Elven Legacy Collection
Turn-based strategy wargaming in a fantasy setting
Back in 2009 Virtual Programming announced that they would be bringing the turn-based fantasy strategy game Elven Legacy to the Macintosh. It seems it ended up taking longer than expected but alas it has finally arrived in the form of Elven Legacy Collection. Elven Legacy was originally developed by the Russian development house 1C Company and three expansion packs for the game eventually followed. The Macintosh version includes all three of these expansion packs hence the name Elven Legacy Collection. The game is very reasonably priced at thirty dollars considering all the content that’s included but is it worth your time and will you be able to play it? Read on to find out!
After playing Elven Legacy for a while two games come to mind for me – Panzer General and Heroes of Might and Magic. Elven Legacy is sort of a hybrid of both of these types of games. At its heart it’s a hex-based strategy wargame with a fantasy skin. But the story-based campaign and role-playing elements are vaguely reminiscent of Heroes of Might and Magic. Graphically it also looks similar to Heroes of Might and Magic and that’s a good thing as the graphics are colorful, detailed, and easy on the eyes. If you’re not familiar with either of those games think of Elven Legacy as sort of an elaborate version of chess except you perform a single action with all your pieces during your turn and your opponent does the same when the time comes.
Sometimes these types of games are difficult to learn how to play but I didn’t feel that was the case with Elven Legacy despite the fact that the tutorial isn’t particularly helpful. The tutorial is pretty basic but the real problem is that portions of the voiceovers skip ahead leaving out potentially vital information. I checked out some reviews of the PC version and apparently the same problem is present there so it’s certainly not Virtual Programming’s fault. Fortunately learning how to play isn’t all that difficult but if you’re new to these types of games I’d still recommend playing through the tutorial, voiceover skipping and all, just in case.
You can play Elven Legacy in campaign mode, single player mode, and multiplayer mode. Multiplayer offers “hot seat” or local area network options. I didn’t have anybody to play with so I didn’t try these options but they look pretty straightforward. The single player mode consists of a bunch of self-contained missions. Finally there’s the ten mission campaign that’s actually thirteen missions. During the campaign there’s a few occasions where you come to a “fork” in the road and have to choose which direction, or mission, you want to go. This is how there’s actually thirteen missions in the campaign although you’ll only have to fight your way through ten of them to reach the end. Completing missions during the campaign in a set amount of turns will earn you a gold, silver, or bronze rating depending on how quickly you succeed. Apparently you can earn up to five bonus missions during the campaign by completing missions with a gold rating. I never managed to do this myself but I’ve read that it’s possible. All of this is included in the original game. When you add the three expansions (Ranger, Siege, and Magic) to the equation you get additional campaigns, missions, heroes, unique artifacts, and spells. So there’s really a ton of content here.
Now Elven Legacy may not be too difficult to learn how to play but it’s quite difficult to be successful at. I had heard that it’s best to start playing on the “easy” difficulty setting and I quickly discovered that’s no exaggeration. This game is so brutally difficult that I shudder at the thought of playing it at anything higher than the easiest difficulty setting. When you get accustomed to the gameplay you should be able to compete with the sophisticated AI on the easiest difficulty setting but patience is recommended. I also wouldn’t expect to complete many missions with a gold rating but if you do my hat goes off to you because you’ve really accomplished something!
Now I’m not going to go into the story of the main campaign too much because it’s not particularly interesting and it really didn’t affect my enjoyment of the game much. But in short you play the elves, and on occasion the orcs, and these elves are really ticked off! The elves aren’t particularly keen with the concept of negotiating so pretty much want to destroy everything in their path in order to reclaim what they feel is rightfully theirs. They’re particularly unhappy with the human race as they chase this renegade mage across the lands. Each campaign mission typically begins with a mission briefing that is presented both as text and in a voiceover. In addition to laying out the objectives for the mission you’re given the option to set the difficulty setting for the mission (once again easy is a good place to start). Then you’re off to the army management screen where you’re informed of new units available to you and then presented with your army in one window and the list of potential recruits in another window. This is where you can essentially shop for new units to add to your army with the gold you’ve accumulated thus far. There’s a wide variety of units available to you from categories such as light infantry, heavy cavalry, archers, scouts, hero fighters, and hero mages. As you progress through the campaign you will earn more gold and more new and unique units will become available to you. You may also manage artifacts on the screen. Artifacts are objects that enhance your unit’s abilities. You can also find artifacts during the course of missions. After dealing with the army management screen you’re usually presented with an in-game cut scene with spoken dialogue that moves the story along and sets the stage for the mission. I already mentioned that the elves are a pretty angry bunch so expect a lot of threats here from your elven heroes! Throughout each mission there’s occasionally more of this type of banter between your hero characters and NPCs. The last stage before the mission begins is the deployment stage. You can only deploy units around towns, cities, or castles that you control so as each mission begins your typically employing your units around one of these structures. Each mission only allows so many units to be deployed at a time so any units you don’t deploy go into your reserves. You can tap into these reserves at any time during the mission to replace fallen units. Deploying is as simple as clicking on units in your unit list at the bottom of the screen and then clicking on one of the highlighted hexes on the map. Once you’re ready to go you click the end deployment button and you’re off!
