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Legends of Eisenwald Review

by Forgottenlor, 2015-09-15

Something's foul in Eisenwald. Betrayal, conspiracy, murder, rape, curses, witchcraft, the dead rising from the grave, and you, the player, standing in the middle. And you don't play some do good hero who is going to solve all of the problems. No, you play a displaced noble seeking revenge, and getting, if you're lucky, out with your skin intact.

Legends of Eisenwald is a SRPG, similar in many ways to games like King's Bounty and Heroes of Might and Magic. The core of the Legends of Eisenwald are the tactical battles, as well as planning and movement on the strategic map. There are some big differences between Legends of Eisenwald and these games, though, and the first one has to do with the presentation of the story. In the latest chapters of the Heroes games, you finish up objectives and get to watch a movie cutscene. You have little influence over objectives, and are a bystander as far as the story is concerned. King's Bounty offers tons of quests. What you do and in which order is your choice, but you have little influence on the story other then whether you bother to do all the quests or not.

That's not the way things are in Legends of Eisenwald at all. You are often given goals and multiple ways to solve them, and while these might not have a huge influence on the world, they do have noticable consequences for your character.

Each unit can be advanced in a number of different ways and each class has its own equiment limitations.

Story

The story is central to Legends of Eisenwald, and anyone who doesn't like to read should stay away from this game. You encounter tons of text. You can skip quite a bit of them if you just stick to the main quest, but many of the side quests involve finding clues in local rumours, which means going to the taverns and listening to all of the gossip. While the stories in Legends of Eisenwald, in general, both contribute the medieval atmosphere of the game and are well told, they tend to be long (for computer game standards at least), and numerous. You will also miss alternative ways to solve quests if you're not careful. And the most simple way to solve a quest is often the most bloodthirsty and machievellian. Its easy to play the main character without a conscience or without honor. In fact, playing an honorable, kind person is difficult, but with some exceptions, doable. I liked that. I actually was once challenged for doing what I considered to be the right thing, and much more subtlely and without such a clumsy black/white dichotamy as in a game such as Bioshock. You do find near the end of the game that some of your good deeds do get rewarded (should you chose to do them!), so its not a path completely without reward.

Atmosphere

If you can get past the massive amount of text, you will find that the developers of Legends of Eisenwald do an excellent job conveying a medieval atmosphere. The gulph between nobility and peasantry, the power struggles between nobility, church, and the rising merchant class, and the superstions and beliefs of Eisenwald's inhabitants are all well executed. There should be no mistaking, though, that Legends of Eisenwald is not a historical game. It is a low fantasy game. While all of the important struggles occur between men (and women), it is a world with magic and monsters. These are drawn from the superstions and fables of the time. So there are witches, spirits, and even werewolves, but no orcs or fireballs.

Legends of Eisenwald offers a large variety of quests. Here you have to cross a map while avoiding enemy patrols.

Quests

The quests in Legends of Eisenwald are thankfully quite varied, and many of the maps have a unique scenario, which helps keep the game interesting. The first map, which serves as a tutorial is fairly relaxed. Another map pushes you from one end to another at a frantic pace. Unfortunately, its not until one reaches the fourth map (about 9 hours into the game), that one arrives at the most interesting chapters of the game, which are larger, offer more possibilites, and more story choices. In some of these maps you are caught between warring factions, and eliminating one or more of these will not only be necessary for moving on, but will also result in subtle differences in late game scenarios. From finding „demons" in a mine for a mad nobleman, to deciding the fate of a witch, to digging up graves, to moving across a forest unseen, Legends of Eisenwald gives you a huge variety of tasks. Unfortunately a minority of these tasks can be quite annoying. Finding the enterance to a tower or the location of seven graves becomes a matter of patiently combing the map for the exact pixels which trigger the next part of the quest. And therein lies one of the logical problems of Legends of Eisenwald. Some quests seem to hold your hand more than you would like, while others are very vague about what they want you to do. Reading the quest log exactly and all of the tavern rumours is a great help most of time, but not all of the time.

Tactical System

The tactical system in Legends of Eisenwald is very unusual. Its somewhat similar to that of the SRPGs Disciples and Disciples 2. Assuming you haven't played those games, it's easier to say its more like chess than say like X-Com. The game is set up like a playing board with three (roughly speaking) type of pieces. There are melee units, ranged units, and support units. Melee units can engage a piece so long as an enemy piece doesn't threaten a square than they could move through. But instead of moving the piece by hand, Legendsof Eisenwald simply shows you which possible pieces your melee units can attack and from which possible squares. Ranged units can shoot anyone, but the more obstructed hexes in the way diminish the damage the ranged unit does. In addition if a unit you are trying to damage has a friendly unit standing next to it, the damage is reduced. This means letting your units getting surrounded is a very bad idea, just as surrounding lone enemies is an effective way to bring them down quickly.

Legends of Eisenwald is a low fantasy game.You will encounter werewolves and witches, even though the game focuses on human power struggles and betrayals.

