Saturday, November 7, 2009

Elven Legacy

  • Game: Elven Legacy
  • Platform: PC
  • Publisher: Paradox Interactive
  • Developer: 1C
  • ESRB: Teen
  • Genre: Old Schhol TBS
  • Players: 1-4

    Elven Legacy is a sequel, of sorts, to 1C’s underappreciated Fantasy Wars, and like it and its predecessor’s shockingly bland names, the game is vanilla in its design and certain aspects are ridiculously bad...but it still has a surprising addictive quality that begs you to play one more turn or one more mission and proves that this type of game still has the ability to scratch the turn based tactical itch.

    If you’re familiar with Fantasy Wars: this is basically the same stuff but with a map editor available as a separate download. If you’re coming into Elven Legacy fresh, it is a tactical turn based game very similar to the old DOS born Fantasy General from SSI right down to the hex-grid map, the opportunity fire from archers and catapults who act as the game’s de facto artillery pieces, and the powerful unlimited range spells that can turn the tide of a battle.

    Your units even earn experience points which can then be spent on buying “perks” which allow them to specialize or just become flat out better fighters or defenders. There are a slew of these perks ranging from making Sky Ships even deadlier bombers or turning infantry into forest or swamp fighters. You can take these veteran troops from mission to mission and it offers an effective sense of attachment to your units and you feel the sting when you lose a high level group of Fencers or Elf Cavalry. This is all turn-based gameplay 101 and unless you are a complete novice to the genre you should be up and playing the game within a matter of minutes.

    When you start the campaign pay close attention to the dialogue – if only because it’s cringe-worthy in its awfulness; the voice acting is so over the top that it‘s impossible to take seriously (maybe that’s the point?) and the overall storyline makes as much sense as Naked Lunch. You play the elves and end up fighting a lot of other races for some reason or another. It’s not all that important and in the end doesn’t detract from the gameplay, but I finished the campaign and I still have no idea what it was about.

    Those battles are monstrously rough, however. The AI is fairly good at exploiting weak spots and attacking weakened units which are on the verge of death but the design itself assumes you are the Elven Legacy version of Patton because it throws wave after wave of bad guys at you. I’ve been playing these types of games for well over a decade and I had to resort to playing on the Easy level, which seemed about right from a challenge perspective. It’s a brutally tough game.

    The AI is tough and makes for a seriously challenging game but it would be nice if more info was presented to you while a battle is raging. There's no visual identifier as to how many points of strength a unit takes after a scrum or even if a unit dies -- you need to keep track of this yourself. Even as spells start flying around the field it's tough to figure out who is doing what and the camera tends to zip around making it even more confusing. When a high rank unit dies I’d like to know aside from realizing, "Hey where'd my archers go?"

    Multiplayer is fairly bare boned – you can choose race but not specific units (buying units would seem like a no brainer, right?) and while hot seat, LAN and Internet are supported finding a game is tough unless you have players already lined up.

    Fact is, Elven Legacy doesn’t push any envelopes or try to add some fancy new twist to the genre. It’s generic in almost every conceivable way. But it still has the ability to get its hooks in you and when it does you’ll end up like me – laughing at the dialogue, cursing the difficulty and fully realizing that it isn’t doing a whole lot different from the many turn based strategy games that have come before it…but you then notice it’s 2 A.M. and you’ve been at it for hours. Is that a testament to Elven Legacy or to the design that it’s borrowed from other games? Does that even matter?

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