by Johnathan Irwin
reviewed on PC
Seek, And Ye Shall Find
Have you ever had a desire to lead? I'm sure you have, it's a common human trait. When we look at leaders in the world, whether it be the manager of a restaurant or the leader of a nation we find ourselves thinking, "If I was in charge, things would be different. Things would be better".
Throughout history there have been those who have come about this opportunity through the means of weaponizing spirituality. Self proclaimed prophets would turn otherwise normal people into tools of destruction, often bastardizing the faiths they originate from and causing resentment towards religion in general. Waco Texas, Jonestown Guyana, war torn Syria, and many more. Re-Legion from Ice Code Games sets forth with you in the shoes of a prophet, whose actions will determine if his followers build peace or a machine of war, all set against a cyberpunk landscape. The idea is fantastic, but how is the execution?
Before he was a prophet, he was a man. The game follows Elion in his rise to power, and while the story itself is a bit too clean-cut, Elion's voice acting before, during, and after his rise to Prophet is actually pretty well done. Elion's goal is to free the minds of the people from their corporate overlords, which he does by slowly converting people to his cause through the gameplay mechanic of sermons.
The Preacher Man
It's a bit basic, and while it makes sense, it's underwhelming. Success in the game is determined entirely on the spread of your influence, which revolves almost entirely around this single mechanic. You move Elion before potential followers, you highlight them and commit to a sermon and then... they're yours. I've heard of unquestioning faith before, but that's a bit much. As your influence spreads, you're able to upgrade your followers to an assortment of different classes each with different specialties. For a game that acts as though morality is a choice, it really tries to steer you towards conflict as much as possible — subterfuge is often better left abandoned. It feels like less of a cult, and more of a zombie horde, you just amass your numbers and throw them forth to kill or be killed.
Peace is further proven to be an illusion, since most missions involve either wiping out the enemy or controlling a heavily guarded point (which will result in, wiping out the enemy). Perhaps it would be different if there was more to praise from the AI but there just isn't. The AI is as bare bones as possible, with even the enemy favoring to bulk up and rush during encounters, leaving you with no choice but to employ the horde mentality and just throw bodies against bodies in a vibrantly-colored mosh-pit of combat.
While the gameplay itself is lacking, I find the art direction of Re-Legion to be beautiful — darkened streets illuminated by the fierce neon of signs, laser-blasts, and minimalist character design, mesh well in the setting. The same cannot be said of the audio, which while it's serviceable, is just a bit bland for sound effects and musical scoring. Elion's voice acting is pretty well done as previously mentioned, but side characters and random NPCs run the gambit from average to cringeworthy "Eenie meanie miny mo, which device has the code?" just made me sigh and shake my head the first time I heard it.
Re-Legion is a great example of a good idea that is failed by the sum of its parts. It's not a bad game by a long shot, but it's also not what I would call great or even good. It's serviceable, it works (other than two frustrating crashes), it has a beautiful visual aesthetic and a great lead voice actor. But when you make a game centered around building a cult, when you set out with the intent of making player choice matter so that you have a real option of peace or chaos, you have to make it so.
Maybe that was the intent, maybe it was supposed to show that even in a peaceful approach, the status quo in the game will always react against a player in a way that forces their hand. However, even if that is the case, feeling shoehorned into violent encounters due mostly to bumbling AI and basic objectives makes the game lose it's impact.
Beautiful environments, great lead voice actor
Lackluster AI and basic objectives, peace does not appear to be as much of an option as the game would imply, bad supporting voice cast