Elven Legacy (PC) review
"If you're a turn-based strategy fan looking for something new, a Fantasy Wars fanatic or even a real-time regular who appreciates the RISK-type features many titles feature on their overworld map, Elven Legacy is for you. It sucks you in and dupes you into playing hours at a time, whilst managing to make every minute enjoyable. Whilst some elements such as the unvaried objectives and linear path may put a lot of people off, the game compensates by throwing in exciting fights and a fascinating plot."
Elven Legacy shares a lot of traits with Fantasy Wars, its predecessor. They're both strategy games developed by the same small-time studio. Each has a unique art style and gorgeous graphics which really bring everything from lush forests to sweeping valleys to life. Fantasy Wars includes multiple races, but EL obviously focuses on pointy-eared forest dwellers. EL is a turn-based strategy game, but has many role-playing features, with a large focus on heroes and the spells they cast. Heroes played a large part in Fantasy Wars too, albeit it was more up to the player to recruit villagers and level them up, rather than starting out with them. Finally, both throw the gamers into mystical lands populated by many other strange beings, from goblins to dwarves. However, with the basics aside, the similarities end and the real fun begins.
Fantasy games in general give a lacklustre storytelling experience filled with Tolkien-like clichés. However, Elven Legacy steers away from the typical stereotypes. This shouldn't surprise anyone, given that its predecessors in the Fantasy Wars series were (despite their namesake) anything but unoriginal. The races featured are constantly at war, using many varied machinations to assault the other sides, from tamed dragons to walking trees. Don't expect any silly cross-species love stories. In fact, the typical sub-plots such as human-to-Elf romance are non-existent here. These separate nations are at war in EL, instead of being allied together against some ambiguous evil. The source of conflict between the two is based on contrasting manifestos and a fear of the unknown. These are catalysts for war that are even present in the real world, and provide a far more believable back story.
The characters are not holy bastions of some righteous cause, either. The heroes have deep personalities, and each has their own motivation for taking part in the war. There's evidently a slant in favour of the Elves being a fairer and just race than their enemies, but this doesn't stop some of their main figureheads being spurred on by tragic flaws such as hubris, revenge or simply rage. Often, games will include a very rich and thought-out lore about the world, but disappoint with unrealistic characters. Not Elven Legacy, where the each person is just as fleshed out as the next. This is helped out by some great voice acting. Even the occasional quirky one-liner can help build a more extensive character profile, and the game makes full use of such technology.
The majority of the game is played out on a large world map. It functions like any other turn-based strategy. 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. 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. 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. The straightforward strategic combat system is quite satisfying and assisted by some great animations.
Without giving too much away, the story unfolds slowly as you progress through the initial campaign, and the real reason why your heroes are on their quest becomes hazy. Its interesting to see a title in this genre deal with sophisticated plotlines, and not simply sliding into clichés or even letting the player roam freely without a true mission. Its especially interesting to note the alternative endings which depend on the player's choices. However, you may find the journey towards the finale more intriguing than the end itself.
If you're a turn-based strategy fan looking for something new, a Fantasy Wars fanatic or even a real-time regular who appreciates the RISK-type features many titles feature on their overworld map, Elven Legacy is for you. It sucks you in and dupes you into playing hours at a time, whilst managing to make every minute enjoyable. Whilst some elements such as the unvaried objectives and linear path may put a lot of people off, the game compensates by throwing in exciting fights and a fascinating plot.
Freelance review by Freelance Writer (May 06, 2009)
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