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Elven Legacy: Ranger
Score: 79%
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Developer: 1C Company
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Turn-Based Strategy

The Story So Far:

In April 2009, Paradox Interactive released Elven Legacy, a fantasy-themed turn-based strategy game. A follow-up to 2007's Fantasy Wars, the game met with mixed reviews from critics. Despite the relative mediocrity of the game, Elven Legacy was embraced by a fan-base that was suffering through a relative drought of decent offerings within the genre. Initially advertised as including both an Elven and Human campaign, Elven Legacy released with only the Elven campaign, promising later expansions to highlight the Human story as well as extending gameplay and appeal. Following up on that promise, Paradox Interactive has recently released Elven Legacy: Ranger (EL:R), the first of three slated expansions due before the end of 2009.

The More Things Change:

Elven Legacy got a lot of things almost right. That is to say, there were many elements of the game that were very enjoyable and, but for some small inconsistencies and A.I. issues, the game would have likely received much higher scores. Elven Legacy: Ranger does a decent job addressing these concerns. The difficulty has been scaled back significantly, but this does not mean that players will not face challenges. Where the first game constrained creative tactics and exploration by facing the player against overwhelming odds and, more importantly, restrictive time limitations, EL:R provides far more options, allowing for a more investigative or cautionary approach to objectives. If a player wants to plow straight ahead through a mission, that option is available. However, should the play style be more slow-but-steady, the threat of an arbitrary time limit is no longer as daunting. In turn, this allows for more investiture in and usage of the various unit types. In Elven Legacy, the heroes and infantry quickly became the staple units because of the necessity to move quickly while dealing with hostile forces. With that parameter lifted, players are free to experiment, which can lead to some interesting and genuinely fun discoveries.

In addition to improvements on previous gameplay modes, Elven Legacy: Ranger offers a bevy of new features. First and foremost, the expansion consists of 16 new missions, spanning a fairly engrossing storyline. Several new heroes, including the ranger Cornelius, are available for play. New spells and artifacts round out the additional offerings.

The More They Stay The Same:

While their is no question that Elven Legacy: Ranger improves on many aspects of the game, there are still areas that are begging for improvement. Mechanically, the game plays the same as the original release. Players control their armies by placing units at the beginning of the mission and them moving them across a hex-based map. Each unit can be moved (or perform an action) once per turn. This overall model works well and many veterans of this genre are already intimately familiar with these types of controls. Marked improvements have been made in the translation of text, but there is still work to be done in this area. The storyline, which was already a high-point in the original, remains steady. Although I was not a fan of the over-dramatized voiceovers from the original game, EL:R has removed voice acting and cutscenes entirely, which is a bit of a step backwards. Music and sound effects do not appear to have changed much from the original. The are decent but not very memorable. As with the first installment, completionists will have plenty to keep them busy in trying to get a gold ranking on every map while finding all of the hidden artifacts. Raising the experience level of units will also keep many players occupied, as more advanced units have access to greater abilities. Losing such units in combat will still sting quite a bit, as EL:R does not provide any way to revive these fallen units.

To Be Continued...:

In my original review of Elven Legacy, I found the game to be promising, if not quite fulfilling. Elven Legacy: Ranger is definitely a step in the right direction. The improvements to the A.I. alone make the game much more enjoyable, while the story continues to at least not weigh down the game (something that cannot always be said about these types of games). EL:R is listed as an expansion, and as such, players will need to have a copy of the original game installed in order to play it. With 16 missions in this expansion and two more due out in short order, fans of the original should be feeling quite joyous this holiday season. The expansions are reasonably priced, and the original can be found on sale for a limited time as well, making the financial investment fairly low. I remain a bit skeptical as to the release of three separate expansions, as it would be far too easy to produce cookie-cutter missions in an effort to make a little extra money off the fan-base, but I shall withhold that judgment until it proves true or false. For now, Elven Legacy fans should be pleased with this product. If you have not already played Elven Legacy: Ranger, but find yourself a bit curious, now would be a good time to give the series a spin around the block.

-The Mung Bard, GameVortex Communications
AKA Buddy Ethridge
Minimum System Requirements:

OS: Windows 2000/XP/Vista, Memory: 512 MB of RAM, Video Card: 128 MB
  Test System:

OS: Windows XP, Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo CPU 3.06 GHz, Memory: 3.35 GB of RAM, Video Card: NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GTS 512

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