Circle of Doom was a generic, boring and ugly mess.
This is my first Kingdom Under Fire game. I have the 2 Xbox releases just sitting on my shelve, waiting to be played, but I felt like playing this one first. From my understanding, the very first Kingdom Under Fire game was a straight up RTS. The 2 Xbox games were closer to Dynasty Warrior type Hack and Slasher / war games. Circle of Doom is actually closer to Phantasy Star Online or Monster Hunter. I was expecting a somewhat fast paced game, like Diablo. While it does share some familiarities with Diablo, mostly the loot and the generic levels and mass monster genocide. The slow paced combat felt closer to Phantasy Star Online.
I always go into these dungeon hack games expecting to love them, with a huge smile on my face for the first hour. Well, I pretty much hated Circle of Doom the second I booted it up. The first thing that happens in the game are a couple of short cutscenes, except they had to load each of them up separately. Why??? That was a bad sign right away. Then you're tossed in a simple tutorial and you're on your way.
Overall, I was not a huge fan of the controls. They felt a little to complex with the mapping, and there really weren't any customizing as far as I could tell. The camera was made me dizzy most of the time. The graphics were bad. The storyline was laughable. The combat was slow and painful. The loot was 99% crap. The level designs were boring. I could go on. There was barely a positive thing I could say about this game.
Kingdom Under Fire: Circle of Doom is a straight up dungeon crawling, hack and slasher, action RPG. You start at one point in a dungeon, you kill a million monsters, gain levels, gain worthless loot, and worthless skills. The end.
It's that freaking generic and played out. There's nothing to explain other than a few grievances. First off, the skill system in this game is moronic. I know why they made the skill system this way, but I HATE IT. Ok, you can only learn 2 skills at a time. To learn a skill, you must kill a certain amount of a specific enemy. For example, to learn "Heal" spell, you might have to kill 10 Wood Golems and 15 Goblins or whatever. That's fine and dandy on paper, but most skills require you to replay stages over and over and over and over again until you get the right amount of kills. The most painful skill I had to learn required me to run through the first stage 3 freaking times, and fight the first boss 3 freaking times. Pointless crap like this was only made to pad out the length of the game by lazy developers. On a more positive side, I barely used skills in this game because all the ones I learned SUCKED.
On one hand, I liked how quickly you level up in this game. I felt like I was gaining levels every 15 minutes. It just felt like a constant feed, that hooked me. On another hand, all you could do is power up three attributes with your level up. That's BORING.
The loot is totally worthless in this game, outside of selling it off for money. One of the better things about the loot in this game is the fact that you'll rarely run out of space, like you most often do in Dark Alliance or Champions of Norrath. You can go a long time before running out of space, but you would easily find a Idol to sell off the crap before that ever happens. I just hate the fact that all the look is total crap. I didn't find a single piece of loot (outside of the first stage of the game) that was better off than the stuff I bought at an Idol shop.
The battle system in this game is slow because you have to abide by a meter. Each time you swing or shoot your weapon, it takes away SP points, and then the meter slowly regains back. Not only do you have to watch a slow animation for your characters swing, you then have to sit back and wait for the meter to re-fill. That's why the combat system is painfully slow at times.
The only positive thing I will say about this game without a few gripes are the boss battles. The boss fights had a nice Zelda feeling to them. Their attacks would be repetitive, and there would only be one way to damage it. It's your job to find out how to damage it and then exploit it. It's very Zeldaish, and that was the only thing I enjoyed out of the game.
----------Characters / Story----------
I don't even know where to begin with the story or characters. Well, at the start of the game, you get to pick between 4 characters. I chose Regnier, he seemed like a demon lord or something. There's really no storyline within the levels, and after playing 20+ hours of the game, I still don't understand my motivation at all. Anyways. The only bit of storyline you'll find in the game is when you go into "Sleep" to talk to an Old Man. He'll talk to you, and show you some events. Otherwise.. there's barely a storyline to this game, and I still couldn't make sense of it.
The graphics are ugly for the most part. While this is a Korean made game, the characters look like generic D&D warriors and skeletons and demons. The models are forgettable and unlikeable. The stages are poorly designed, and look extremely dated. I've seen better worlds on the original Xbox.
The only thing that felt "Next gen" is the amount of monsters they put on screen at once, but even that causes slow downs at times. The framerate skips sometimes, and a weird white dot just flashes on the screen at random. I had a similar problem with Lost Odyssey.
There's barely music at all in this game. Heck, there's barely sound effects either...well crap, there's barely voice acting either. If you're looking for a nice podcast game to veg out on, then look no further.
The world map is very linear. There are 6 stages in all. Each stage is broken into 4-8 mini-stages. Within these mini-stages is one predetermined exit. There are some branching paths within the mini-stages, but most of the time you will find the exit just by running through the game in a linear fashion. The game doesn't give you any incentive to explore, since there is no treasure chests or secrets within the levels.
Within each mini-stage, you'll find one fountain. Each fountain area is monster-free, and houses a special Idol Statue. There are 3 Idol Statues in all, but they appear randomly when you visit. There's a Death Idol, Greed Idol and Love Idol. You can talk to the Idols (which automatically saves your game), and buy/sell loot or synthesis stuff. I'm was not a big fan of the synthesizing in this game.
If you stand near an Idol, you can press the Select button to open up 2 special menus. The first Menu is the "Sleep" option. This takes you into a dark world, where only an Old Man and your memories stay. With this Old Man you can open up quests and learn new abilities.
The other option is to warp to a new area. If you finished a stage, you can go back to it at anytime. The problem is, it always starts you at the very beginning of a stage. So it's kind of annoying to replay an entire stage over again, if you want to find one rare monster that appears near the middle or end. Whatever.
----------Time to Complete Game----------
The ending, if you want to call it that, was pretty pathetic. After you beat the final boss, you get to watch boring credits, you unlock a new move for your character, and you unlock a new difficulty mode. The game saves after all of this, and you can continue playing as your character if you want, which is cool atleast.