Review: Elven Legacy: Ranger (PC)

coverElven Legacy: Ranger
Developer: 1C:Ino-Co
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Genre: Turn Based Strategy
Release Date: 10/20/2009

Back in March I got to review a nice little turn-based fantasy strategy game called Elven Legacy. It had a few faults, but overall was pretty solid and well put together, especially for the price tag. Here it is coming up on November and we’re being treated to the first expansion, Elven Legacy: Ranger. Being that this is an expansion, I’ve gone back to my original review to touch on things that are still relevant for this review. Those sections will be italicized.

The game takes a step away from the Elves in this expansion (yeah I know, it’s in the title, but so is the word Ranger) and we start by following a lone traveler who’s dealing with the humans. His name is Cornelius, and he’s armed with a spear. A member of the Order of Marcus, he’s out in the world looking to help them expand. Cornelius has been given the unenviable task of preparing for the Order’s arrival.

The expansion actually takes place as a separate campaign from the original game. You’re basically starting from scratch, and right off the bat you’re given choices, either play the political route, or maybe take the easier sneakier route. They both have differing benefits and you’ll have to play a bit differently as you move along through the game.

I actually found I enjoyed playing Cornelius more than I did playing as the elves from the base game. I had to be a lot more resourceful at the start, and Cornelius isn’t as stuck up as the two elves from the main game either. The story isn’t all through cutscenes, which helps. The base game did it to an extent, but Ranger really adds in some nice little moments as you’re moving through the levels, really keeping you in the experience and breaking up the combat a bit.

You’ve also got some differing single missions with this besides the base campaign expansion. I played through a number of them, but the real fun is the campaign. The stand-alone missions are nice if you don’t have much time or just want to waste a bit of time.

Story/Modes Rating: Great

This is an expansion, not an entirely new game, so here’s what I thought of the graphics before. This isn’t a high end powerhouse of a game. The terrain in levels, the units and Heroes and cities are nicely detailed. But really this game is kind of sitting back a few years in terms of display. Guild Wars comes to mind. While both are great games visually, Guild Wars came out several years ago. This has that kind of look to it, which makes it seem a bit dated, but no less visually interesting.

The user-interface was well designed and it’s really easy to see your troops and enemies health and other status. You can even pull up a 2D map to see where everyone is positioned. It can get a little confusing where your aerial troops are located, but the camera has a free range of movement, so if one angle is bad you can just rotate it a bit and get a much better representation.

One of the other nice touches I liked in this was the ability to have a large avatar for a unit or to have it break the unit down into its smaller components on the hex it’s on. So instead of seeing one giant archer you instead see a group of 10-15 archers which makes it look a bit more realistic. It’s a nice step-up from the usual 2D turn-based games I play, but there have been some real visual stunners in the last few years and this one just doesn’t measure up in that way.
The animations for the units aren’t bad and are well done in the cut-scenes and the spells and other effects are pretty interesting to look at, especially the Orcish spell of doom that can almost obliterate any unit on the field unless it’s at full health. But again, this isn’t a next-gen looking type of game.

Graphics Rating: Enjoyable

Opting for an orchestral musical style is always a big bonus in a fantasy game for me. I don’t mind a hard-rock or heavy metal score, but I like to have an orchestral score to my epic fantasy battles. So that was a plus. Other than the music on the main menu screens and the intermission screens though, that epic score becomes rather mundane and forgettable. It feels like most music scores for these games that I’ve heard over and over again. It’s good, but it’s not going to have me demanding the soundtrack on CD.

Where there was once voice-acting, there is now nothing. The text plays across un-emotionally on screen. So while the base game may have had slightly cheesy voice-overs, now there’s nothing, so you really have to add all the inflections and so on in your head. Not really an improvement.

Sound Rating: Enjoyable

screen002Control and Gameplay
Control in this game is all point and click. You can either select your unit on your Interface or directly click on them on the map or your game view. You then select the Hex you want to move to or you want to attack on or the spell you want to use and then the target. It’s pretty simple to move around to change your move as it just takes a move of the mouse. The only time it requires anything other than the mouse is to hit the shift key when you want to move one of your aerial units over one of your ground units, or to select the aerial unit over your ground units.

Gameplay is also straight-forward, for the most part. Each unit has strengths and weaknesses and each gains experience through play up to level ten. Each unit type has a variety of choices. Heroes are always the power-houses and it’s rare for them to be in any real trouble. You have a variety of Archers, Calvary units, and offensive and defensive units. At the start of this one though, Cornelius can get killed fairly quickly as you’re pretty much the only one on the field until you get more back-up. So don’t go out thinking you’re invincible. I had to do the first part of the campaign over again several times before I found the right balance.

You really have to pay attention to where your troops are on the field. Keep your archers in back and your knights or heavy fighters in front. Pretty basic strategy for medieval combat, until you’re dealing with wide open spaces and troops that can move incredible distances. And if your troops take too much damage they can break and run, and sometimes they run the wrong way and end up dead. Also, some troops are extremely gung ho and will just charge in and attack like Leroy Jenkins; they can end up just like Leroy and his gang if you’re not careful.

