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I Paid $64.12 For This?

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With so many epic video game titles making their debut last year, 2008 has some pretty big shoes to fill. Several titles released in 2007 undoubtedly rank the highest among several industry top 10 lists; Bioshock, Call of Duty 4, and Mass Effect to name a few. These games have proven and will continue to prove that they will be quite difficult to surpass in quality. Such competition is exactly what makes the gaming industry as successful as it is; publishers pushing hardware technology to the limit to optimize the consumer experience.

There is a certain standard that gamers expect when it comes to quality; everything from seamless graphics to logical gameplay functionality all play a role in the success of a title. The incentive to achieve superiority throughout these facets of gaming (among several others) is simply a universal expectation among the community. So when it comes to shelling out close to $65.00 on a video game, that title better be as great if not greater than the standard-setting titles that precede it.

“Kingdom Under Fire; Circle of Doom” is the third installment of the KUF series published by Blue Side. What was typically understood as a strategy-based series with RPG elements, the fellows over at Blue Side switched up the style of the game, transforming the franchise into what can only be described as a whirlwind of button-smashing combat and convoluted item management.

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The first sign this game had issues unfortunately emerged at the very beginning. You know something is terribly wrong when the prologue to the story is a slow-scrolling text, reminiscent of the now antiquated Super Nintendo. By now it is understood that the latest generation of consoles (Xbox 360 and Playstation 3) can handle impeccable CG capabilities, so a text-based introduction is simply unacceptable.

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After choosing from a selection of five warriors to play as, we enter the Forest of Enchantment only to realize that this isn’t a game tuned for exploration. We’re walking on rails, meaning that we have to follow a pathway to progress, as opposed to traversing through an environment discovering everything the game has to offer. This dreadfully linear mode of gaming is only worsened by the redundancy of combat. Starting off with two weapons and one ability, leveling up your character is simply a matter of smashing buttons and accruing items. The catch is that you can’t store everything you pick up, so you have hack and slash away until you reach one of the three Idols. It is only at these randomly placed Idols that you can store items and save your game. But perhaps the biggest non sequitur of the game is the Idol’s weapon-synthesis function, where you can combine abilities and weapons to maximize their effectiveness. What could finally be perceived as an entertaining aspect of the game is only stifled by the “luck” factor. Similar to allocating your level up points to experience and skill, points may be directed towards how lucky you are when it comes to successfully synthesizing a weapon. This arbitrary aspect of the game only contributes further to an already tedious story.

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While the graphics and sound are aesthetically promising aspects of the game, the series is further marred by long loading time, poor frame-rate speed, and an overall sense of monotony. While some hardcore RPG fans may find the game entertaining, we suggest putting your money elsewhere this year. We like to think that technology and gaming are a fundamental aspect of LA culture, so stay tuned for many more geeky reviews from yours truly here on LAist.

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Xbox image courtesy of louder via flickr, and screen caps courtesy of IGN.com