I’d never really heard of the Kingdom Wars series previous to playing this. Having spent a fair bit of time with it, I’m happy to say that, despite a few flaws, this is a pretty enjoyable game, with a decent story, some OK voice acting and graphics that, while not spectacular, look pretty good, even on lower settings.
Kingdom Wars 2: Battles is set in a fantasy world in which Orcs, Men and Elves have been at war for a very long time. This game is set about 35 years after the first one, and the idea is that they have been fighting one another pretty much non stop the whole time. The campaign opens up by explaining that a Human city is under siege by some of the last Orcs left in the world, following the destruction of their home town by the Elves. There’s a fair bit of history to the war, and while it may seem overwhelming at first, the game does a good job of summarising what’s come before. The campaign seems to involve a fair bit of switching around your races, with just the first level being composed of a human section followed by an Orc section. These aren’t optional, it’s just how the game seems to prefer to A) teach you the basics and B) structure the story and show it from a different point of view.
The game seems very focused on Multiplayer and on the community. Even on the Main menu, there’s a ton of options, and most of those are aimed at some form of interaction with your fellow players. There’s the option to trade rewards with one another, form or join guilds and do all the other guild-y things that you can imagine, and there’s a chat forum. All of this really shows that the game was probably designed with the idea of team battles and similar things taking place. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I was left with the impression that they could have done more with the single player experience if they had just devoted a bit more time to it.
The Multiplayer itself worked pretty well. I never really had to wait too long to get matched up, and there weren’t any real server issues. This was a welcome surprise, as I half expected that there would be serious lag, but I was happy to be wrong. The online probably is where this game comes alive, as the obvious difference in thought and skill between a person and the AI means that the game becomes a really tense experience, and it can result in some really good battles, if your lucky enough to find a player who’s at a similar skill level to you
Not that the single player is bad. Aside from the campaign, there’s also the option to take part in skirmishes, in which you can pick your race, which is nice. Each different race has a specialisation, although it’s nothing particularly ground breaking. Generally speaking, Orcs seem to be good for swarming your enemies with tons of troops, while Humans seem to be a bit more focused on using armor to tough it out. I didn’t play much as the elves, but they seemed to be pretty much the bog standard stereotypical Elf race.
One problem I found is that some of the controls are a little bit finicky. The move order button is the right mouse button. However, if you hold down the right mouse button, it allows you to move the camera around. The game seemed to have a bit of a problem with knowing which one I wanted, frequently messing with the camera because I tapped the mouse button for a second too long. This made some of the sections where you have to react really quickly a lot more difficult and stressful than they needed to be. However, as a rule, this didn’t do much more than just annoy me in the moment.
The game also features some nice artwork. The loading screens are filled with images of battle, and they look really good, and fit with the rest of the game nicely. It would have been nice if they had a few more, however, as I distinctly remember seeing the same 1 or 2 pop up over and over and over again.
Another thing I found quite strange was the inclusion of zombies, or as the game calls them, the “Risen”. These started popping up fairly early in the game. While I’m all for zombies in pretty much anything, it seemed a bit of a strange choice, although it did do a nice job of ticking the “something a little different” box. During the day, these “Risen” aren’t too much of a threat, milling around aimlessly and not really doing anything unless you happen to walk your troops straight in front of them. However, at night, and in decent numbers, they can become a serious issue and can require some careful ‘management’ of the local undead population. This helps to add a new layer to the overarching strategy of the game, which as best as I can tell, seems to be “wait it out, then hit back, then wait it out some more”, as if you wait for too long, you may find yourself being attacked by two different kinds of enemies. The “risen” also behave a little bit more randomly, which means that once you know that they are on the map, you should start planning how to get rid of them before they become too big a threat.
I really enjoyed my time with Kingdom Wars 2. It might not be up to the standards of some of the RTS classics like Starcraft or Age of Empires, but there’s a surprisingly decent, intuitive and challenging game hidden away there. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it’s going to be a cult classic, but this is a game that I would highly recommend, especially at the price of £20 on Steam. If you can have just a little bit of patience with the slightly dodgy controls, and aren’t expecting to be completely blown away, there’s a lot of fun, and a ton of replayability hidden away in this game.
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