It is a common occurrence for strategy games to adhere to a proven formula for success, but recently a number of developers have had success in making innovations in gameplay, if not theme and setting. Now meet the sequel to Fantasy Wars, Elven Legacy, a turn-based strategy game that shows a complete unwillingness to bring anything new to the genre, seemingly on any level. This may or may not be a bad thing depending on your personal stance on games in general, previous experience with Fantasy Wars and beard length.
Prepare to enter the high-camp world of Elven Legacy, filled with swords and sorcery and a range of some of the most bland fantasy stereotypes you have ever encountered. All the Tolkein-esque favourites are present: Orcs, Humans, Dwarves, Dragons and of course the race that is the focus of the single player campaign – Elves. For the first single player campaign you control an Elf general and the small army under his command on a quest to return an ancient magic stolen by a Human mage. Cut scenes look ropey using the in-game graphics and the accompanying dialogue used to develop the plot is cringe-worthy. It may be a bit harsh to judge a strategy game on criteria such as story and voice acting but this stuff really gets rubbed in your face at frequent intervals.
Chances are if you're interested in a turn based strategy game called Elven Legacy any shortcomings in story or presentation will be forgiveable if the strategy element is on the money. Luckily this is, without doubt, where the game’s strengths lie. There is no resource management or base building to occupy your time, player input is distilled down to simple movement and combat commands to issue over a hex-based map. This relative simplicity makes the game accessible for newcomers and appealing to those who do not enjoy strategy games that require constant micromanagement.
A currency of gold can be gained by capturing settlements and completing certain quests. This can then be spent on buying upgrades, replacing fallen troops or buying new units that can be deployed at certain points on the map during missions. Units earn experience during missions and remain with the party until they die. Gradually levelling up and earning perks reveals there is considerable depth to the combat rule set that expert players will have to exploit to be able to beat the game on harder difficulty levels. Unfortunately there's no sense of character and hence no attachment to your squad of clones; death of a long-serving experienced unit is merely a functional annoyance.
Each Mission has a turn limit in which you must complete it - this contributes to a pretty severe difficulty level even on easy mode and can lead to the rather unsatisfying situation of having to make a dash for the objective and ignoring those who die on the way. Completing a mission with heavy casualties might well screw up your chances of completing the next. Luckily there is a frequent autosave function; chances are you will rely on it a lot.
Campaigns for both Elf and Human forces are included, featuring a branching mission structure and multiple final outcomes. To encourage replayability each mission can be completed to bronze, silver or gold standard depending on how few turns it took to complete. Orcs and Dwarves will also be playable in bonus missions, offline 'hot seat' and online multiplayer modes. Facing human opponents in multiplayer mode may prove a significantly more interesting challenge than the slightly stodgy campaign. A mission editor has also been thrown in for those keen to develop their own maps which all-in-all adds up to considerable longevity for those hooked on this particular brand of fantasy turn-based strategy.
Elven Legacy has bright, colourful visuals that are functional but not pretty. The camera view can be rotated 360 degrees and zoomed in and out. Zoomed out squads are represented by giant figures whilst zooming in reveals groups of identical soldiers and is only really suitable for viewing combat. Controlling and identifying units is much easier when zoomed out and this is probably where you will set the viewpoint as standard. Ordering melee or ranged attacks between units triggers combat animations that are something of a no-frills affair. Magic units are able to cast spells over long distance which leads to some unimpressive visual affects, all of which can be skipped if you wish to continue with the action.