Fallen Enchantress: Legendary Heroes is a bit of a weird beast of a game. It mixes a few different genres together to create a game that has some interesting ideas but a few quirky behaviors keep it from becoming an ďamazingĒ game, instead of where it sits as a good-to-great one, depending on your views on it. Still, considering how few of these games there are, notably Civilization 5, and Warlock - Master of the Arcane , itís still a worth-while look, if youíre into any the 4X games at all.
Legendary Heroes is a stand-alone expansion to last yearís well-received game Elemental: Fallen Enchantress. Iíve never actually played that game, but looking at videos for it, Legendary Heroes kind of looks exactly the same. Even having the same intro movie explaining what is actually going on in the world. So instead of telling what is really different from that game to this game, Iíll simply judge this one on its own merits.
Legendary Heroes is a 4X (Explore, Expand, Exploit, Exterminate) game from Stardock. Youíre tasked with picking a Sovereign (named hero unit), choosing a faction and trying to complete the game through one of the various win conditions the game has. You can choose either a pre-made Sovereign (with a little back story), or else just create your own, giving you some freedom in picking whatever particular skills you might want.
Once thatís all done, you can specify what kind of what you want, how many resources, enemy intelligence, win conditions, etc. Maps are static but the variables about how many resources on a map, crystal locations, gear drops, and so on can be changed and altered. Once you hit the button, the world generates and fills in those locations.
On the surface the game really does appear to be a Civ 5/Warlock type of game. You start off with just a few basic units, and you have to start a city. You can only settle cities on specific patches of land, which are denoted by little different colored boxes with numbers on the lands. The green stands for grain (food), the red for materials, and the blue for essence (magic). Ideally, youíll want to start a city on a tile with high numbers in all 3 categories but thatís not usually the case. Once your first town is built, the simulation aspect gears up.
The first two things youíll do when your town is settled is start a research project. The tech tree is divided into three subjects; civilization, warfare and magic. Civilization is focused on things like diplomacy, education, and city improvement buildings for harvesting more resources. Warfare is focused on army improvements, like increasing the size of your armies, giving them better weapons and armor, or giving them skills to ride animals into battle. Magic is about improving the magical yields in the world that you control (shards), learning new spells, and giving you magical items to equip for battle.
The second thing youíll want to start doing is constructing new buildings for the town. This is very Civilization 5-like, where you have a list of buildings and you select which ones you want. Newer buildings are unlocked via researching them, which has feeds into the cycle of trying to expand your city. Some buildings increase your gildar (gold) output, or else your food, research, magic, production, or even increasing your zone of control (town borders) which increases the area your city controls. This last one is a pretty critical thing since there will often be a resource node, mine, magic shard, rock foundry outside your borders and youíll want to capture those nodes in order to have them start producing for you. One nice thing is that you can queue up both research projects, and building projects. If you want to research a warfare skill that is three levels deep, you can click on it, and the game will automatically start researching the prerequisite technologies first.
As these two city-building activities are going on, youíll want to start exploring the surrounding area for ďgoodie hutsĒ (free item drops), seeing what resource nodes are out there, if any quests are available, and what monsters might be around. The goodie huts provide you usually with an item, some gildar, a random spell, or a bit of fame. Finding resource nodes outside your control can be used later on, if you want to build an outpost, which Iíll describe in a bit. Quests are generally broken down into two types, either ďgo kill this monsterĒ or else ďsolve a problem for usĒ. One quest I received early on in one game had my characters hook up with a caravan that had been killed during the night by a creature. I could either flee from the creature, attack it, or else try and offer it some gildar. I attacked it, and got revenge against it.
The monster and basic combat systems are interesting. Monsters are broken into 5 level classifications; weak, average, strong, deadly and epic. The higher up you go, the more challenging it becomes. Other factors come into play when fighting such as army strength (yours and theirs), attack and defense power, and general type of enemy. You (and enemies) can group individual units into a single army unit which moves across the battlefield. At the start you can only have an army of 6 units, but that size can increase (up to 9) with various technological improvements.
