Legends of Eisenwald Review

Eschalon: Book II

Developer:Aterdux Entertainment
Release Date:2015-07-02
  • Role-Playing,Strategy
Platforms: Theme: Perspective:
  • Third-Person
Buy this Game: Amazon ebay


Legends of Eisenwald is a new turn-based strategy game from Belarusian developer Aterdux Entertainment.  It follows in the Heroes of Might & Magic mold where you build up your character and army, capture castles from your opponents, and manage your economy.  Games in this genre traditionally have been pretty good, so can an indie title compete?  Keep reading to find out.


When you begin a new game of Legends of Eisenwald, you have to create your hero character.  You have three choices for this: a Knight (melee combat), a Baroness (ranged combat), or a Mystic (magic).  Each hero gets three branches of skills, where two are the same for all classes, and one is unique.  Melee characters do the most damage, especially if they're upgraded to ride horses, so the Knight class is the easiest to play.  Mystics are for "advanced players."

Your hero also gets an army to help it out.  Each character has 12 slots available in three rows.  The front row (5 slots) is for melee characters, the middle row (4 slots) is for ranged characters, and the back row (3 slots) is for healers and utility characters.  Your hero takes up one of the slots, and the rest can be filled in one of three ways: followers (who are assigned to you by the campaign), recruits (who are free after a one-time purchase cost, but who are limited by the number of castles you control), and mercenaries (who cost a certain amount of gold each day).  You only get one hero with one army.

When your hero character gains a level, you get to pick out a new skill from one of the three skill branches.  These skills can do useful things like give you an extra recruit, earn you more money from villages, or reduce the damage taken during castle sieges.  Your army characters are different.  When they gain a level, you choose an upgrade path for them.  Sometimes these upgrades are linear, and sometimes they branch.  So, for example, when you pick up a peasant woman, the first two times she gains a level, she just becomes more powerful, but after that her path branches, and she can either become a powerful healer or a witch.  Meanwhile, young noblemen can eventually either become dual-wielding swordsmen or sword-and-board knights.


Combat starts up whenever two opposing armies run into each other on the game map.  Battles are turn-based, where characters proceed in the order of their initiative attribute.  Each character is limited in what it can do.  Melee characters can move and attack during their turn, but they're only allowed to attack the nearest enemy, which means they can usually only pick between one or two targets.  Ranged characters can pick any opponent, but their damage is reduced by distance, and enemies with shields can sometimes block their damage.  Magic characters can target anybody, but their effectiveness is determined by how much spiritual power they have, and they lose some power each time they cast a spell.

As characters increase in level, they automatically gain access to new skills they can use on the battlefield, but these are pretty basic.  For example, melee fighters don't start out with a defend skill.  That's something they only gain as they advance.  And no character gets a "skip turn" command, which is annoying.  It means that sometimes you're forced to advance and / or attack with a character even when you don't want to (such as when a soldier is wounded and you don't want him charging into the fray).

At the end of a battle, you usually earn some xp and find some loot.  All characters can use equipment, including weapons, armor, and jewelry.  Nicely, characters start out with some basic equipment, which automatically improves as they gain levels.  You can't remove this equipment from the character, but if you find something better, then you can have the character wear the improvement instead.  Like a lot of RPGs, the equipment is rated from white (normal) to green (magical) to blue (more magical) to purple (uber magical).  There isn't any set equipment.
Castle sieges are a special form of combat.  Instead of having some sort of castle map for them, the game makes some simple "breach" calculations.  The melee power of the attacking army determines how long the breach takes, and then during this time the ranged fighters from each side have at each other.  Then when the breach is made, the calculated damage is deducted from each side, and the fighting proceeds normally from there.  Wimpy armies get thrashed by castles, but powerful armies barely take any damage at all, so castles can be tough to defend.  "Luckily," enemies rarely try to take them, even when they're left undefended.


The campaign that comes with Legends of Eisenwald contains eight maps.  The first map is a tutorial, and two others are short, but the rest are large with lots of castles and lots of things to do.  Your goal in the campaign is to take revenge against the person who ordered the murder of your family, but pretty much nobody is honest with you, and so you have to spend a lot of time digging for information and dealing with disreputable people to get at the truth.

