by Marko Susimetsä
reviewed on PC
Wonderful user interface (cntd)
The maps are divided into hexagons, as is proper in any game claiming to be a strategy game (take heed, Firaxis!) and each hexagon can hold only one of your land units at a time as well as a single flying unit. Each hexagon will also be one of a selection of terrain types: hills, river, swamp, plains, urban etc. and offer different bonuses or penalties to the attack and defense attributes of your units.
You have the traditional fog of war to hide the enemy units from you until one of your units can see them. This can lead to nasty surprises as you think you are approaching a small enemy force, but are suddenly bombarded by catapults from the enemy that are still hidden by the fog of war. Rather unrealistically, the catapult crews can apparently see you through the eyes of their compatriots and thus they don’t need a direct line of vision to fire at you. It is either that or they must have extremely fast messengers to relay the correct coordinates to those firing crews…
The battle tactics work precisely as they did in Fantasy Wars and I could copy-paste my previous description here if my editor didn’t detest such tricks. You are still best advised to take advantage of the lay of the land: keep in the forests even if they may slow your progress down, try to lure your enemy into weak positions (crossing a river) where you can easily strike them down with little damage to your own units, don’t divide your forces unless you are absolutely certain that you know what you are doing. Do not trust that the Easy setting at the start of each confrontation will actually make that confrontation a breeze to beat. Especially so, since the AI has been improved since the original and the enemy has some nasty tricks up their sleeve.
The time limits for gold victories and the highest gold prizes are very tough indeed and require you to know the map by heart from past attempts in order to head straight for your goals with no detours whatsoever. This, in turn, will stop you from finding all the magic items on the map that might help you in a later battle...
In short, the game is in no way easy to beat, although the childish candy graphics may lead you to believe otherwise. This is not for the sort of casual gamers who only have one half of their brain working on the game, while the other is focused on trying to hear if their boss is approaching them from behind. Or the kind who has to keep one eye on their children when they play.
The graphics style has not changed since Fantasy Wars. Certainly, there may be some improvements that make the shining candy wrappings even smoother and shinier than in the original, but in essence, you will be playing the same game with a different story. Mind you, there may be a slight reduction in the size of the armor and weapons that the characters wear. They were really ridiculous in the original and seem to be slightly less so in Elven Legacy (the developers appear to have taken some hints from our previous review).
The units are still very easy to tell apart, though, which is a very good quality in any strategy game. You don’t want to have to guess what the function of each unit is. You can even tell apart the less experienced Deer Riders from the experienced and deadly Battle Stag Riders as well as Elf Fencers from Veteran Fencers. Likewise, once again the female elf units stand out by being very scantily clad, making sure that you know which units to zoom into while you play. The same attention to detail is apparent in all the unit attack animations etc., although you are likely to start clicking past them after you've seen them once.
However, although the graphics look pretty enough, the quality does not hold in case of the voice actors. Most of the voices sound like they were delivered by young children with little acting ability and there is next to no evidence of lip-sync with the on-screen graphics.
Problems to look out for
The review version of the game had some problems that I hope are not still there in the commercial copy. First, the dialogue in the story sequences tended to run over itself, the next line starting before the first one had finished. Second, the tutorial had some spoken instructions delivered in the original Russian. The game also crashed on my machine a couple of times, but these were not persistent crashes and a simple reload got me back into the game.
Better than the original?
All in all, my honest impression is that Elven Legacy is little more than a re-wrapped Fantasy Wars with new units, new storyline and improved graphics. There is nothing wrong with that, however, as the game offers solid, good fun for any fan of strategy in a fantasy setting. Still, it might have been interesting to see some more ambition from the developers: bigger maps, larger armies, supply routes etc. that would take the game more towards being a real strategy game. The main story is there merely to bind the individual battle maps together and offers little in the way of true penmanship. Above all, I would have liked to see more choices left to the player. Being able to just choose blindly between two optional routes on the main map from one encounter to the next is not really giving the player any choice.
Like the original, Elven Legacy offers a tough challenge in attractive candy wrappings. It will certainly please the fans of the original and anyone looking for a simple, easy-to-play tactical strategy game without too many statistics to worry about. You owe it to yourself to at least try the game out if you haven't yet played the original!
No Pros and Cons at this time