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Elven Legacy

Score: 74%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Developer: Paradox Interactive
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Turn-Based Strategy

Graphics & Sound:

Several months ago I was asked to preview Elven Legacy, a fantasy strategy simulation game being developed and published by Paradox Interactive. What I found at the time was a nice little gem that, while still in need of a little polish, had the potential to really shine in a genre that has been fairly mediocre in recent years.

The preview build I played was already impressive visually, especially taking into account the fairly low system requirements. In the months since my preview, the developers have done a nice job in cleaning up some minor details and really bringing the world to life. This is not a game that is going to stun you with jaw-dropping cinematics, but that is not the goal. Instead, Elven Legacy does a very nice job presenting itself, using well-drawn, if a bit cartoonish illustrations during cutscenes and lower-detailed rendering of units on the battle map, that, while not as pretty as some games on the market, allows for easy differentiation. Battle scenes are cleverly presented, sometimes showing the unit icons simply attacking another unit, sometimes zooming in to show the individual members of a unit, all firing their bows or rushing in to attack. These scenes are augmented by an interesting array of magical spells, each with its own graphical representation. Still, the real prize is the map itself. From the high aerial view, the landscape unfolds nicely and the differing terrains, useful in the strategic aspect, are easy to discern. When you zoom in a bit closer, the details take on a new dimension, with tree leaves fluttering, grasses blowing and flags billowing in the breeze. Again, do not expect next-gen quality, but for the game specifications, I was pleasantly surprised by the care and detail I found in all of the graphical elements.

Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for the auditory aspect of Elven Legacy. Perhaps that is being is a bit harsh, as the sound effects were not bad per se, but they did not feel on par with their graphical counterparts. Not once during my playtime was there an aural moment that really made me take notice. The music is there, but... well, it is there. There are many aspects of this game that remind me of S.S.I.'s classic Fantasy General, a reference which I am not alone in noticing. Largely, this game could almost be considered Fantasy General re-skinned, and I mean that as a huge compliment. However, one area in which it falls far short is that of soundtrack. Longing for musical satisfaction aside, the other sound effects - those of battle, movement and magic - are all passable, if not memorable. The voiceovers are also decently portrayed. As a side note, the version I played was downloaded from Gamers Gate and I did not experience any linguistic flaws, but there are a few reports on the forums of some gamers receiving copies of the game which still had the original Russian voice talent. While nothing of spectacular note can be said in regards to the auditory elements of Elven Legacy, it would not be fair to say that the sounds were a detracting factor either.


The premise behind Elven Legacy is that the player is attempting to restore the majesty of the formerly wondrous Elven empire. The player begins the campaign in control of a couple of heroes and a few units. Each mission has a given set of criteria that must be achieved to attain victory. As with many turn-based strategy games, play begins by placing your units on the board. During each turn, the player may move and attack/perform an action with each unit under his command. Movement is done on a board broken into hexagonal blocks. As the player moves, the "fog of war" recedes, revealing enemy units or places of interest. Battles can take place when units are within a given proximity to one another, be that for ranged weapons, magical barrages or melee combat. Capturing places of interest will often reward the player with gold, extra units or an artifact. However, each mission has a turn limit, and to achieve a "gold" victory (victory within a set number of turns), players must often focus on achieving the primary mission goal, foregoing exploration and secondary objectives.

Once a mission has been completed, the story progresses and the player chooses how to continue. Sometimes during the campaign, there are two mission choices, both eventually leading to the same subsequent area, but each with a separate set of goals, enemies to face and rewards to offer. Supposedly, this is done to offer greater replay value to the game, but I did not find them compelling enough to try both paths more than once. Before beginning the next mission, an interstitial screen offers the player a chance to oversee and manage his available units. Here, the player can assign artifacts, upgrade units and even recruit additional units. Upgrading units generally strengthens the unit and gives it more beneficial powers. Artifacts, either awarded as prizes for completing mission objectives or found by exploration during missions, offer varying and often considerable advantages to the units to which they are assigned.

Besides the normal campaign progression, sometimes bonus missions become available (normally by achieving "gold" during particular missions). These bonus missions allow the player to participate in background stories, furthering the immersion and extending the gameplay. Prior to release, Elven Legacy was advertised as featuring two campaigns; one as elves and one as humans. However, at release, only the elven campaign was available, with the human campaign likely being offered as a future expansion to the game. Similarly, a Multiplayer feature was also advertised, but as of this review, it is still not functional. One aspect that does live up to its pre-billing is the map creator. I generally find map creator and community editing tools to be little used and underwhelming, but thankfully Elven Legacy bucks that trend. The editor, a separate but free download from Gamers Gate, is powerful, yet easy to use, and is actually a lot of fun to explore. In a game suffering from any real replayability and hamstrung by the lack of Multiplayer support up to this point, the map editor, given a little community effort, could be a saving grace.