Once a battle starts though, is where the game breaks from some of the Civ 5/Warlock mold. You have two options when beginning a battle, you can either ďAuto ResolveĒ, which plays out like a Warlock/Civ battle where the units have a little battle animation. OR you can go into the turn-based mode which is where the meat is. The fighting engine is a turn-based tactical/strategy game reminiscent of something like Disgaea, or Final Fantasy Tactics. You move your units on a square grid, with the enemy doing the same. When the units are close enough, they can start melee attacking, or using abilities. You can also group units around an enemy creating a chain attack, so if an enemy is in front of one your units, you can flank the enemy with another unit and then both units will attack. Some of your units (and your Sovereigns) can also use spells to heal your units, improve defense, or just outright attack your enemy with lightning and fireballs. On the left side of the screen is a helpful turn indicator (kind of like in Mega Man X: Command Mission), where youíll know whose turn is coming up next, 9 turns in.
When the battle is over, assuming you won, you get a bit of gildar, some experience and fame, and thatís about it. Your Sovereigns can become injured from a fight, like a broken nose, or a blinded eye, which will impact their performance for a bit, but they heal on their own every turn outside of battle. Your Sovereigns can level up, and they have their own general tech tree, as well as a picking a specialization; Assassin, Defender, Commander, Mage, or Warrior, each having their own specific tech tree, and bonuses. Likewise, your cities can also level up, which you can specialize into; Town, Fortress or Conclave, with further specializations when you gin further levels. Likewise, your towns get fame from your armyís exploits, or improvements you build, so you have the chance to recruit specialized heroes into the fold, which are basically like more Sovereign units for you to control.
There are 5 different types of victory conditions as well, either diplomatic, conquest, master quest (doing a secret quest in game), casing a spell once certain requirements or met, or by just running down the turn counter. This last one isnít an official one that they list, but itís how I won a majority of the games I played.
I am still leaving a lot of different elements about the game out, due to how dense it is. You also have to deal with population unrest, equipping your Sovereign/hero units, designing your own army units, city taxation, dealing with outposts (they are like mini-cities you can build mostly anywhere to gain control of an area for resource purposes, but you canít independently build anything with them), to a half dozen other things. Itís a bit daunting, to be honest, and leads into some of the issues I ran into during the game.
What keeps Legendary Heroes from reaching the quality level of Civilization 5 is due to some rough patches with it. The primary offender is an over-abundance of information, and an under-abundance of actually explaining what the hell youíre supposed to do with it. If anything, Civ 5 had even more information displayed on screen for the player to learn from. The difference is that Civ 5 displayed the information in an easy-to-understand way, and Legendary Heroes just dumps it all on you with little understanding of what it all means.
There is a tutorial in the game, but itís narrated by someone who sounds like a 10th grade math teacher, so your eyes will almost instantly glaze over. There is a ďHiregamenonĒ (Civilopedia) function, where you can learn about game systems, but itís just basic info, with no context. There isnít a linking mechanic (for finding out about concepts), or a search mechanic, if you need to find something quickly.
The other thing Civ 5 has (even Warlock had, in a basic, training sense) was the adviser system. Thereís no one/system in this game telling you what you should, or should not be doing. I wouldnít need someone holding my hand every step of the way, but this game gives you no real help, and simply throws you to the wolves to get devoured.
Thatís another issue; the game is extremely hard, even on lower difficulties. I tried playing on the standard difficulty level, and within about 70 turns, my town was destroyed. Even if you bump the game to the easiest difficulty, youíll still have a tough time with some of the enemies. This is compounded by issues with the game not telling you how to make your army better, which I frequently ran into.
