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Kingdom Under Fire: The Crusaders PC Review - A Bad Port of a Good Game

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FireShot Capture 4453 - Kingdom Under Fire_ The Crusaders PC _ - https___screenrant.com_kingdom-.jpg

Kingdom Under Fire: The Crusaders is the second game in the Kingdom Under Fire series, an obscure set of strategy RPGs from the early 2000s. The Crusaders in particular released for the original Xbox console in 2004. The franchise is most notable for the release of Kingdom Under Fire II in 2019, after a stunning 11-year development period. Now, developer Blueside has released a PC port for The Crusaders in the hopes of introducing a new generation of players to their tactical adventure.

Kingdom Under Fire: The Crusaders is a real-time strategy game with elements of third-person hack and slash action. It puts the player in charge of several battalions of troops, one of which is led by their main character. Most of the game sees the player controlling the action from afar, directing each of their troops and issuing special commands with the help of an interactive minimap. When armies meet, though, the player is given direct control of the protagonist, who can cut and chop their way through the enemy troops with satisfying efficacy.

The game is not simple. The intricacies of the tactical gameplay are quite dense and difficult to master. Fortunately, the learning curve is decently generous. The first few missions are pretty easy, and in-depth training missions are offered between missions. The trade-off for these difficult systems is an accurate and satisfying recreation of taking part in a large-scale medieval battle, with soaring arrows and clashing steel. It can be frustrating positioning all your troops where you want them, and the timing of certain special moves can be difficult and annoying to get a feel for, but when two armies meet, things get very exciting, very fast. These brutal, thrilling battles are underscored by a heavy metal soundtrack that feels very out of place at first but is good at getting the blood pumping when the hammer falls. The sound mixing can get a bit overbearing though; simply put, the game is very loud. Audio controls in the pause menu can allay this somewhat, but it's worth noting. Word to the wise and the noise-sensitive: brace yourself when your archers start firing.

FireShot Capture 4454 - Kingdom Under Fire_ The Crusaders PC _ - https___screenrant.com_kingdom-.jpg

Almost all of the problems players will experience with this port of Kingdom Under Fire: The Crusaders come from its very nature as a port. The graphics look exactly like they did in 2004, which is to say, they don't look great. The visuals don't stand in the way of the gameplay, of course, but the controls do. It is painfully obvious that this game was not designed to play on PC. Every in-game tutorial offers Xbox controls. You're given an overlay with PC controls that you can refer to at the push of a button, but it doesn't pause the game, which can be quite terrifying when in the thick of a battle and need to remember a crucial control. Worse, in a game this dense, the overlay can't cover absolutely everything.

More intuitive controls, like overworld map navigation, have been excluded, which would be fine if the port didn't suffer from its fair share of bugs. When something stops working the player would be forgiven for assuming that they just don't know the proper controls for it, especially if the overlay fails to tell them. Since the Xbox controls are mentioned in voiced lines, it might be a bit too much to expect the PC controls to be worked into the base game, but a more comprehensive system of learning them is absolutely invaluable, especially in a game as complex as this one.

FireShot Capture 4455 - Kingdom Under Fire_ The Crusaders PC _ - https___screenrant.com_kingdom-.jpg

Even when the controls do work, they're not always the best. To be perfectly frank, the camera controls are bad. When you're not in combat the camera has a nasty habit of doing whatever it wants, be it zooming in on two or three random soldiers when you're trying to take in the field as a whole or sticking your point of view behind a tree that you just can't seem to get away from. You can control the camera by holding the alt key and moving the mouse around, but it doesn't move in an intuitive way; it swivels around in odd patterns and it's hard to get it to focus on a point and stay there. This all but forces you to rely on the minimap, which isn't too much of a sin; it works fine, and there's no disobedient camera to worry about. You can expand and minimize it with the push of a button and direct your soldiers wherever you need them to go. It's a bit frustrating to be boxed in to the map like that, but it beats the alternative in almost every way.

If you're a fan of real-time strategy and classic medieval combat, Kingdom Under Fire: The Crusaders isn't a bad option. The graphics are wildly out of date and the fantasy is about as generic as it comes but these are minor issues compared to the fun tactical gameplay and the sheer tactile thrill of wading into a sea of combatants and going wild with your blade. What aren't minor issues are the shortcomings of the control scheme; the dysfunctional camera and counterintuitive controls are almost as big of an obstacle as the orc army you have to wipe out. There's a lot of fun to be had with this game, but it has more than enough frustration to go around too. It's up to you whether the risk is worth the reward.

Kingdom Under Fire: The Crusaders releases February 28, 2020 on PC.

FireShot Capture 4456 - Kingdom Under Fire_ The Crusaders PC _ - https___screenrant.com_kingdom-.jpg

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