|System: PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: 1C: Ino-Co||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Paradox Int.||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Apr. 7, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: Multiplayer||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Nathan Meunier
Living for several thousand years may give one the right to consider oneself worldly, but the haughtiness, arrogance, and bloated self-importance typically injected into most portrayals of the elven race in fantasy games doesn't make them particularly easy to empathize with. These stereotypes are unceremoniously cranked up to full-blast in Elven Legacy, the turn-based strategy follow-up to last year's mediocre Fantasy Wars. The latter pits humans and orcs against one another in a no-brainer conflict set in a (surprise, surprise) fantasy world of swords and sorcery. Aside from some new key players, a reasonably improved story, and a few other additions, this time around isn't all that different.
Even if the thought of jumping into war as a bunch of long-eared, xenophobic sociopaths seems less palatable than dabbling in more traditional heroics (or unabashedly evil shenanigans), it's hard to deny Elven Legacy has some compelling gameplay hidden in its depths. Heroes of Might and Magic it is not, but turn-based strategy fans and players who enjoyed the first game will find this sequel to be an improvement. Just don't expect to find the end-all be-all of fantasy strategy games.
Wading through a substantively epic back-story, involving the near-extinction of the elven race at the hands of a lone traitor and the sacrifice of the mighty dragon kind to save them, the stage is set for the onset of the latest potentially catastrophic event to befall their kind. When a human mage steals powerful and forbidden ancient magic once belonging to the elves, the elven queen mobilizes a small band of warriors to track him down before the mystical knowledge can be spread. With the bow-wielding general Sagittel and the magic-imbued Gylven at your command, your small force of elven troops will increase in power and numbers as you engage in battle across the land. The story has some decent plot twists that keep things moving along, and decisions you make at branching paths in the adventure will affect how the game progresses. Completing the elven campaign unlocks a second campaign following the humans' perspective. Sadly, the orcs don't have their own campaign. Not to be completely left out, they can be played in the game's standalone maps and in multiplayer games.
Adventuring on the world map, you'll move from mission to mission engaging human and creature adversaries alike on your quest - which grows more questionable in nature as the plot progresses. Each encounter begins with you deploying a set number of troops and navigating the landscape, squashing foes in the process. The vast majority of objectives you'll encounter are uninspiring, though they get the job done. They typically involve fighting your way from one end of the map to another, capturing specific points on the map, and interacting with some NPCs along the way to a larger swath of foes - typically packed around a stronghold - located at the farthest end of the landscape. The game's linear progression and a timing system that rewards you for completing maps in the fewest number of turns possible join together in speeding you along though each encounter. This isn't entirely lamentable, since the straightforward strategic combat system is quite satisfying.
On the battlefield, each side takes turns moving units into place and taking action. A unit can only move a certain distance along the invisible hexagonal grid and take action (attack, cast spells, rest, etc.) once per round, which forces you to pay close attention to troop layouts and every decision made. Every attack, regardless of who's doing what, provides the defender an opportunity to counterattack. Certain troop types fare differently against others, and mousing over enemy units before you attack gives you a quick and easy prediction on the result of your actions. The action jumps to ground level during actual battles for a quick combat animation, but they're just as easily skipped to spend more time focusing on the strategy.