the moment,” which cause me to giggle a bit.
Another positive of the mounts system is out of the 24 mounts listed in the mount menu 20 of them are obtained in-game and not through the cash shop. Even more importantly, none of those four mounts on the cash shop Have any speed or stat boost over the mounts earned from playing. They are just a bit more on the flashy side of things. There are also a few alternate versions of mounts earned in-game with some cool armor as well, which isn’t to say it is required to buy a mount from the shop to get one with armor. Specific mounts are only available with armor in the shop.
KUF2 has three types of currency: Gold, Cubic, and Diamond. Gold and Cubic are currencies that are earned in-game through playing the game. Diamond is the premium for cash currency. Gold is generally used for increasing the rank of troops, opening up storage in-game, repairing gear at the vendors, etc. For the most part, gold seemed very plentiful and I didn’t have much of an issue with running out, but as I invested into increasing the rank of more and more troops, I did start to go through the gold rather quickly.
The Cubic shop is where more power and convenience related things can be bought. For example, the first eight extra slots in the inventory cost 50 Cubic, the next eight costs 100 Cubic, and so on. As I mentioned earlier, I did start with 16 slots plus the visionstone and quest items tabs from the beginning, so I never really felt restrained by the inventory size, but your mileage might vary. Another thing which can be bought on the Cubic store are visionstones, which since these are used for increasing the rank of troops do directly increase your power level in missions. Having boosts like this available on the Cubic shop is mostly ok though, because, for the most part, they can only be earned by playing the game.
The reason this is only mostly ok is when you by KUF2, you also get an extra amount of Cubic as well. The breakdown works like this: Hero Package 1,000 Cubic; Emperor Package 2,500 Cubic; and War God Package 5,000 Cubic. The fact you get Cubic with purchase of the game does muddy the waters on not being able to buy power a bit. However, everyone who buys the game does get the Cubic bonus, and it’s a one-time bonus. So, players are a bit limited on how many boosts they can get. I wish they had left off the Cubic bonus for buying the game or had at least made that part equal across all packages.
The last part of the economy of KUF2 is the Diamond shop, which is, of course, the cash shop. Gameforge has said they will not sell power in the Diamond shop at all, and so far, this has held true. All that is currently for sale on there are mounts and armor sets (not gear with stats just skins). Additionally, the price points for these are really good. A five-piece set of gear will cost about $6 and a Mount costs $10. Considering many MMOs charge $25 for a mount, this is an excellent price. If they keep going in this direction with the Diamond shop, it’ll be really solid for the long-term.
Kingdom Under Fire 2 has gotten off to a solid start, and I honestly had a ton of fun playing. Unfortunately, for me, the gender locked classes are a pretty big deal, and having issues with finding groups to do things can be frustrating. One problem is currently it’s easy to knock out the dailies, which is nice because we aren’t endlessly grinding our faces on, but once people get their dailies done, the server can feel a bit like a ghost town. They do have a December patch planned and new content is on the way, so hopefully, they’ll be able to reach a good state of equilibrium.