Price: $59.99
Platform(s): Xbox 360
Developer: Blue Side
Publisher: Microsoft
ESRB: Mature
Website: Circle of Doom

Let’s get it out of the way, I’ve barely played any of the Kingdom Under Fire games. But I have played enough to know that the latest title, KUF: Circle of Doom, has forsaken the RPG elements of past entries to focus on a Dynasty Warriors style hack-n-slash game. My feeling on this genre is documented, and I was really hoping that Circle of Doom could swing me around. After all, some friends have indicated that this game “is not that bad.”

Circle of Doom starts off problematic as the player chooses one of six generic fantasy characters. It is admittedly nice that when you playthrough again with a new character the experience is different enough to make it worthwhile. That is if you can stomach a second go-round. Once the game opens up you prepare to take on the hordes, but instead come up against minor armies. The game features sub-par button mashing mechanics, which feel clunky and slow. And this includes the character that is supposed to be your ninja speed guy (kind of like Ryu Hyabusa if he was unable to perform a single combo of worth).

To be fair, all of the role-playing elements haven’t been removed. Instead they’ve been diminished and turned into something inexplicable. If anyone can figure out how the alchemy system is of any worth, I’d appreciate knowing. The only thing even more incomprehensible is the story line, which I am maddened by. What in the bloody hell is going on in the dream world (or whatever it was supposed to be) that is relevant to my beheading enemies? It makes no sense. And if you’re going to include a story, even an innocuous one, into a video game then it better make sense. Otherwise it’s an unnecessary distraction.

All of this would be of only minor note if the gameplay shined. Sure, I’d nitpick and point out the myriad flaws. But how grand a true demon splitting experience Circle of Doom could have been. Instead you fight small packs of demons. And if you’re lucky to enter a grand battle there’s a good chance the camera will work against you…or you’ll become so bored with the repetitive fight mechanic that you’ll start counting ceiling tiles.

Look, I admit that these button mashers are not my favorite entertainment. And Kingdom Under Fire: Circle of Doom is a fine looking game with a rousing soundtrack. Actually, the soundtrack was often the only thing that kept me going with all of that inspirational battle music. If you’re a fan of Dynasty Warriors, or games like it, this is worth a rental. If not, then just stay far away.

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