Electronic Theatre In-depth Review: Devil Kings

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Electronic Theatre ImageThe collaboration between Beat-‘Em-Up’s and Strategy games has taken it’s time to develop; each platform is totally unique in its own right and yet completely intertwined at the same time. It’s only now, twenty-odd years of production later from the first Beat-‘Em-Up and Strategy releases, that we really have the power to combine the two to seem like a realistic hand-to-hand combat war simulation, with more than five enemies on-screen at any one time. One of the few games to really bring this kind of gameplay into the open was Dynasty Warriors, a series from Koei. It was this, open-ended combat-supplemented Strategy titles’ gameplay, with expansive areas and thoughtful RPG elements that really inspired the now blockbuster titles; SEGA’s Spartan: Total Warrior, the new Ninety-Nine Knights from Taito on the Xbox360 and, although not directly linked, based on entirely the same idea comes Nintendo and Kuju’s recent collaboration on Battalion Wars.

            The recently released Capcom title, Devil Kings, has all the styling of these games but also aElectronic Theatre Image much deeper root into the Capcom depths with great influences from Devil May Cry and Onimusha’s hack-and-slash ideas. The game sets-out with the generic RPG-inspired idea of Levelling-Up the various characters though either the Conquest Mode; where you invade other people and take their territories to become world conqueror. There is also the industry-required Free Play Mode where you can play with the characters and Levels unlocked in Conquest Mode. To start with there’s eight different playable characters, all with specialised strengths in various weapons and styles of fighting; samurai warriors, giant axe-wielding maniacs, ninja masters and many more.

            Your character starts off with a wide range of Combo’s and Power Moves based around the pressing of the Triangle and Square Buttons, as you complete the Stages and earn more Experience Electronic Theatre Image you will unlock other moves accessible though pressing the R1 Trigger in-conjunction with Triangle or Square. The Levels are set out as massive battlefields in which you can run through fighting literally hundreds of people with twenty-to-fifty people surrounding you at any one-time. Pressing Triangle will Prime the enemy in front of you, stunning them for a few seconds and allowing you to unleash a devastating parry of attacks which build up to a huge combo when timed right – increasing the Experience you receive immensely. As well as getting bonuses for fighting well, you also get Treasure Chests for killing Officers, hounding down Treasure Chest Carriers and finding hidden bonuses around the Levels, these are opened at the end of each Level and give you either, yet again, more Experience, or some rather cool items which you can equip to your character.

            The items you get out of the battle are a small part of the useful Levelling-Up System; as you go through Conquest Mode on Easy, Medium or Hard you’ll find the items you get vary greatly. On Easy you’ll get moderately useful items which will get you used to the three Item Slot System, this lets you learn what you specialise in and use the three items you can have to increase the abilities you use most. As you go up through the difficulties you will obtain higher-Level items that youElectronic Theatre Image already have and some rarer items that can assist you greatly. As mentioned above, through Levelling-Up each character will start obtaining the R1 Special Moves; you can only have two at any one-time and when you start you will have trouble getting many more than that, but you’ll soon find with a few goes on Free Play Mode you have another huge host of options to choose from. Also as you Level-Up your health will slowly increase, making some of the harder fights just that little bit easier.

            As stated above, every Level is set up as a sprawling battlefield. You start at the bottom of the map (shown in the top-right corner of the screen), and progress up through the province you’re invading to the castle or mansion at the top to take on the leader. Along the way you’ll have to fight through full assaults, highly tactical defence, ambushes and cavalry charges. You’ll have your army with you, all lead under a team of Officers. They try and make the best attacking-strategy possible, but you have no direct control over them whatsoever, and should your army die, you will lose the battle; a small amount of baby sitting is required, especially when you have twenty Pike-men Electronic Theatre Image all trying, and failing, to poke down a seven foot bloke with a club. Success is possible however and when you finally reach the leader of the clan he will generally be surrounded by a large bunch of goons so there’s always a nice epic battle at the finish.

            The way the Levels are unlocked for Free Play Mode is a cleanly struck addition to the seemingly basic requirement if features. You can only play the Levels in Free Play mode when you’ve played on them in Conquest Mode, but in addition each character you play in Conquest Mode starts from their own Territory, and slowly braches-out and each time you fight someone for the land they’ve conquered. Each character you can play with at the beginning is the most powerful force in their area and each character starts in completely different area of their Map. The only way to unlock every Map in the game in to play as every character or have a long and elongated plan to fight every player on the game in the quickest way possible. Another small fault with the game is that there isn’t (as far as my bewildered button pressing could find) any kind of Lock-On Feature. Fine when surrounded by willing victims but when a more precise edge is called for, there’s little you can do but hit and hope.

            The gameplay in Devil Kings is very well paced and thought-through, but the title’s presentation is far from being substandard also. The Character Models, weapons,Electronic Theatre Image objects around you and the landscape are truly brilliant – every sword movement and lighting effect is clear and precise even when the screen is full of enemies, but there is one small problem that just can’t be ignored. Unfortunately I have to say the one biggest downfall of this game was the Draw-Distance, and it’s not just when things got hectic, it’s all the time. You’d be happily running towards what looked like a group of a few men; then, all of a sudden, there’d be thirty of them there. Random men will appear beside you as you run along then disappear again as you carry on, sometimes even the giant-men with the huge axes will appear, randomly next to you. The disjointed programming doesn’t destroy the game totally, but it does put a small damper on the occasion, proving the PlayStation2’s short-comings when compared with the GameCube and Xbox once again.        

            The sound quality great – full of the old battle cries or drunken roar that went with the medieval battles and some great death-cries which sometimes make you want to hang around until they’d finished, just for the sheer enjoyment factor. The music was very fitting and orchestral, and there’s even the option of equipping some items which will change the music for you!

            Devil Kings is a great release, and for all of its faults it really does do a lot for evolving two genres into a new breed. There are some great bits of anime FMV between some of the battles, which reflects the Japanese feeling that Capcom have kept within the title for its European Launch, giving the game a finishing-coat over what’s already there. Devil Kings may not be as thorough as it competitors, but it certainly has the edge on inspiring in-depth titles that remain part of that Pick-Up-And-Play affixation that this industry currently has, and needs.Electronic Theatre Image 










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