A Decent Legacy
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.
Though units can be purchased and upgraded in-between missions, troops are persistent from battle to battle… at least until they’re slain (in which case they’re gone for good). Your armies will be gradually populated with swordsmen, archers, mounted troops, siege weapons, flying creatures, and other types of units. Heroes and regular troops all gain experience, level up, and are granted special perk abilities. While this is great, it’s easy to become attached to units once they’ve gained slick powers and fighting prowess. You’ll quickly find yourself spewing curses and reloading from auto saves when key units perish in battle. Completing maps within a set amount of turns gives you a gold, silver, or bronze victory rating and dishes out cash for you to expand your forces, respectively. Conversely, taking too long or losing too many troops can be catastrophic, since gold is somewhat scarce.
Elven Legacy features brightly colored maps filled with varying terrain types and interesting units. That said, it looks very similar to its predecessor. Zooming in closely shows your armies swarming with numerous troops, while panning back makes each army represented by a single unit avatar. In either case, your forces are nicely animated. At a distance they have a lot of detail, yet they’re not as good-looking close up. Most of the cinematics and cutscenes are done with the in-game engine zoomed-in at maximum. Needless to say, they’re not so hot. The English translation voiceovers are equally deficient. An early preview build of the game featured German dialogue, yet the voice work was quite fitting in tone and cadence to the text. Here, the English voice acting is poorly done and hampers the story interactions as a result.
Turn-based strategy fans will enjoy digging into the game’s dual campaigns, playing around with individual standalone scenarios, and strategizing in hotseat or online multiplayer matches. The streamlined gameplay lets vets focus on battle strategies and clearing maps with the best possible ratings, while less experienced players can wade through the game without being terribly bogged down by having to micromanage lots of minutia. Elven Legacy is by no means an amazing game, but it’s a strong follow-up to Fantasy Wars and not a bad way to spend a rainy afternoon.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.8 Graphics
Lots of color and interesting characters designs break down a bit on closer inspection. 3.9 Control
Tons of flexibility in the camera angles and an easy-to-grasp interface. 3.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Bad voice work brings the story delivery down a few notches. The rest of the audio is good. 3.7 Play Value
Two campaigns, tons of solo maps, and multiplayer options will give turn-based strategy fans a solid amount of content to play through. 3.7 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.