Back in the early 00s, my only access to home computing was tentatively asking my dad if I could use his work laptop. I had to things I liked to do: code in HTML and CSS (we didn’t have internet until 2006 and by then, I had my own computer, so I just coded websites that never went online) and play games. My big problem with the latter was I knew nothing about system requirements for PC games so I bought the ones I liked and prayed they worked. Many didn’t (I still love you FIFA 96 and Championship Manager 3) but eventually, my dad got a powerful enough Dell laptop and I entered into the world of real-time strategy (RTS) games via Kingdom Under Fire: A War of Heroes.
Kingdom Under Fire: A War of Heroes was a real-time strategy game developed by Phantagram (Blade Warrior, Phantom Crash, Ninety-Nine Nights). and released for Windows in 2001. You could play in single-player mode or multiplayer via Phantagram’s Wargate server and it was in an isometric perspective which I hadn’t played since Paperboy in the early 90s.
The plot centres on a land called Bersia where the forces of light (Humans, Dwarves, and Elves) and the forces of dark (Ogres, Orcs, Undead, and others) have a power struggle which resulted in an epic war. KUF starts 100 years after that war but you get the change to play as dark or light as you navigate a series of missions and battles.
I wrote about an online fantasy game called Lords of Legend a few weeks ago and KUF lead me down that path. All the classes and building and fighting. I never beat it but I enjoyed it nonetheless.
I recommend you buy the Kingdom Under Fire Gold edition if you can.