Thursday, 14 January 2010

Review: Elven Legacy!

Time for another review, and this week it's Paradox Interactive's Elven Legacy- a turn based strategy game featuring, yes you guessed it, Elves!

I'm not usually one for strategy games like this so...well, you'll have to read the review to find out exactly what I thought!

Click here to read the Elven Legacy review!

Or alternatively, keep reading...

Elven Legacy Screenshot : Click for larger imageElven Legacy is a game that features Elves (had you guessed?)

Ooh Elves!

Elves have had a mixed reception in the past, from the higher beings in the Lord Of The Rings stories to Evil Glamour creatures in Terry Pratchett books. Not to mention their spooky obsession with Christmas, so With all of these interpretations I'm not quite sure where I stand with Elves in general.

This game has it's own take again; this time they're an extremely proud but surprisingly angry group of peeps. The plot revolves around a mage who has uncovered dark powers that the Elves were guarding and now they need him stopped. Sagittel, an experienced Elven general, takes a bunch of raw recruits along with him to stop the mage...and hilarity ensures...

Ok, well not hilarity, but you should get the idea. There are a couple of attempts at humour but overall I think the story takes the game a little too seriously. Sagittel himself is a little too proud and constantly argues with every other character in the game. This at least means he's consistent as a character, but tedious and predictable to watch.

The gameplay consists of turn based strategy with a hexagonal based battlefield, the kind found in most turn based strategy games. It works well, but then again this is tried and tested stuff. Something I did appreciate was the map controls which I found intuitive and easy to use and didn't interrupt my limited tactical train of thought! Left click on unit, left click on destination, left click on enemy to attack; It sounds simple but some strategy games can really beat around the bush with it all. I did miss having a mini map though when my units were more spread out.

It reminded me very much of my table top games I played in my teenage years. In fact I think I've always preferred turn based battles to real time strategy because of that. I somehow find comfort in being able to move and fire before the enemy has even spotted my units. I'm being generous because, as usual, I'm pretty rubbish at anything that requires tactical thinking.

And that's a total understatement! In short: I'm Rubbish.

Elven Legacy Screenshot : Click for larger imageThat doesn't mean Elven Legacy wasn't enjoyable for me, far from it and contrary to most strategy games I've played, I felt really drawn into the story! The missions all had similar goals, which is almost unavoidable I suppose, the designs were all unique and related perfectly to the situation. But each one really felt like a small part of the journey described in the talky bits between missions. This was mostly due to the detail of the landscape consistently looking like an advanced tabletop war game. It looked especially good during levels where you approach obstacles such as walls and fortresses to conquer.

Graphically there are not massive poly counts or the latest in shaders going on. This wasn't such a problem, I've always been more for playability rather than over compensation with graphics. The "everything must be brown" approach wasn't used here, which I was glad about as I like to recognise the units instantly rather than having to check by clicking or zooming in.

Elven Legacy Screenshot : Click for larger imageElven Legacy does have one major drawback for me. It's fiendishly difficult, so much so (and I know I'll get judged for this) I had to change the difficulty to "easy". You can change the difficulty at the start of each level and I have no doubt that most strategy fans will have no problem on the normal level. Strangely enough my problem wasn't keeping my units fighting fit but rather completing the objective within the time limit. I have an aversion to sending troops on suicide missions just to complete an objective in time but the game didn't agree with my priorities!

I wasn't too sure about the rpg type experience system where you could pick perks for characters and squads, I've never been much of a fan for mixing these genres. It didn't bother me as much as it has done with some real time strategy games that have employed these features but I can't deny that in this case it helped when characters learnt new skills mid-battle.

Most of the spells look different when cast but do pretty much the same thing: hurt the bad guys. This is good and useful of course but I found myself wanting more of the interesting spells which created floating eyeballs, or lowered the effectiveness of enemy weapons and such. The downside of all spells and non-static abilities was the usage limits per mission: Fireballs, for instance, can only be used by a particular character 3 times. Damage based spells felt underpowered but can be cast on any visible enemy at any range, whereas I would have preferred them to be restricted by range and do more damage!

Elven Legacy Screenshot : Click for larger imageSomething I was quite taken with in Elven Legacy was it's sound and music. Most of the time the music isn't anything amazing but there are a few more memorable themes that occasionally play. I know they're memorable because I found myself singing them at work! Voice acting isn't half as bad as it could have been with most of the cast being believable. Part of the cast were obviously into their roles more than others, sometimes to the point of cheesiness, but at least it was delivered with conviction!

I have to admit I wasn't expecting to like this at all, so it was quite a shock when I found I actually wanted to keep playing! It feels like it's been influenced by a mixture of Warcraft and Games Workshop imagery and that's not a bad thing! There's a lot of good stuff in there with clear visuals, decent music and sound, passable story and so on. But therein is a problem: there's nothing amazing, outstanding or completely unexpected that I can grasp onto and say it's a must buy.

With that said I'm positive anyone who enjoys turn based strategy, or fantasy war gaming is going to get a kick out of this!

Score: 78 out of 100

Final Words: It's difficult, but it's got Elves!

Elven Legacy and it's various add on packs can be purchased from GamersGate (click here) *

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