A fun, real time strategy game? You bet. by StewXX
January 24, 2006 – Legion Arena is a turn-based strategy game that is totally accessible for beginners and a refreshing pace for veterans of the genre. It’s not as complex as the majority of classic strategy games but what it lacks in depth it makes up for in action and fun.
Taking you back to the Roman Republic, Legion Arena is a virtual history lesson in ancient warfare. Long before guns, machines and vehicles, soldiers during the time of the Great Roman Empire used swords, spears, shields, chariots and horses. You can play as either the Romans or the Gauls. There are tons of scenarios and 20 different units with skills that can be leveled-up on the battlefield.
The best way that I could describe Roman Legion would be as one element of an epic turn-based strategy. It’s like micromanaging the battle portion of an empire-building sim such as the Civilization series. You control the battles and while there is some strategy involved, especially in the deployment of troops, once the battle begins things are pretty much out of your hands. There is virtually no micromanagement to worry about. All you have to do is focus on winning the battle at hand and let the powers that be do their thing with the spoils of war.
As the commander of the military you will have several units under your command including infantry and cavalry. Once you position them on the battlefield you can issue one of three formations: Defense, Balanced or Offensive. The decisions that you make at the beginning of the battle will usually determine the outcome. To make the gameplay more realistic you will have limited commands, relying on your trained units to carry out a successful operation.
Issuing commands in real-time during the battle is possible but it’s also limited, once again displaying historical realism. The size of the battlefield is so large that it takes time to communicate with units on the far end of it. You will have a limited amount of order points that you can distribute to these units. Once you use them up you have to wait for the meter to fill up with more. This simulates the waiting game, since in those days orders would be conveyed by couriers on horseback that would field orders from the commander to the individual units.
Sizing up the enemy army and the terrain is where you skills as a tactical strategist will come into play. The first campaign is actually a tutorial. It’s extremely well designed with comprehensive instructions, in addition to hints and tips. It doesn’t hold your hand so you will really feel as though you’re actually taking control of the army – or at least having that control handed down to you.
One of the things you will learn to take into account is the terrain. Lots of rocks and forest is great for the infantry to take cover but it’s tough on the cavalry. Conversely, open plains are great for the cavalry but it leaves the infantry exposed. Probably the most important skill you will develop is the ability to read the enemy’s deployment and ascertain their strengths and weaknesses. Send in strong troops to weak areas and avoid the heavily armed sections. Knowing what units to send where is all part of the strategy. If the infantry has to cross the path of the enemy’s strongest front, in the open, that may not be a great decision. Keep in mind that the infantry, though somewhat expendable and cheap, is slow moving and may not accomplish their goal in time if you want to flank the enemy.
Skills such as accuracy, stamina, dodging abilities and swordmanship will increase RPG-style with successful battles. Soldiers will level-up and be promoted thus creating a stronger and more talented army. Money will be made available to the commander to purchase new weapons, armor and more units. If you have enough money you can purchase highly trained soldiers such as Legionnaires. Fame points will be acquired and will help you earn recruits. Fame will also help you with the healing of your wounded, bringing them back to full health in less time.
Soldiers are affected by moral. If a unit begins to take on casualties the soldiers might lose their nerve and retreat. This is called breaking. It’s not something that you really want to experience but it’s a reality of combat. For some reason the game will sometimes award these breaking units with upgrades. You can distribute points to increase their moral so that their breaking level is higher and occurs with less frequency.
Accessing the interface is incredibly easy. The simplified structure of the command system ensures that decisions are only one click away. All aspects of the game can be saved at anytime so you’re not committed to taking on a full-scale battle that can last hours. The fast-paced nature of these skirmishes can result in games that last as long as a game of checkers. The battles are scripted and linear and there is no penalty for losing. All you have to do is change some of your strategies and try it again. It’s almost like figuring out a puzzle. Once you get it right you move on to the next fight. They get progressively more difficult but at least they aren’t hampered by any technical glitches. It boils down to you and your commanding skills.
If you get tired of playing the AI and want more of a challenge you can take your army online. Battle here are also quick but they aren’t scripted. It’s like a whole new world. The single-player mode will seem like an entire tutorial. Which in a way, it is. This package comes with an e-book on Gallic wars to further immerse you in the ancient art of war.
Legion Arena has some nice 3D graphics with good animation. You aren’t controlling ten of thousands of troops so the action is more immediate. You can see the entire scope of the battle as though you were overlooking it on a hill. Details can be toggled to conserve processing power but there is no option for blood. I’m not a ghoul but blood would have made things just that more realistic. The music is great but there isn’t enough of it. It’s repeated too often but it’s nothing that can’t be turned off and replaced with some classic blues or the new Howard Stern radio channel.
Legion Arena is fun, fast and refreshing. It’s open to everyone that just wants to get involved with a game that isn’t any more difficult to learn than Monopoly.
- Recruit and train your own troops, personalizing the appearance of each squad.
- More than 20 unit types, including legionnaires, elephants and naked fanatics.
- Command vast armies in epic 3D battles and earn money for your victories.
- Play as either Romans or Gauls in separate campaigns
- Innovative order time system lets you experience the thrill of combat command
- For 1 player or multiplayer support for up to 2 players over LAN or Internet
CCC Staff Writer