The Devil In Details
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In a world drowning in turmoil a new breed of heroes walks the earth seeking to change the face of warfare. Some fight for the people, some for their lords, and others simply to fill their own aspirations of greatness. But they all fight for one thing: Total domination. From the makers of the "Devil May Cry" and "Resident Evil" series comes a new action game entitled "Devil Kings."
Devil Kings thrusts players straight into the heat of battle to face off against hordes of enemies. You can choose from six different supremely talented warriors, each with their own unique weapons and fighting system as well as their own personal line of agenda. The roster features the "Lady Butterfly," a beautiful but cold-blooded and shrewd warrior, "Scorpio," an gifted elite warrior risen from the ranks of a powerful army, "Venus," a peaceful but deadly and stealthy ninja, "Red Minotaur," a fierce and powerfully cunning general, "Azure Dragon," a maverick Samurai who fights for nothing but himself, and the "Devil King," a man who sold his soul to the devil in this quest for world dominance.
The timeline of the game appears to be some type of mythical clash of ages between "sword and gun" set back in a sort of medieval fantasy of the Asian era where "war" seems to be the ongoing theme. The game is dressed in a typical anime style fashion featuring a rich selection of colors spread over distinctively grand landscapes and structures on down to the smallest detail in armor and various weapons of mass destruction. There are a lot of cool visual effects that go on during battle which also help to add to the colorful flare of things.
The object of this "Dynasty Warriors" type game is simple. Lead your army into the face of impossible odds as you seize your destiny to rule the world. Seek, destroy, and conquer all who stand in your way. Using LOTS of brawn and a little careful strategy you must conquer the lands of your surrounding foes and then expand your empire until there is no more opposition.
In "Conquest Mode," which is essentially the meat and potatoes of the game, once you select your hero the other unselected heroes become your rival enemies in the struggle for world domination. When the game starts, you're given an overhead map which shows the current region under your control as well as regions under control by the other heroes. Often times the overhead map will post results of border wars and changes in power prior to you making a strategically sound decision to either defend your homeland or conquer a neighboring region.
Once you've decided on your strategy, the time for talk passes and all out war is inevitably waged. Following a short flurry of cut-scenes your sword wielding slash gun toting adventures finally get under way.
Ultimately Devil Kings is simply another "hack and slash" title but it does manage to do things with a bit of style. Using an easy 2-button layout system you can perform a barrage of weak to strong melee attacks and finish up your combos with a hard power attack. As your warrior gets stronger you'll gain access to new power attacks to help increase your attack proficiency. The key to success is ultimately linking together various attack combos to form continuous devastating chain attacks. Additionally each warrior has a "berserk" mode where they can perform their unique power attacks over and over again for a shortened period of time.
There's only one way to conquer a new region and make it your own: You must face and destroy its current reigning hero in battle. Of course, there is always a little twist to things though. In order to get a shot at your arch rival you must prove your worthiness by systematically weakening or destroying their many lines of defense. There are literally hundreds of enemy warriors of all types standing between you and destiny. If you manage to live through what will prove to be a somewhat tedious ordeal you will finally breach the main area and have your final battle.
The enemy's defensive lines are comprised of several small battalions led by high ranking battle commanders. In order to weaken each line you must locate and destroy each battalion's Captain or Lieutenant. You can view how many battalions there are on the field by checking out your overhead HUD in the lower corner of the screen. The HUD will also give you a complete layout of the battlefield so that you can plot the best route to victory. After all, it's not always necessary to engage and destroy every group of enemies in sight. Sometimes you can save yourself a lot of unnecessary time and headache by avoiding needless encounters with the enemy.
With all that said, the interesting thing about Devil Kings is that while the concept of the game is pretty awesome the game play aspect isn't really pulled off quite so well. That's because, largely, much of the fault can be placed in the "AI department." It seems that both your enemies and your allies walk around like mindless zombies most of the time. For a game of this magnitude to be pulled off successfully, a battle presence must be established.
There's hardly any interaction between opposing sides outside yourself and hordes of enemies. Your allies often come in and deal with the tidbits of leftovers after you've nearly single-handedly wiped out an enemy group. On top of that your allies seem to disappear from your side the closer you get to the target area. To make matters worse the enemy warriors aren't as savage as they would appear to be either. It's as if they mindlessly wait for you to slaughter them. Many of them won't acknowledge you unless you come within a few feet of them and when you do they mindlessly charge or sometimes circle around you with weapons raised and hardly ever manage to get a hit off before you easily take them down.
Devil Kings could really set precedents if the computer AI was a lot more interactive. There's just not enough going on out there on the battlefield on either side of the ball so you don't ever feel like your heroically leading your troops to victory and enemy encounters seem more like a "public slaughter" than real battle scenarios. It is these very reasons that the well runs dry pretty fast for what could have otherwise been a really solid game.
The bottom line is that while Devil Kings initially shows some real promise in the beginning, weak Computer A.I. keep it from establishing a real battle presence during combat situations and so players never get that realistic experience they're looking for in a game of this genre.
Devil Kings isn't a total washout though. It's a pretty sharp looking game for one and you can also have some pretty good fun pulling off lethal chain combos if you know what you're doing. It's just a shame that a game that has such a great concept going for it and could have really been a solid title only comes out on top as average due to a few weak game play issues. 3 1/2 GiN gems is my final verdict.
Jevon Jenkins enjoys all types of games, especially those where the programmer's imagination is evident. He can be reached at : email@example.com.