Legends of Eisenwald Review

Eschalon: Book II

Publisher:Independent
Developer:Aterdux Entertainment
Release Date:2015-07-02
Genre:
  • Role-Playing,Strategy
Platforms: Theme: Perspective:
  • Third-Person
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Campaign

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.

Conclusion

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.