During each turn you essentially get to perform one action with each of your deployed units in addition to moving in some cases. So, for example, you might move an elven spears unit directly adjacent to an enemy unit and then click on the enemy unit to attack. Melee units are required to be directly adjacent to the enemy units to attack. Or you might move an archer unit to the top of a hill and then fire an arrow at an enemy unit in the distance but in range. Any spellcasting units work in a similar fashion to archer units. There’s also air-based units like skyships and dragons. These units can actually occupy the same hex as a land-based unit and offer all sorts of cool strategic possibilities. I particularly enjoy positioning skyships directly above enemy units and dropping bombs on them so I usually have at least a few of these deployed at any given time. But in addition to being vulnerable to enemy air-based units the same is also true of enemy ranged units such as archers and magic users. Some units can move to a location, perform an attack, and then move a bit more again. Your hero units, which are typically the most powerful units in your arsenal, are able to do this. Highlighted hexes on the ground show how many hexes the currently selected unit can move. Once you’re done issuing orders to each and every one of your deployed units you hit the end turn button at the top right-hand corner of the screen and then sit back and watch the enemy make its turn. If you messed up when performing turns with any of your units you can get sort of a helpless feeling here watching the enemy pound away at your hapless poorly positioned unit. You can actually undo movement orders for any of your units as long as there’s no enemy units nearby and it’s still currently your turn. Of course this won’t help you much if you’ve already pressed the end turn button and are watching the tragedy unfold before your eyes! Saving frequently can help you here somewhat though. As your units gain experience they will during missions be periodically notified that they’ve earned the option to upgrade to new abilities. There’s all sorts of cool abilities available to each unit type and since your units carry over from mission to mission surviving units can become really powerful with all the upgrades and new abilities they earn. What’s more you can actually name any of your units other than the hero units. This is a really unique feature that I haven’t seen before. Between all the upgrades and the custom names you can give your units it tends to get you attached to them and not treat them like throwaways.
From an accessibility standpoint there’s not too many surprises here. This is a turn-based game so quick reflexes of any kind aren’t necessary. This is strictly pointing and clicking. You can right-click on units during the mission to bring up a pop-up window with information about the unit but you can also get this information from the army management screen. You can pan the camera around by right clicking and dragging around screen. If you have a single button mouse Command–clicking will simulate a right-click. But if you can’t use a physical keyboard the good news is the game has a built–in windowed mode that you can activate in the options menu. Once activated KeyStrokes and SwitchXS are fully accessible. I use KeyStrokes with Elven Legacy for right clicking actions (using the Command key), to zoom in and out with the plus and minus keys, and to scroll around the map with the arrow keys. There’s a “switch camera position” button at the bottom of the screen for zooming in and out but it doesn’t offer the precise control that using the keyboard does for that function so I rarely use it. The game also employs “edge scrolling” where moving your mouse to a particular edge of the screen will scroll the map in that direction so you don’t need to use the arrow keys on the keyboard to do this but I like to because edge scrolling is sometimes a bit too sensitive for my tastes, especially when using a head mouse. My only serious gripe from an accessibility standpoint is the text is too small at times. If you don’t have the best eyesight you might find it difficult to read some of the tooltips and make out the unit information panel at the bottom of the screen. I’m not sure why such a tiny and generic font had to be used here but it’s just not all that easy to see sometimes. I solve this problem like I do with any other game that requires it (where possible) by using the Mac’s built-in screen zoom feature activated by a macro key on my KeyStrokes panel. The game window actually shakes frantically when doing this but I get around it by clicking outside the game window, so it’s no longer at the forefront but still visible, and then zooming in. It’s unorthodox but it works for the few times I need to do it. For the record my eyes aren’t that bad but I typically don’t sit really close to my screen.
Elven Legacy Collection is unique in that there’s really nothing else available like it. If you like turn-based strategy games that aren’t too complex to learn how to play then this might be right up your alley. It’s extremely challenging even on the easy difficulty setting but I wouldn’t call it a game breaker or anything. The weak story, poor tutorial, and hard to read text in some cases are minuses but pretty minor ones as far as I’m concerned. What you’re going to be playing this game for is the turn-based battles and variety of units you use within them and that’s where the game really excels. Aside from that the game looks really good graphically, is accessible, and is fun to play.
Macintosh System Requirements:
- Mac OS X 10.6.6
- Intel CPU, 2.16 GHz
- 2 GB RAM
- GeForce 8600/8800/9600/120/130 or newer Radeon HD 2600/4670/4850/4870 or newer Intel GMA X3100 or newer
- Hard drive: 3 GB of free space
Windows PC Minimum System Requirements:
- System: Windows XP, Windows Vista
- Processor: 1.5 GHz Pentium IV or AMD 2000+ 1.5 GHz(Single Core)
- RAM: 256 MB
- Graphics card: Nvidia Geforce FX 5600 or ATI Radeon 9600 64 MB
- Sound card: DirectX -compatible
- Hard drive: 3 GB of free space
- DirectX: 9.0c (4.09.0000.0904)
Windows PC Recommend System Requirements:
- System: Windows XP, Windows Vista
- Processor: 2.4 GHz Pentium IV or AMD 3500+ 2.4 GHz(Single Core)
- RAM: 512 MB,1 GB for Windows Vista and Windows 7
- Graphics card: Nvidia Geforce 6600 or ATI Radeon R850XT 256 MB
- Sound card: DirectX -compatible
- Hard drive: 3.5 GB of free space
- DirectX: 9.0c (4.09.0000.0904)