Paradox Interactive and 1C: Ino-Co’s latest creation, Elven Legacy, is a turn based strategy title that combines the strategic concepts of chess with an engrossing storyline. The game forces players to move units into hexagonal positions for control of the map. Turn restrictions, overwhelming enemy forces, and a severe lack of resources will force players to bring out their inner tactician in order to survive.
The story begins with a corruption in the land. In the wake of chaos, a human mage discovers a powerful spell that dates back to the early years of the elven race. The risk of the wrong person possessing such a mighty spell becomes apparent to the elves, and forces them from seclusion. The Great Council orders Gylven, the most powerful sorceress among the Order of Watchers, to locate the mage and destroy him at whatever cost. She is accompanied by Sagittel, a highly decorated Elven commander, who slowly begins to realize the consequences and ulterior motives behind Gylven’s actions.
Initially, players begin their adventure in the forests of Quendaylon and gradually progress from landmark to landmark until they reach the Great Tree (the most sacred being of the elves). After each mission briefing, players have the opportunity to select the level of difficulty, upgrade current units, purchase new recruits, and begin unit placement. The objective of each mission is highly dependent upon the map, but generally, they all force players to reach a certain area coupled with a handful of side quests.
What really stands out about Elven Legacy are the ideas derived from chess and rock-paper-scissors. Much of a player’s success is based on knowing which units are effective counters against whom, backing up defensive units with archers and air units, and utilizing the terrain to your advantage.
Aside from that, the game employs a leveling system that applies to every unit. The more combat a particular unit partakes in, the more experience it will gain. With each level it becomes stronger and allows the player to select from various perks that will provide additional bonuses. For example, mages tend to be very weak early game, but as they gain more experience they unlock new spells that become increasingly important, especially those with an area of effect.
The game is not without its flaws, however – the most notable of which is its brutal difficulty level. You’re always outnumbered by at least 2:1 – even more in the latter stages. The only way I could get through is by playing on the easiest difficulty, and even then it was still a tremendous challenge.
Secondly, there are some balancing issues between units. For example, the elven defenders have a unique ability where they can regenerate health after each turn. It’s pretty awesome when you have units who can perform this ability, but it’s horrible when you’re up against it. Also, you’ll often be forced into situations where you have to sacrifice highly experienced characters, and there is no way of getting them back.
There are a set number of turns for each map which limits your exploration and forces you to make hasty moves. Sometimes I just wanted to pace myself, level my units and pillage a few towns – but if you don’t finish a round in a set number of turns, you’ll be forced to start all over.
Visually, the graphics seem a bit dated, but it is not a detriment to the gameplay. Units can be blocky, but animate quite well. The particle lighting for fights and spells are also well done. Perhaps the most interesting visual aspect is the camera’s ability to instinctively zoom in and out when a fight sequence is underway – it adds a nice touch.
The audio is serviceable, but does little to impress. There are a couple enchanting songs and the clanging of swords and the whispers of bowstrings serve there purpose. The voiceovers on the other hand are awful. The actors over-emphasize every line of dialogue which results in a jilted and somewhat comical performance. Also, there are a handful of instances in which lines actually leap over each other, and since the game is developed by a team of Russians, the spoken portions of the tutorials are still in Russian. Although, a patch was recently released that translated it into English.
Legacy should last you quite a while as there are many challenges to overcome – you’ll run through each map trying to get all the gold rankings to see what mysteries you’ll unlock. Also, there is a single map campaign, which will allow you to test out the other races; those are very challenging. The game contains an online mode, but you’re better off asking your friends to either come over to your house to play a few rounds of “Hot Seat,” (mode where you take turns moving your armies on the same computer).
This game isn’t for everyone, but it does have a strong appeal to the more hardcore strategy fans.
The game crashes often, you have to download a patch to convert the tutorial into English and the characters are a bit bland and blocky.
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Although quite challenging, the game plays out like a modern day version of the Lord of the Rings meets chess.
The music and the sound effects serve there purpose, but the voice acting needs a ton of improvement. Not to mention, dialogue will often times jump over itself.
There are various modes to explore, and you’ll find yourself playing the campaign multiple times to see what certain perks do and trying out different field tactics.
The gameplay will really make you ponder your next set of moves, but it is very challenging and probably only appeal to the most fervent of strategy fans.