Also, thereís just not a lot to do, at this time, in the game. All you do is the big 400 turn game, which can take hours. There is a ďScenarioĒ button but itís a bit weird. Youíre just thrown into a game, with a little text backstory. I was hoping there would be numerous types of scenarios for you to try, with some type of selection, but currently, there is only one, ďThe War for AnthysĒ, which largely has you doing the same things as in the normal game. I imagine Stardock will be adding in more scenarios as the game is released.
It would also be nice if you could change the ďAuto ResolveĒ battle functionality. I think when you use it, the game just does a melee to melee army battle, although Iím not certain (the game doesnít show you anything). The AI in this situation doesnít use spells, or items. So if you come across a stone golem and use Auto Resolve, youíll likely get creamed. However, if you actually fight it, using spells/items/strategy, youíll probably win. It would be very nice if there was a ďDo whatever it takesĒ option, where the AI would use everything in your inventory to keep your troops alive, and to kill the enemy. Your Sovereign/hero units also donít die, which is a bit odd. If they do ďdieĒ in battle, they just get teleported back to your city where youíll have to wait a few turns for them to heal up.
The last specific issue I ran into was early on, my army would move on its own. It kept trying to go down this one path (where an epic creature was), and I donít know why. I think it had something to do with the army being set to auto-explore, even though it wasnít. Stardock did fix this with a patch, and thatís actually to their credit. This game will likely be supported by them for a long time, so I see that as an actual plus on their part.
This isnít the most demanding, graphic-intensive, or pretty game in the world, but itís not trying to be. Iím not sure what game engine it is using (or if itís proprietary), but itís at least 3 years old, probably more. So, while itís not bleeding-edge Crysis 3 level quality, it can pretty much run on any computer currently with absolutely zero problem, let alone computers from 2 or 3 years ago. On the actual artistic side, everything does look solid, units are detailed well, the game world is interesting to explore, and some spell effects are nice. Like Iíve said, it wonít win any graphical awards, but 95% of the computers out there now, could run this game with little issue.
Sound is passable in the game, but unremarkable. The music is innocuous enough and tends to blend into the background. Sound effects fit into the gameís world, and sound appropriate for whatever action they convey. There are two narrators, the male Math-teacher for the tutorial, and a female one for narrating the end of the game/intro video. The male one is kind of embarrassing, but the female one is decent, there just isnít enough of her. Probably by the second game you start, youíll flip on your own music to make it more fun.
The Replay Factor
The big thing this game has going for replayability is the ďWorkshopĒ mode. Itís basically the mod tools of the game, split into 4 different parts; Builders Forge (tile/item sets), Cartographerís Table (modify maps), Particle Cauldron (spells, spell effects) and finally Faction Creator (create faction/backstory). All four parts could let you run wild with the game, letting you create to your heartís content. That said, thatís kind of about it, as far as keeping you really invested. There is the scenarios mode, but itís not implemented yet. The bread and butter is just replaying the core game, over and over, with different Sovreigns, factions, and strategies involved.
Fun and involved battle system
Game can run on most PCís with ease
Building up your cities and factions is fun
Voice acting is weak
The tutorial doesnít explain things well enough
The lack of an advisor gives little direction in the game
Overall, Fallen Enchantress: Legendary Heroes is an enjoyable game that doesnít quite have the right mixture for what itís trying to accomplish. It is fun, but things in the game arenít put into detail, so you donít know why youíre doing them. It is rough around the edges somewhat, but is still worth a look, if youíre a fan of the 4X genre. Especially since the Civilization 5 expansion (Gods and Kings) kind of stunk.
Not technically impressive, but artistically fine. The units have good detail, and the world looks nice.
Despite being thrown to the wolves, the game is fun. Itís enjoyable to build up your cities, but the strategy fighting is where the game shines.
The music is acceptable but gets dull after a while. The sound effects fit into the game. The voice acting isnít great.
The multi-layer mod support is good, but I wish it tied into Steam Workshop, for better sharing. You could spend days with this game, easy.
Despite still not grasping all the concepts of the game, it is interesting to play. It may take some time to get into it, but itís worth it.