Talk about taking the enemy by surprise. After a 16-year march, Blueside's action-RTS hybrid Kingdom Under Fire: The Crusaders stormed Steam's gates this week. Like long-delayed sequel Kingdom Under Fire 2, the once Xbox-exclusive original's heavy metal battles straddle the line between strategy and slashing - executing grand tactical manoeuvres with the same direct control you'd use to hack off a goblin's head.
Long before I was into this PC gaming lark, my wee brother and I would horde demo disks for the original Xbox (not to be confused with the Xbox One - thanks, Microsoft). Why shell out 40 quid for a full game anyway, when less than a tenner a month got you five to fifteen bite-sized gems?
Every so often, our self-cannibalizing industry decides to punch my nostalgia in the gut by wrenching some obscure nonsense out of that demo pile. Something like that Voodoo Vince remaster in 2017 which, as far as I'm concerned, has no business existing save for me to briefly go "huh, that sure did exist".
Ahem, anyway. Kingdom Under Fire: The Crusaders was one of those forgotten demos, but I mind it being pretty neat - a novel action-RTS sitting somewhere between Dynasty Warriors and Total War. Taking on the mantle of an anime-flavoured medieval general, you guide your ranks of troops around a battlefield from an intimate third-person perspective - positioning for flanks, securing the high ground, setting up siege weapons.
Once your armoured dude rectangle smashes into enemy lines, the camera zooms in for some old fashioned hacking n' slashing. You'll go from chopping up orcs and goblins to taking down giants, ogres and colossal scorpions. Between bouts, you can chill out at the castle to level up your heroes and armies, or just pop down to the pub with the lads.
Blueside's remaster isn't extensive, largely just adding support for widescreen and HD resolutions. They've added keyboard and mouse support but it's really a game built for gamepads. But on the whole, you're getting the same crunchy visuals that graced my massive pre-flatscreen telly from 16 years back. Maybe that's not a problem for you - early 3D stylings are hot right now, after all.
Kingdom Under Fire: The Crusaders is out now on Steam for £16/€20/$20.