Phantagram's Kingdom Under Fire: The Crusaders has had several setbacks in the past couple of years, mainly due to lack of stability stemming from NCSoft's purchase of the company. The game was then acquired by Microsoft, and after over two years of development, it has finally been released. Often, delays during development mean that the game might not turn out as well as people would hope, and unfortunately for The Crusaders, that's totally true. As unique as it is with it's combination of RTS and Action elements, the game stumbles a little bit, making it less than spectacular.
The Crusaders allows you to control one of four characters, two who are part of the human campaign, and two on the side of the Dark Legion. Obviously, by playing through the game with every character you'll be able to see the story from both perspectives, but that's not the main appeal of the game is. Close combat melee is what The Crusaders is all about, and it does it surprisingly well, considering how frentic the action can get in some battles, particularly near the end of the game. Your character has a couple of basic attacks stemming from three attack buttons and a block button. You can also call in your special helpers to deliver a particularly devastating attack to any nearby foes.
Since none of the characters you'll play as are as nimble as the Prince from Prince of Persia, don't expect too much flash when you start fighting. There's simply no room for fancy backflips here. Melee combat is what The Crusaders does best: the controls are very responsive, and none of the battles are too frustrating due to the block button. At times it's a god send when you're swarmed with legions of foes, and I wonder why the Dynasty Warriors series has never implemented such a function. The block button also functions as a "just defend" feature. Block an enemy's attack just before it hits you, and you'll repel it and counter immediately. A handy tool indeed.
Unfortunately, the other half of The Crusaders' game falls apart and messes up the rest of the game. While you are able to control the main hero(ine) in the game, you can also switch between different squads on the fly to command them. This is a novel idea, except that your control over the squad is severely limited, especially with your archers. Squads should be smart enough not to fire on enemies that are currently engaged with comrades, but that still happens here. Luckily, any other squads will immediately stop and take cover, but the whole RTS feel that the game tries to go for doesn't work very well here. It breaks up the otherwise fantastic melee combat because you have to quickly reposition your squads before switching back.