Genre: Turn-Based Strategy
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Developer: 1C: Ino-Co
Release Date: April 7, 2009
Few things have defined major elements of fantasy or had quite the effect on gaming as the seminal series Warhammer and its many derivatives. Many attempts have been made to bring its formula to the computer screen, with highly varying levels of success It could be said that this idea has been especially well-mirrored by Nintendo's classic Fire Emblem series, which neatly represented such scales of war and has been an especially successful effort. Ideas from both series seem to represent the primary inspiration for the PC game and subject of this review, Elven Legacy.
At its heart, Elven Legacy is a very typical turn-based strategy-RPG. In the main campaign, the story focuses on a tired old Elven general who's been sent on a diplomatic mission. Your team consists of a few special hero units and several units of soldiers. These troops are placed on a hexagonal map that you will have almost no information about, thanks to a thorough fog of war, and you'll be given an objective to carry out, such as clearing most of the enemies off the map. Send your units around, have them capture various objectives for bonuses, level them up, and occasionally find a valuable artifact to use. Almost all of the stereotypical strategy/RPG tropes are present and accounted for.
Most of what makes this title unique are some of the qualities that everyone thinks should be in a game like this but very rarely actually are. Troops level up but also gain special perks with leveling and can offer you choices on how to evolve units. Units flank and support each other. Actual combat can be rendered quickly but will occasionally zoom in as the units are shown doing battle in detail, and this occurs just frequently enough to keep things interesting. Towns matter, as they are the only way to replenish slain troops, but wounded troops can recover through simple rest. The overall level of detail is just enough to reward those who look before they leap, but it's not enough to utterly overwhelm the player; for example, you can ignore the details of the math if wish. All of it is handled using a standard menu-based control scheme similar to that of most other PC strategy games, turn-based or otherwise.
Further, Elven Legacy is assisted by solid writing that is neatly derivative without being a rip-off, passable voice acting, and proof that the latest whiz-bang graphics cards are not necessarily the key to beautiful graphics. Maps let you see terrain far beyond the neatly delineated rectangular battlefields, including large castles, fortresses, and brief glimpses of the next area in which you'll be fighting. A tile of a specific land type won't look the same as the others around it, making the forests and villages look quite natural. Units aren't zoomed in enough for their detail level to be anything less than satisfying. All of this can be viewed with an essentially free-scrolling camera, letting you see the action from any angle you feel like. While this doesn't directly influence play to any extent, the ability to adjust the battlefield's scroll however you please is very nice for thinking about the situation or simply gawking at the beautiful and high-quality maps.
Unfortunately, the game's sound is merely passable. Combat noises seem to be coming from off in the distance, with the few significantly audible sounds lacking atmosphere even though they're easily identifiable. Music has an utterly unmemorable and generic feel, and the voice acting, although not laughably bad, is often quite wooden. Further, a few areas of gameplay didn't have the voice acting translated to English; in particular, the tutorial goes between fully dubbed videos and Russian in-game instructions (fortunately, with English subtitles). I found this to be highly odd.
While this probably counts as nitpicking, Elven Legacy has a curious way of handling crashes. When the game crashed during the tutorial, a window popped up on the screen, reading, "INO-CO sadly reports: This program has crashed!" Normally, this would pop up after the game had fully started to exit. Instead, I could click back into the game, which appeared to be locked up, and alt-tab back to the error message. Alt-F4 made the game close itself properly, so the game wasn't actually locked up at all, but it still needed me to close the software program.
Elven Legacy is a sort of game you've played before. Fire Emblem fans will find it familiar, but with more Western touches befitting of the Russian development team. Disgaea fans will find it familiar, but on a lower scale of fantasy. Warhammer fans, however, will find it the most familiar - while the setting is brighter and some rules abstracted, the sheer feel of regulating an army (with heroes!) in a calm, turn-based environment where thinking ahead is very strongly rewarded will feel right at home in many ways. Plus, actually seeing your units fight in detailed combat is a nicely rewarding feeling. Fans of the SRPG genre looking for something nicely slow-paced will find the game perfectly satisfactory, if not necessarily particularly special.Score: 7.5/10
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