427 people found this review helpful
3 people found this review funny
Not Recommended
0.0 hrs last two weeks / 2.7 hrs on record
Posted: Jan 22 @ 3:52pm
Updated: Mar 5 @ 1:21pm

Early Access Review
In my ongoing and likely futile effort to write a review for every game in my Steam library (#519 out of 1000+)... it's time for Kingdom Under Fire: A War of Heroes (Gold Edition).

┛Hijacking a 20+ Year Old RTS For A CryptoBro Scam(?)┏

The future is here, and it sucks.

Kingdom Under Fire is -- or was -- a Korean RTS/RPG hybrid the launched in 2001, beating Warcraft III to the punch by a good year and a half. Unlike Warcraft III there's little to commend it today. Kingdom Under Fire is a relic of a lost era in PC gaming history, and not a particularly interesting one. But for the people out there with fond childhood memories of playing this game, or those like myself with a keen historical interest in RPGs (especially forgotten ones) I am very glad to see it come to Steam.

Or, rather, I wish I was.

Right away, you'll notice a few oddities about Kingdom Under Fire's Steam page: The game is free; it's in Early Access despite having been released more than 22 years ago; the product description is eager to vaguely allude to plans for a remaster, with no specific improvements or even a timeframe mentioned. And then, maybe, if you're feeling a bit inquisitive you'll check out the Steam Forums, and see the developer speaking about a plan to start charging for the game once the Early Access period is over, and if you're of a charitable disposition you might be inclined to assume that maybe something was lost in translation, and that the developers don't fully understand how Early Access works, and that once a game is in a user's library, it's there forever, regardless of whether they paid or not.

But then, maybe, you dig a little deeper. Maybe you notice that while you run the game, a new application starts running on your PC without your knowledge or consent. It calls itself "Locus Game Chain," and presents exactly zero information on what it is while feverishly sending data off to an unknown server.

And then, perhaps, you think to check your Windows Task Manager. And there you see that this 22+ year old game is somehow demanding 80-100% of your CPU.

At this point you'd probably want to ask, "What the heck is going on?

Good question. Here's what I've been able to find out.

Locus Chain is a Seoul-based bockchain company that claims to have been founded in 1994. This is remarkably prescient of them as this was more than a decade before blockchains would be invented by Satoshi Nakamoto in 2008. They claim their blockchain network is, "Ideal for any industries, including AI, Smart City and Gaming projects, that require large-scale data processing. Now which one of those fits a 2D strategy game from 2002, I wonder. Locus Chain is also involved in NFTs, because of course they are.

Kingdom Under Fire's developers had this to say about their involvement in Locus Chain:

"Kingdom Under Fire: War of Heroes utilizes Locus Game Chain to provide online multiplayer capability without the need of an online game server. The game does not support cryptocurrencies or NFTs, and has complied with all Steam's guidelines and regulations."

Now if you don't know anything about blockchain, you might wonder why multiplayer functionality would require secondary app that is so fully integrated with the game that you cannot launch the one without the other. And if you do know a few things about blockhain, you might wonder just how, exactly, one is supposed to function as a substitute for a server.

And, further, if you've any passing familiarity with archaic multiplayer PC games, you might also wonder why Kingdom Under Fire needs a dedicated server in the first place, instead of simply using standard peer-to-peer networking.

UPDATE: Additionally it appears that several of the positive reviews left for Kingdom Under Fire on Steam are from very new Steam accounts, created around November 2022, with no reviews for any other products. At least one of these accounts is clearly affiliated with the Locus Game Chain company. So: another red flag.

It's certainly not clear what, exactly, is going on with this game... nor what, exactly this Locus Game Chain application is meant to do, nor what information it retrieving from your PC. Are the developers mere innocents, making mistakes without understanding what they're doing or why? Or is there something more nefarious here – is this spyware, or an attempt to illegally outsource crypto-currency mining to unwitting fans of old RTS or roleplaying games? Is that the future we get to look forward to, shady companies hijacking classic games to scam unsuspecting players? God, I hope not.

But we all know that truism, right? If the produce is free, then YOU are the product.

Or: If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck -- it probably is a duck.

So what exactly is going on with this rerelease of Kingdom Under Fire?[i/]I don't know for certain. But I've seen enough to ask you this: is it really worth the risk trying to find out? There ain't nothin' to see here but a whole heaping' pile of screaming red flags. Spare yourself some future headaches and anxiety and avoid Kingdom Under Fire at all costs.

UPDATE: Kingdom Under Fire's developers have issued a statement/explanation for their use of a blockchain app with the game, which they have posted in several places, including in response to this review. I encourage you to read it for yourself and decide whether or not you believe you should give them the benefit of the doubt here. Personally, I remain skeptical. Even assuming their stated reasoning is valid (and I'm far from convinced it is), I think it's highly unethical to install middleware software of any kind on users' computers without informing them and giving them the opportunity to consent (or not). Doubly so when said middleware is a blockchain app from a company eager to dive into the NFT market, which is about as shady as these things get. That the developers have taken pains to respond to users bringing up these issues but have not seen fit to update the Steam product page to fully disclose their activities strikes me as the behavior or people who would very much like to keep their shenanigans secret – or at least silent.

