Rather unique setting.
Some gameplay-related annoyances.
Legends Of Eisenwald Review
How interested would you be, should someone randomly ask you if you’d want to play a turn-based RPG strategy game set in Medieval Germany? Odds are, you’d slap that person in the face with your ever-ready physical copy of Skyrim and run away screaming. You would, however, be missing out on what is a very good game, because Legends of Eisenwald nails down virtually every aspect of its code, from graphics to gameplay, with few real gripes to be found. Am I saying that this is a game that makes Middle Ages Germany viable as an interesting setting for one such piece of software? Yes, yes I am.
Most RPG games are placed in one of the two archetypical universe settings. The first and less prominent one is set in the future. Closer, further from our time – doesn’t matter as long as there’s an abundance of gadgets, weapons and tech that are similar to ours, yet have a cool twist to them. The storyline is easier to make interesting then, too. Just take a look at Deus Ex and the brilliant lore that sets it all into motion there. On the other end of the spectrum is the fantasy setting, by far more often found in gaming. Here we’ve got all kinds of monsters, magic, glowy shiny sticks to poke said monsters with and whatnot. Again, it serves as something that enhances our own world and makes it more interesting to work with. It’s no wonder, then, that most RPG game developers tend to avoid realistic settings lest there be a gimmick involved. Legends of Eisenwald is not completely magic-free, but employs it in a way that’s much more grounded in reality than that of, say, Gothic series is. Most of this game’s fantastical elements are divulged from the superstitions that were presumably present at that time. It’s a new twist to the given formula that’s, strangely enough, refreshing in video games. Legends of Eisenwald can thus be considered to be low-fantasy game, albeit one that’s strongly rooted in reality and focuses more on situations that are quite possible in real life instead of those that involve heavily in magic and such.
Upon beginning the game, you can choose one of the the three given characters. It’s a rather straightforward choice, as one is a knight that fights in close quarters, one is a hunter/archer that attacks from afar and the last one works essentially as a healer/support unit that rarely, if ever, lands a hit. This choice has to mirror your playing philosophy, as you won’t be able to upgrade any of the other units, equipment aside. See, Legends of Eisenwald is an RPG first and foremost, so if you’re hoping to play a thinly-veiled turn-based strategy you’ll be better off playing something else entirely. There’s little army management involved here, and this is seen clearly in most of the game’s design. Never will you command a regiment of more than a dozen units, nor will you ever be able to monitor their growth except for being able to change their class upon leveling up and their equipment load out. Worse yet, these units will sometimes be taken from you for the purposes of the relatively well-realised storyline. What surprised me is the amount of streamlining this game endured, so as to turn into a very linear, story-focused experience. Sure, there’s an odd choice to make here and there, but don’t expect anything to change for realises further down the line. If you were hoping to play a HOMM or King’s Bounty, this game is definitely not it.
The gameplay is a fairly standard hex-bound endeavour for the genre, albeit one that makes you think more aggresively than is usually the case. See, maps are ridiculously small most of the time, claustrophobic even, and units cannot move unless they make an attack in that same turn. You’ll be on the offensive mostly, then, with only support/healers and archers staying back to provide, well, support. A modifier jumps in here or there, such as overall decrease in health when mounting an assault on fortified areas, and the game’s already challenging nature will sometimes turn the experience into an exercise in frustration on higher difficulties, but that’s something you’ll have to contend with until you figure out how to beat each particular combat situation.
While running amok on the overmap, you’ll have to pay attention to your surroundings and whatever quest-givers told you to do, as there’s no obvious quest-markers to help you out in Legends of Eisenwald. Indeed, whereas most modern games revel in holding your hands through the story, this one works quite the opposite, throwing you into a rather sizeable game world and letting you get your bearings however you can. This means you’ll have to read whatever the NPCs tell you carefully – which will be a pain in the ass sometimes as there’s no voice-over to help you out here. This is why I’ve mentioned ‘no hand-holding’ as both a positive and a negative thing in this particular game – while it is nice not to be led by the sleeve for a change, it’s all too easy to get lost and forget what you’re trying to accomplish. Not to mention how it’ll sometimes be entirely unclear what you’re supposed to be doing. Regardless of that, Legends of Eisenwald serves a fun and wholly engrossing experience that’ll be appreciated by the thinkers.
Regarding the graphics, Legends of Eisenwald is a delightfully pretty game, albeit a tad too clean, but that’s a wholly different subject. The lighting especially makes it all come to life, even though it would seem that those shadow renders sure do like to eat processing power. There’s an off chance you’ll encounter a freeze here or there, or perhaps a framerate drop. These issues aren’t too prominent due to the game’s genre, so I wouldn’t worry too much. The bugger didn’t crash once, which is especially nice for those long playing sessions some are bound to get caught up in with Legends of Eisenwald.
When all is said and done, Legends of Eisenwald is a strange, albeit solid game. It does things slightly differently and even though there’s always something to critique, the way it all falls together makes it just right. It’s sure to offer a decent number of gameplay hours in its main campaign, and comes with two additional ones to buff the whole thing up. The Steam Workshop is there to maintain a steady influx of content should you yearn for more. A must for every tactical RPG enthusiast.
Legends Of Eisenwald Review
2nd July 2015