The people that you meet in the campaign give you quests, so the maps aren't just a matter of capturing all of the castles, although that's usually an option, too.  Quests can involve things like hunting down a fugitive, locating a relic, or forming an alliance.  You can also hear rumors when visiting inns, and the rumors are interesting.  Sometimes they're just stories that give you background information about the world you're in (which seems to be a mix of fantasy and reality), and sometimes they reveal extra things for you to do, like investigating strange goings-on in a cemetery or tracking down where a bandit hid his loot.

Moving around the campaign maps uses turns just like the battles, but they're "friendly" turns, so when you click on a location, your character moves to the spot while other characters perform their actions, but then when you stop moving, everything else stops as well.  If you want time to pass automatically (such as if you want to wait for nightfall for a secret meeting), then you can turn on real-time mode, where time passes whether you're actively playing or not.

The campaign maps have lots of locations to visit, including towns (which generate income and where you can hire recruits), shops (where you can buy equipment for your army), and churches (where you can heal your army).  Some buildings, like camps and ruins, can generate bandits, which give you extra battles to fight so you can grind some experience if you want.

The campaign has several branches, where you can choose to believe people or not (which changes who your allies and enemies are), and where you're given multiple ways to do things.  For example, at one point you're forced to work with an evil chancellor, and he orders you to betray one of your allies.  So do you do it or not?  There are branches like this, both major and minor, sprinkled throughout the campaign, and they all affect what happens in later maps.  The campaign takes about 50 hours to complete, but because of the branches and the three character classes, you could easily play it twice or more, giving the game a lengthy potential playing time.

The branching in the campaign is one of its positives, but it's also one of its negatives, simply because there is rarely any clarity to what's going on.  The game's interface is a little iffy, the English translation is a little iffy, and I'm guessing Aterdux tried biting off a little more than they could chew as far as the complexity is concerned.  Sometimes I didn't realize what was going on and that I was making a choice, and other times I looked for choices and didn't see them even though they were (supposedly) there.  Plus, it doesn't help that the game uses names like Grueninsel, Gipfelburg and Kohlsitz, which are probably like Smith and Jones in Belarus, but are more like alphabet soup for me, and hindered my ability to keep track of the story.

Another slight issue with the campaign is that there's no consistency about what carries over from map to map.  You always get to keep your hero and your hero's equipment, but other things are all but random.  Sometimes you get to carry over some soldiers, and sometimes you don't.  Sometimes your inventory goes with you, and sometimes it doesn't.  For the last three maps, my gold carried over, and I ended up having so much money that I could buy whatever I wanted whenever I wanted, which took away a lot of strategy.

Bugs and Other Issues

Legends of Eisenwald has some sloppiness to it.  Sometimes when the game shows a cut scene, it forgets to return control to the player, which leaves you stuck where you are.  I had one map where broken AI script notices popped up with regularity.  During battles you see the damage from an attack way before the attack animation plays out.  Each quicksave generates a new file, so you might end up with hundreds of saves that you don't want (I ended up with over 600).  Information pops up on screen, but then disappears before you can read it, and there isn't any sort of log where you can see what it said.  Many of the achievements are also broken.  Fortunately, most of these problems are more annoying than devastating.  They're just things that need to be polished away through patches.


I might be showing my age here, but what Legends of Eisenwald reminded me of was Age of Empires II when people made RPG scenarios for it.  The scenarios worked, but they were limited in what they could do, and you could always tell that the engine wasn't really designed for it.

That is, Legends of Eisenwald is rough around the edges, to an extreme.  It doesn't look great or sound great, its combat is too simplistic, and sometimes the campaign is confusing, both in what's going on and what you can do.  But the game is different and interesting, and that goes a long way in making it worthwhile to me.  If you're a fan of games like Disciples, Spellforce, and Heroes of Might & Magic, then Legends of Eisenwald is a possibility for you.  Just wait for a sale to drop its price into the budget title realm where it belongs.