The only thing that kinda takes this down a bit are a few things that while they don’t kill the control and gameplay score, do take it down a bit. Most of the time you move your troops and you can get a good determination of how your troops will do against the enemy because a pop-up will show up when you hold your mouse over the enemy unit showing your expected damage and what the enemy will take. This doesn’t always show up. Sometimes it is a bit harder to target the aerial units as well, but you can usually more the camera angle around to fix that.

Cornelius also has a few changes from the first game. Not only does he get to counter-attack, but that sneaky little ranger can usually sneak in an attack before he gets attacked, cutting their forces down even more before they even hit you. It’s a neat little tactic that saved my hide a number of times and it was nice to see that new mechanic in play.

Control and Gameplay Rating: Very Good

Each individual mission and spot in the campaign has three different difficulty options, and you can change them for each section when you’re playing the campaign, so you can play one hard, the next easy, and the next one medium if you so choose. It’s a nice flexible system, especially if you’re finding you’re getting your butt handed to you and you can just change the difficulty level.

Add in some multi-player, the stand-alone missions, and a rating level in the campaign that unlocks bonus missions, and you’ve got some nice replayability here. Basically the rating level is how fast you complete that part of the campaign. It also lets you know through a countdown at each round whether you’re close to losing your Gold or Silver rating. If you do you get the bronze. This game auto-saves at the end of a lot of your turns as well, so if you totally FUBARed that last turn, you can usually load up a few moves ago and try again rather than restart the whole level from the start.

I also like that each time you play this campaign, you can make a choice and pick another route, and within that route, pick another. There are several ways to go about playing through and you could rally make each play-through unique and different.

Replayability Rating: Great

This is an expansion, and you do need the base game to play this, but the expansion is only $10. Honestly, at $40 for both (if you haven’t picked up the first already), this is pretty much a steal. It’s a great and well done title and it’s reasonably priced, which is more than I can say for some other titles out there.

You get a decent amount of missions and some neat artifacts and heroes as well as new spells to sling at people. I won’t lie, this expansion is NOT easy. I really recommend playing the base game first before you try to tackle this, or you’re going to be wiped all over the place every time. The difficulty selector is right, and you will still get creamed on the easiest setting if you have no idea what you’re doing at the start.

Balance Rating: Great

The cliches come out again for the expansion, but really, is there anything that hasn’t been done in fantasy yet? I mean, we have Pokemon crossed with the fall of Rome with the Caldera series by Jim Butcher. Is there really anything more we can possibly do? Well they try with this expansion and it is a nice effort with the story-telling. You just may be able to predict a number of times where things are going to be heading before you get there.

There have been a slew of turn-based strategy games, but I like that you have to put some planning into this one. You can’t capture and generate more units, but have to plan out your attack strategy and there are a variety of missions and terrain types and maps that were well done. This does have a feel of a dozen or so strategy games out there though. While not original, this game does have a few new twists that keeps it fresher than most without being a total ripoff.

Originality Rating: Enjoyable

With two games to review this week (both of them good) I’ve had a hard time dividing my time between the two. This one definitely held my interest as well as the other one, and more so in some respects as I’m more interested in fantasy and turn-based strategy than sports. This is one of those games that if you get into though, you’re going to find yourself playing for fairly long blocks of time and really loving it.

Addictiveness Rating: Great

screen005Appeal Factor
I’d love to say this is going to have great appeal, but unfortunately it’s not RTS, and it’s not a powerhouse, and the graphics aren’t going to be next-gen enough for most. What it is, is a reasonably priced, decently designed and executed turn-based fantasy strategy game. Despite the fact that I’m recommending it, I’m guessing it’s not going to fly off of shelves, which is kind of a shame as I did enjoy playing this.

Appeal Factor Rating: Enjoyable

This time out the expansion isn’t as glitchy. Of course the big complaint I had about the sound on cut-scenes is moot, as now there is no voice-acting. And some times the objectives aren’t all that clear when you’re playing through. Like it tells you in one mission you’re supposed to get to this ship, right after it tells you to kill a messenger. So if you head for the ship, you’re going to lose because you’re supposed to ice the messenger first. So they’ve made checking your quest log a bit more of a priority, and since you didn’t have to do it nearly as much in the base game, I often found myself having to re-do things because the instructions again were not quite clear.

Miscellaneous Rating: Below Average

The Scores
Story/Modes Rating: Great
Graphics Rating: Enjoyable
Sound Rating: Enjoyable
Control and Gameplay Rating: Very Good
Replayability Rating: Great
Balance Rating: Great
Originality Rating: Enjoyable
Addictiveness Rating: Great
Appeal Factor Rating: Enjoyable
Miscellaneous Rating: Below Average

Short Attention Span Summary
asheresize A very nice expansion, for one of the more over-looked turn-based strategy games out there. I found the change in viewpoints and the slight tweak in power the main hero gets to be quite interesting and a nice way to bring me back to playing this game. I’ll definitely be playing this one again very soon, and if anyone has Elven Legacy, do yourself a favor and pick this expansion up for it as well. You won’t regret it.



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