The last kind of units, support units, don't do direct damage, but can heal, buff, or curse enemy units. The number of units at your command varies, though in the late game you can have up to twelve units. Damage is fixed and hitting opponents is automatic. The results of your actions are never in question, which means you can reliably plan tactics in advance. To say that limits tactical options would be like saying that chess isn't a deep game. Anyone who has played a ranked player knows that despite its limited number of pieces and board size, that chess is an easy game to grasp, but extremely difficult to master. I also think there is an advantage to this. For the most part the limited choices of options means the AI in Legends of Eisewald doesn't do incredibly stupid things, or pass up opportunities to take down your vulnerable units. Also there is an autobattle system, which works well for easy battles, so you can save time at the end of a map when you run into an unavoidable combat against an inferior foe. This  is nice as you don't have to senselessly waste time with battles that offer no challenge.

I've spoke a lot about the units in Legends of Eisenwald. Each one of these is a warrior in your entourage. Normally you can recruit six base kinds of units and advance them along different paths as they level up. The one exception is the peasant, who is pretty much like a pawn in chess. You use a peasant to soak up a couple of hits before they go down, and they don't cost much money to recruit. A more typical unit is the noble. At some point you have to decide about him become a more heavily armed squire who can mount a horse and use lance and shield, or changing into a more vulerable, but more offensively oriented duelist. If you go with the squire, you're eventually given the second choice of having a knight, or a paladin, the latter is one of the few units which is fearless making him more effective against undead, but otherwise weaker than the knight. Each unit also has their own inventory, and depending on their profession can sometimes equip different weapons. For example a knight on foot can wield a two handed sword sword, a halberd, or an axe and a shield. (and there are even more variations). While each of these guys (or ladies) has their own name, its hard to get attached to them, because as circumstance dictate, you often lose the majority (if not all of them) at the end of each map. The upside to this is that you can experiment with all the different unit types (3 branches in each of the 5 trees) that each unit can evolve into and decide which combinations work best.

You always know who you can attack and what the results will be. In Legends of Eisenwald there is no luck. Difficult battles require careful planning.

Strategic map

Like most SRPGs, Legend of Eisenwald has a strategic map. Part of the joy of the game is exploring the map and finding all of the locations. There are churches where you can heal your characters (you can also do this in some villages and castles). Castles, villages, and churches often let you recruit troops. Controlling castles also lets you increase the number of your followers in your retinue by one, and beating the toughest opponents on some maps almost require that you capture all the enemy castles on a map. Taverns are not only a source of rumours, which may be quest related, but also let you hire mercenaries. Ruins usually house bandits or other enemies, which gives you the chance to fight non story related opponents. Ruins and taverns are two opportunities which can help a player defeat hard quest opponents. Ruins allow you to grind to raise your level. Taverns allow you to recruit mercenaries, so you can temporarily increase your number of followers by paying obscene amounts of gold so that you have a better chance to win a difficult battle. To be fair before I got 30 hours into the game, I didn't really need to grind at all, but the opportunity is there for players who have difficulty with the combat. There are also market places where you can sell your loot and buy better equipment or healing potions (there are some cases where you can't make it to a church between battles, but do have time to drink potions).

Conclusion

Legends of Eisenwald is a diamond in the rough. It tries to do something I've never seen before, putting a focus on story, quest structure, as well as choice and consequence, which one almost always associates with a classical role playing game. It combines this with the game play of a turn based strategy game.  Of course there are are other „rpg" features in the game, such as an inventory for not only your character and his retinue, as well as experience levels and character development. The result is an excellent game, one that has a strong ending (At least the one that I saw. There are multiple endings), an unusual setting, and a wonderful atmosphere. While I would like to give the game five stars for how much enjoyment it gave me, I can't ignore that Legends of Eisenwald is rough around the edges. Its easy to forget after the 36 hours I spent in the game, that the first 9 hours are relatively linear and inferior to the mid and end game. Also the developers overdid it with the texts, and its not surprising that small errors appear now and again. Twice my baroness was refered to in the masculine, and once a name was written in Russian. Also while one can only praise the variety of quests in the game, two or three are really annoying. I still have the feeling though that most of the problems in Legends of Eisenwald resulted from the developer's too highly set ambitions. I much prefer these kinds of weaknesses than ones resulting from the desire to artificially lengthen game time with filler content, or from trying to make a game seem great at the outset and then not spending much thought on the rest of the game play. While Legends of Eisenwald might not be for everyone, I'd highly recommend it to players who enjoy turn based strategy games, as well as story oriented rpgs, and who are not adverse to reading lots of text.

Box Art

Information about

Legends of Eisenwald

Developer: Aterdux Entertainment

SP/MP: Single-player
Setting: Fantasy
Genre: Strategy-RPG
Combat: Turn-based
Play-time: 20-40 hours
Voice-acting: Partially voiced

Regions & platforms
World
· Homepage
· Platform: PC
· Released at 2015-07-02
· Publisher: Aterdux Entertainment

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Summary

Pros

  • Variety of quests
  • Tactical combat easy to learn, but hard to master
  • Consequences of choices becomes very apparent in final part
  • Strategic portion well thought out and functions seemlessly
  • Wonderful atmosphere

Cons

  • Huge amounts of text overwhelming at times
  • Minority of quests are difficult or annoying to complete
  • First 25% of the game is more linear, and generally weaker

Rating

This review is using RPGWatch's old style of rating. See 'How we review' link below

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