Elven Legacy presents itself in a fairly standard style familiar to most turn-based strategy game enthusiasts, and as such, most players of this type will quickly adapt to the slight variations offered. The learning curve is fairly linear, starting with a relatively easy mission and progressing to the point where tactical strategies become a necessity if the player wishes to complete a mission and achieve "gold" status. A little luck also helps, as battles are done with a behind-the-scenes dice roll scheme, meaning sometimes the player will get that critical extra damage that completely wipes out a unit instead of leaving one survivor, thus necessitating an extra turn or unit move expenditure to complete the kill. This one extra turn or move can prove disastrous in later missions. Still, although achieving "gold" on every mission will prove a challenge to most players, those that only want to finish the game will find that simply completing the missions, even in the latter stages, is not overly difficult.

For the completionists, those who want to see every nook and cranny the game has to offer, be prepared to replay the missions over and over. While some of the earlier missions afford the opportunity for the player to explore with some units while progressing the mission objectives with the main force, this becomes exceedingly difficult the further along the campaign progresses. Maps that I found extraordinarily easy during my preview time have, in some cases, become overly frustrating due to a slight over-adjustment in regards to the number and type of units that must be faced prior to winning. I also found the bonus missions to be a bit on the difficult side and, in truth, stopped playing them after the first few only proved more of a frustration than a reward. My largest complaint in regards to the difficulty of the game came in the form of an unstated mission objective. In one mission, I was told that I needed to capture an escaping person of interest and occupy a castle. I was given 9 turns to accomplish this and receive a "gold" rating. I broke my units into two groups, one to act as chasers, the other as an occupying force, and proceeded to begin the mission. However, after turn 5, the mission failed because the escapee had reached his destination. I had to restart the mission and make a beeline for the escapee in order to prevent this from occurring again, although it was not stated in the mission briefing that this might happen.

Game Mechanics:

The mechanics of Elven Legacy are very easily picked up, a fact that I discovered during my preview, when all of the instructions were given in Russian. Despite my total lack of fluency in that language, I was able to muddle through the tutorial while garnering a passing understanding of how the game worked, including interfacing with the user interface (UI), unit management and overall gameplay. As mentioned previously, Elven Legacy is a turn-based game. The first phase of any mission is the unit placement, done by simply selecting a unit and clicking a hex within the specified deployment area. Movement is accomplished by selecting a unit, which will produce a highlighted field showing all of the possible movement options, and selecting where you would like the unit to move. The camera is controlled by holding the left mouse button and moving the mouse, zooming in and out using the mouse wheel. All-in-all, the mission UI is very intuitive and adds to the enjoyability of the game.

The UI screen between missions is similarly familiar and easy navigated. As a unit progresses in battle, it gains experience, which will gain it levels as long as it survives. These levels in turn offer the unit certain upgrades which will make them much more efficient and useful, especially in the later missions. Thus, these units are important to develop and should be considered valuable assets. As the game progresses, new unit types and unit upgrades will become available. Thankfully, the experienced units can be upgraded between missions without losing the hard-earned experience. Redistribution of artifacts, as mentioned previously, also takes place here and will prove pivotal during the end-game. Despite some textual errors that have persisted through testing, the UI, both during gameplay and between missions, is relatively clean and nicely laid out.

Back when I did the preview, I felt that this was a game that held some promise and just needed a little TLC to bring out the best. While I do not think it got quite the amount of TLC needed, it is off to a decent start. It is billed on some sites as a sequel to Fantasy Wars, while some posts claim that it is basically the same game. Having not played Fantasy Wars, I cannot offer insight into this, but for those that might have experienced it, keep this in mind when considering purchasing Elven Legacy. Regardless of these supposed similarities, Elven Legacy stumbled just a bit out of the gate with the lack of the promised double campaign and, perhaps more importantly, the Multiplayer aspect. Still, all is not lost and, providing Paradox Interactive can right itself by getting Multiplayer online and coaxing the community into actively using the map editor, along with being forthcoming with promised expansion campaigns, Elven Legacy could be poised to enjoy a good run in a woefully under-populated genre.

-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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