Welcome to another edition of Retrowatch, a weekly series where we take a look at a good game from years long past. In order for a game to be covered on Retrowatch, it must be at least 15 years old and most of all, it has to be good. Any game that scores below a 7 out of 10 will not be covered.
This week we take a trip down the RTS retro road with KKND2: Krossfire. It was developed by Beam Software, who later became Infogrames Melbourne House. The game was published by Melbourne House in Australia, Infogrames in Europe, and GT Interactive in America. In 1999 KKND2 was ported to the PS1. It later became available on GOG.com.
- Note: The PS1 version of the game is simply titled KKND: Krossfire. While most of the content remained the same as the PC version, not all units were present in the port.
KKND2: Krossfire is one of the best RTS games of the 90s. The game features three races to choose from, each with their own distinct units, buildings and soundtracks. It does, however, suffer from some balance issues (particularly with the Series 9), along with some missions being more difficult than they needed to be.
Some groups just don’t get along
KKND2: Krossfire takes place in the year 2179, 40 years after the first war between the Survivors (Humans) and the Evolved (Mutants) and 100 years since a nuclear war left the Earth a barren wasteland. The first war between the Survivors and Evolved ended with the Survivors having to retreat once again underground.
40 years later, the humans again emerge from underground to wage war against the mutants once more. This time, however, it isn’t just the Evolved they are warring against. With the destruction that ensued from the two factions’ first war, it left the crops that belonged to a race of robots in ruin.
With the crops gone, the robots’ sole purpose was also destroyed. Now modified for war, the Series 9 are out for revenge against the Survivors and Evolved. A new war is about to begin, and it is going to be more chaotic than ever before.
KKND2: Krossfire takes a different approach to each of its fighting factions than most games of its era. It isn’t a case of good versus evil. Instead, we have three factions which are all warring for very good reasons. Along with that, it takes a different approach than other RTS games of its time. While most were simply two human armies battling it out, or humans against aliens races, having three factions of three different species makes this game unlike any other.
A variety of missions across three campaigns
The player can choose between any of the three factions in the game. Each army is attempting to gain complete control of the world and must do this through a series of missions. Most of the missions are the standard scenario of building a base and army while destroying your enemies.
There are a number of missions throughout each campaign where you need to complete an objective with small groups of units. These missions are generally more tactical than the standard, as you need to use the environment to your advantage.
Both of these scenarios don’t do anything much different from any other RTS game, but they do swap from one to the other frequently enough to not make either become tiresome. If there was any gripe to be had with the missions, it would be that some of them are a bit unfair. (In one mission, for example, you have to find a way to attack an enemy base from two sides with different terrain on each sides that poses a number of challenges all at once.)
The missions are generally fun, and the very unfair ones are few and far between. The only other problem I have is that the game demands an ultra-aggressive playstyle to win. While most RTS games allow for a more passive-aggressive or defensive playstyle to some degree, KKND2 doesn’t. Using anything but ultra-aggression will quickly lead to your demise.
A good variety of units with a slight imbalance
There is no mistaking the vast array of units for each of the factions in KKND2. Each faction has its own unique units, and they all act differently. From the standard soldiers to massive tanks to aircraft, there is plenty to play around with.
The Evolved are the most unique in this case, with their vehicles being large mutated animals — such as hippos with machines guns, giant crabs with missile launchers, or giant wasps with that drops bombs. The Survivors are the standard RTS units, foot soldiers, tanks and aircraft. The Series 9 robots have a nice touch to them too, where all their units are based off farming equipment that has been modified for war.
At first, you will only have the most basic of units. But as you progress through the campaigns, more will become available as you conduct research and upgrade your buildings.
While the units are generally fun, there are a few problems with balance. Some of the units are a bit overpowered, while others a slightly underpowered. Grenadiers are a good example here. In most cases, a rush of this unit type is all you’d need to destroy the enemy entirely. They’re extremely powerful in groups and have a low training cost, which makes it stupidly easy to quickly form a large scale attack with them.
The next problem is the Series 9 robots being somewhat an odd faction to play. While the Evolved and Survivors are equal with their units in most cases, the Series 9 are very different. Their units cost a lot more to train, resulting in slower squad building. And they aren’t really any more powerful than the other factions, so the trade off there doesn’t quite seem fair.
It makes them very difficult to play and feel unbalanced. I really understand why the developer would make that faction so different to the other two. Ultimately it made me hate playing as the Series 9, because I just couldn’t come to grips with them and found their campaign harder than it needed to be.
Aside from the imbalance issues here and there, however, KKND2’s units and general gameplay is fun and enjoyable to RTS novices and pros alike. If you are new to the RTS genre, I would suggest starting with the Evolved faction until you come to grips with the game.
An amazing and fitting soundtrack
I am going, to be honest — the only reason I bought KKND2 on GOG.com was for the soundtrack, because I already had it on the PS1 at the time. But the soundtrack to the game is absolutely amazing and fits each of the factions brilliantly.
The Survivors have a more modern rock soundtrack to them that fits in well with their “we are the best” and “I don’t give a shit” attitude. The Evolved have a more primitive soundtrack backing them up, involving all forms of strange and unique sounds. The Series 9 robots have a much more electronic, almost rave-like soundtrack that fits in with their sci-fi aesthetic.
The music to the game is wonderful, and really brings out the nature of the faction that you are playing. Once you have heard it once, you will want to hear the tracks over and over again.
A flawed yet brilliant RTS title
KKND2 is one of those games that got swallowed up by the storm that was its genre back in the 90s. With titles like Warcraft, Starcraft and the constant onslaught of releases from the Command & Conquer series, an RTS title from a lesser known developer was bound to go unnoticed.
It is a brilliant game despite its few flaws — one that takes a slightly different direction in its factions than any other title of its time. There may be moments where the game is a bit more difficult than it needs to be, but those missions are few and far between.
Overall KKND2 is easily one of the best RTS titles of its era, and is definitely close in quality to something like Starcraft . Whether you are new to the genre or a seasoned veteran…if you haven’t played KKND2: Krossfire, I highly recommend that you give it a shot.