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Legion Review

publisher: Strategy First
developer: Slitherine Software
genre: Strategy

PII-300, 32MB RAM, 500MB HDD
ESRB rating: T

release date: Jun 03, 02
» All About Legion on ActionTrip

June 14, 2002
Zvezdan "GTS" Obradovic

I must say I don't really like games that make you spend too much time on them - I simply cannot focus on them that much, but once in a while a game appears that makes me totally lose track of time. And while most people in my surroundings spend countless hours watching the world cup, I'm playing Legion - a turn-based strategy published by Strategy First (Europa Universalis, Man of War II, Kohan, Disciples II, Cossacks: European War, WW II Online and many more).

Legion takes you to the age before the rise of the mighty Roman Empire, when all of Europe was controlled by small tribes and nomads. Territories would easily come and go with a flick of a wrist, and wars were common everyday occurrences... pretty much like today, come to think of it. Assuming the role of a Roman (or tribal) commander, you will have to conquer all the territories in your way.

If I had to use but one word to describe this game, it would be simplicity. Most people probably won't like a turn-based strategy with hardly any settings, but I assure you that this game is very playable regardless of everything.

The game features four separate single-player campaigns, and standard strategy elements. Well balanced resource gathering and management will be essential for victory - you will gather food, wood and metal, build cities, muster your forces and expand your influence... Initially, you will only be given a small territory, and a couple of towns to control, and it will be up to you to strengthen your forces and conquer more. Your every action is time defined, and time is measured in turns (Hey, it's a turn-based strategy!). Every turn represents three months. Building most structures or units requires at least four turns (one year), but complex buildings and bigger units can take much more time to be constructed. The resource system will rarely allow you to gather all three resources in a single town, but as all resources go directly to your resource pool, you simply have to make sure that you produce all resource types on your territory. It is a bit unrealistic to have a northern town support a unit in the south without any transport problems. The size of your population is one of the crucial elements of development, as it will directly influence the number of your units, and resource gathering speed. Apart from standard structures (military and resource gathering) there are some special buildings which are only used to keep your people happy and increase your population. When you made enough units, you can set off to capture neighboring cities. Movement speed depends both on unit and terrain characteristics - mountains and forests will slow your troops down, as would be expected. Every city is more or less well defended, and its defense strength will directly depend on its population. The game has diplomatic features, but as it is mostly focused on combat, you will rarely ever get a positive reply to a peace offering... and even if you do, bear in mind that a truce can be treacherous, and can easily turn into a full-scale conflict in just a couple of turns.

The simple and intuitive interface makes every action easily accessible. It does take up a large part of the screen, but you will get used to it in no time. The game can be played by mouse only. Building controls and unit production take place on separate screens and are just as intuitive.

Combat is the main thing in this game. It is real-time, and completely automated, which means that you cannot influence its outcome once it began. This doesn't seem to be the best possible solution, but it certainly emphasizes the importance of careful planning and unit displacement. However, you will frequently have to rely on luck when positioning units as you are mostly unaware of enemy positions (unless you have a Watch Tower on a neighboring territory). Before the battle commences, you have to place your units on a simplified map representing the battlefield, set their formations and give them general orders on how to behave in battle. This will not give you too many possibilities, but we already said that simplicity is this game's middle name. When you prepared everything, the battle may begin. This is when you get to see how numerous the enemy actually is (which is usually more than you expected). The battlefield soon becomes cluttered with hundreds of dead, wounded, fighting and fleeing, creating an altogether impressive sight.

...which brings us to AI. In Legion, AI s capable of controlling up to 20 adversaries in war and peace, but its combat logic is known to act a bit funny at times. When your unit reaches the enemy, a part of it might simply decide to run away, leaving their comrades to fight to death, even if it is quite obvious that they would have won if they stuck together. I also saw my forces wining a battle they were retreating from, in spite of the enemy numbers. In any case, victory is less than certain, whatever the battlefield status may be. Battles are very short, which may bother some players, but it improves game dynamics.

Graphics are... unusual... to say the least. The interface you get to play on seems cheap - it looks like a light version of Europa Universalis (by the same publisher), though it is still somehow pleasant to the eye. The main map is in pseudo-3D, but the combat terrain is pre-rendered, and looks pretty much the same for all battles, which is not really commendable. The mountains, rivers, lakes and units are colorful and distinguishable, but not really detailed. Their animation is solid, but you can notice a bug here and there. The camera can be moved horizontally and vertically, but it cannot be zoomed or rotated, as the "real-time" action is presented in isometric 2D.

Lastly, it still seems incredible that the developers left out all options for determining graphics quality.

The sound effects are OK, per se, but there are few of them, and they get tedious after a short while. The music is quite adequate, but slightly tiresome. The game doesn't have a multiplayer mode, but the developers claimed they would add it later.

What could I conclude? Legion has its downsides, especially graphics-wise. Still, this is a turn-based strategy meant for a specific crowd of gamers. The overly simplified micro-management makes you think that the developers wanted to focus on the combat only. On the other hand, I have to admit that this simplicity also makes it highly playable... I simply couldn't stop playing it until I conquered Britain, and that took me some time. This is an altogether interesting game meant for all the strategy fans who are not too much into verisimilitude. You just have to relax, build your forces and charge!


6.9   Above Average 

Simple and intuitive, low hardware requirements, catchy;

Monotonous sound, not too much of a challenge, no multiplayer mode; the way the PC determines the outcome of the battles and the enemy AI can at times get really confusing and illogical.



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