FINAL UPDATE: Since posting this review I've been contacted by at least four different low-level Steam accounts urging me to change it. I think I've laid out my reasoning clearly here, and those urgings all left the impression that they hadn't actually read the review, as they amounted to little more than paltry defenses of blockchain technology in general. "But crypto good actually" isn't persuasive outside of cryptobro circles, I'm afraid. Well, okay, maybe they're not crytpobros – maybe they're just affiliated with the Locus Game Chain campany. Cool. Cool, cool, cool, cool.

In either case, just to make it (even more) explicit, allow me to state in no uncertain terms that I would only be willing to change this review under one of two circumstances: either the blockchain app is removed from the installation package; or the Kingdom Under Fire game page is updated to disclose its presence upfront to new players. That's it.

The Developers have made it quite clear that this release if Kingdom Under Fire is being distributed for free in order to disseminate their blockchain app to "test the techology" – and their actions have indicated that they would very much prefer this testing to be done in secret. Without our knowledge or consent. Do I even have to say it? This is fundamentally unetheical behavior. I was reticent to call this a scam before, but no longer: this is a scam.

Arbitrary Rating: 0/10
🚩🚩 AVOID 🚩🚩
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Developer response:
Lockon  [developer] Posted: Jan 25 @ 3:49am
Dear KUF: War of Heroes Users,
This is Bloom Technology. First, we would like to thank you for your interest in our game. We are amazed at the number of loyal fans expressing their fascination with the original game!
Further, we have reviewed your comments, and it seems there is a misunderstanding of how and why we use blockchain technology in this game version, as well as its relation to cryptocurrencies and NFTs.
I would like to take this opportunity to unveil some facts to ensure no further misconceptions and misunderstandings vilifying KUF, Bloom Technology, and Locus Chain arise.
First, blockchain technology does not equate to cryptocurrency or NFT. Cryptocurrency and NFTs are digital assets that make use of blockchain technology. Comparing crypto with blockchain is like comparing email with the internet. A project adopting blockchain technology to enhance certain features of its product does not necessarily mean that the project supports cryptocurrencies and NFTs.
Kingdom Under Fire: War of Heroes is an RTS game from the early 2000s and uses a P2P multiplayer networking system similar to other RTS games of its time. In this structure, the server's role was limited to multi-player session construction, game results, user information records, and P2P relays. Kingdom Under Fire operated a server called wargate.net at the time of its service back in the 2000s. In the current Steam version, the Locus Chain blockchain shares session information by recording multiplayer game session data in a synchronized distributed ledger and acts as the wargate.net server. So, yes, we are technically replacing the server.

In addition, Locus Chain is part of the Kingdom Under Fire distribution package, which operates together when Kingdom Under Fire is executed and terminates when the game session is closed. The system uses distributed ledger technology to build multi-player sessions and does not interact with cryptocurrencies or NFTs in any way. There is no spyware function to read and send a user's computer environment; only when sending logs the user's permission is obtained and transmitted separately. You can easily confirm that the blockchain does not interact with cryptocurrencies by scrutinizing the logs sent by Locus Chain.

It may seem strange that chain-related traffic occurs even during a single play, but this is a system for user convenience and node operation testing. The resources occupied by Locus Chain itself in a typical PC environment are less than 1% CPU and 1% network bandwidth. However, when you start the node, you need a few minutes of distributed ledger synchronization time. Although this is a very short timeframe compared to most blockchain nodes, it may seem a little long for gamers who are used to server connection environment; therefore, the system is designed to start the node execution and synchronization process as soon as the game executes to enable a single-player game even during synchronization.

Why do we even use it?

This technology will be a stepping stone and an excellent example of how online game developers, who sometimes go out of business because of high server maintenance costs, can save up tons of money and focus on building the games. Old online games can be revived at no significant costs, while modern online games can significantly reduce their service maintenance costs as well.

As far as we know, Kingdom Under Fire is the first successful attempt to apply and operate a blockchain node as part of the game, so I understand that this is as misleading as it is unprecedented. Kingdom Under Fire was launched free through Early Access because of the need to test the environment in real-time. You can see the progress we have achieved so far and the track record in the Updates section on Steam to gauge how we actually make use of this new tech.

Hope you will find this comment helpful and see the value in using Locus Chain blockchain as we do.

If you wish to talk to us to learn in more detail to better eliminate any misunderstanding, please kindly feel free to contact us by sending us direct message and we can establish a better communication channel.

Best Regards,
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