Elven Legacy: Turned Based Hex for Lovers of strategy

elvenlogoElven Legacy
Released April 7, 2009
Paradox Interactive

Throw a board with inch wide hexes on it, a few pewter, plastic or card board figures and some interesting rules about range, attacks and movement together an I’m a happy guy. I love turned base board game strategy from the less than strategic RISK to extremely complex, hundreds of little card board punch out tank style games I played a lot in my youth. The rush of taking total command of all of your imaginary forces and watching them wash like an ocean over your enemy. . . it’s a heck of a lot of fun.

I was hopeful and optimistic when I first read about Elven Legacy because it seemed to embody all of these elements. I had a chance to play the game recently and as it turns out, my optimism was well founded Elven Legacy has its niggling problems and a few strange things happened but overall the experience was a good one – I had a lot of fun, was engaged for many hours and will certainly be revisiting this title to play on my own time – considering how little of it I have, that’s a sign of a decent game.

The Map, because Elves never get lost.
The Map, because Elves never get lost.

Elven Legacy brings us into a world where a few rogue humans have stolen the magic and power from the Elves, resulting in a major catastrophe for all Elven kind. As the game progresses you are at the head of the Elven initiative to regain this power, with the help of your human allies.

Starting with the most obvious aspect of any new video game, the graphics, Elven Legacy doesn’t disappoint. It’s no masterpiece but for the $29.99 price point it excels. The graphics are a bit cartoony in a purposeful way and take good advantage of the subject matter to portray a vivid and alive seeming world. Grass blows in the wind, flowers pop, units both enemy and friendly move about, dance, and menace each other. Motion capture was used to make the individual units move nicely and is definitely noticeable when watching them on screen.

Two swords! Two swords that smite as one.
Two swords! Two swords that smite as one.

Where Elven Legacy really shines is in mechanics of the game. The rules as they are may be complicated behind the scenes but the transition to an on screen experience is smooth and very easy to grasp. Units are broken into melee, ranged, and magical – comprised of ground units and air units. Only one unit of either type (ground/air) can occupy one hex at a time. You can’t move through your own units. Ranged units have an attack that doesn’t trigger an automatic defense. Air units can only be struck by ranged units below them or other air units. Each unit gets to move and attack once per turn. As units progress through various battles they gain experience and new abilities. Add into this mix artifacts that can be found, money to buy recruite new units and lots of information available with a click of the mouse. That’s the gist of it. Like other games of this type the simple to grasp basic rules and result in complicated strategies. In addition, Elven Legacy has a fixed number of units allowed on the field at any given scenario. Usually this is fairly low (less than 10 on average). Extra units can still be recruited but fall into your Reserves to be called up at the demise of an already fielded unit. While this doesn’t make for any massive meeting of forces, it does provide for a nice,streamlined battle experience, a trade of that works for this game.

The execution of these strategies is another matter. Elven Legacy has one of the best UI I’ve come across in a turn based strategy game. Everything is available to you through the click of a single button or hovering over a target and left-clicking. Menus, information and choices aren’t buried three levels deep as they are in some games (or seemingly every game on the PSP – but I digress.) Here is where the game really shines. It comes with a few tutorials on the use of the UI but I found they were quickly gotten through. Everything seems to be where it should be meaning I can concentrate more on playing the game than remembering how to find out just how much damage my Elven Archers can do or where the unit recruitment screen is. Your current unit is displayed on your left in the lower corner – whatever you happen to be hovering over is displayed on the right. With a few simple moves and mouse clicks you can discern the health of your army and the opposing army. In this respect Elven Legacy is most like the board games I know and love.

After little Timmy spilled a box of Keebler cookies on the field he knew his farm would never be the same.
After little Timmy spilled a box of Keebler cookies on the field he knew his farm would never be the same.

The main campaign itself is a bit one sided. Your the Elves and their allies and that’s that. It would be fun to play as the bad guys but that doesn’t appear to be an option. The campaign does have some open ended aspects that will determine who and how you fight, as well as a difficulty slider that determines not only the strength of your enemies but the rewards you’ll receive during and at the end of a given battle. Multiplayer and a map editor certainly open up great opportunities for replayability.
The voice acting in Elven Legacy leaves a bit to be desired. The voice actors spent a lot of time being trite, gruff or over-empathetically making key points the player should get. Our skulls aren’t that thick or we wouldn’t be sitting down to a few hours of troop management as a hobby.

Swoops the dragon tries out a new move.
Swoops the dragon tries out a new move.

The storyline is not what I’d call deeply engaging. Perhaps I’m just impatient but there were several occasions where I rapidly clicked through dialog just to get to the next mission. Then again, that may be why I didn’t find the story deeply engaging. The bottom line for me is that while the story provides a framework for which the action takes place, I played this game for the action not the story and it wasn’t compelling enough to draw me in for a nice pause and a bit of reminiscing between battles.

Overall I enjoyed my time with Elven Legacy. I am a big fan of the turn based game, be it strategy or RPG. Elven Legacy has more than enough going for it to justify it’s relatively low price of $29.99. The AI is not the most fantastic I’ve ever come across but it’s enough to pose a decent challenge. Online multiplayer extends the playability as does the map editor. With new scenarios promised and a decent community of map makers this game has the potential to be fun for some time.

Graphics: 8 – Good to look at, lots of detail, cut scenes and movies a bit rough.
Game Play/Mechanics: 9 – Extremely easy to use and Intuitive UI makes this game.
Replayability: 9 – Open-ended wargaming allows for multiple replays. Map Editor and multiplayer increase the replayability greatly.
Sound/Voice Acting: 6 – Occasionally the game would slip into some language I didn’t immediately on me. While getting the point across the sound clips were often abruptly ended and the acting is a bit James T Kirk.
Storyline: 6 – A bit stilted in the telling the story is not terribly engaging in and of itself and serves only to move the player on to the next battle, not to engage them in a whole new world.
General Fun: 8 – Overall experience is a fun, engaging time in short (half hour) bursts of battle allowing for both casual and hardcore gamers to enjoy this title. Great UI.

Overall Score: 8

Elven Legacy is available from a whole heck of a lot of download and retail places.

[tags]video games, elven legion, review[/tags]

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