My introduction to 4X games was actually only a few years ago when I played Civilization V. I had never really looked into the genre too much before then, and after playing numerous other titles, I was completely hooked. I had never heard of the Fallen Enchantress series, but knowing it was a 4X game in a fantasy setting had me really excited to play it. After digging in, I can safely say I was not disappointed.
Legendary Heroes is a stand-alone expansion for Fallen Enchantress. Set in the world of Elemental, the players take on the role of a kingdom that is ruled by a certain leader either from a preset group of characters, or a customized one of the player’s choosing. They will upgrade their city, build new structures, research numerous advancements in technology and magic and explore the land with their leader and his armies.
The game breaks down into two different aspects. The first is the standard civilization building. Players can settle a new town; make it grow through development in production, food supplies and research; and train new units to defend, attack, and explore the land. Cities themselves can level up after growing in population and can be altered for certain uses. Making a city a fortress can beef up the defense of the town, making it a slum can make it grow in population, but will make city unrest higher. The options in this part of the game are impressive.
The other aspect of the game is the exploration and combat using units created in cites, or heroes that come to aid the player’s kingdom. New heroes can be recruited once the kingdom’s fame has increased. This is done by expanding towns and completing quests. Quests appear on the map, and units can take them on by simply moving over to them. They come in the form of defeating enemies in a certain situation, obtaining a lost item or weapon or various other tasks. All of these usually lead to a battle of some kind, which take place in turn-based form on a separate map altogether. Players move their units on a grid, much like a tactical RPG. Depending on the character, they may have special abilities like magic spells or special skills related to the weapon they have equipped. There is a lot of stat tracking involved during combat. Equipping units with better gear found throughout their travels can offer up more hit points, higher initiative and stronger attack power. Through combat and completing quests, characters can level up and players can use a skill point to give each unit a special perk though a series of skill tress that revolve around their traits and class.
Magic plays a big part in the game. It can be used in combat, but also on the map screen. Certain spells can buff units, debuff enemy units and cities, and many other helpful tricks. All spells use mana. Mana is gained through city development and having that city specialize in mana-producing structures.
Through research, new items can become available to manufacture and produce. These equippable items can range from new weapons and armor to magical items that increase stats.
Legendary Heroes has multiple ways to achieve victory. Players can conquer the other kingdoms through pure combat, or cast a winning spell that requires high research with magic, as well as the building of multiple magical towers in their cities. There are many ways to win the game both peacefully and through domination. Much like any other 4X game, getting there will take some time.
The early sections are some of the best parts of Legendary Heroes. Starting a city and beginning quests are very fun and engaging. Leveling up both my cities and my heroes was an entertaining, but difficult road. Characters are very vulnerable at low levels and the game randomizes what the player will run into. Many times, I would get 30 minutes into a game and hit a brick wall where a giant dragon was in my way of exploring, and every time I would get close, it would destroy my party. The game can also hurt the player through starting points. Many times I would start a new game only to be nowhere near any type of good resources. So if my starting city is nowhere near any elemental shards, I can pretty much throw out establishing a magic devoted kingdom and achieving victory that way. The randomizing of the map and creatures just feels off.
Once deep into a game, the mechanics can get a little tedious. Of course, I find it that way with many 4X games, but in Legendary Heroes, it felt more like I was going through the motions until I won. There is an option to auto-resolve battles on the main map and once I had an army that was strong enough to take on most random encounters, I was auto-resolving practically every battle. It is unfortunate because the combat is so deep and rewarding earlier on. The interactions with the other kingdoms plays out like other 4X games, but I really saw no need to interact with them much unless they were declaring war. They never really offered much for treaties or tributes, and unless I wanted to win through a peaceful victory that requires me to ally with all factions, I saw no need to even try to talk to them.
The amount of customization in the game is remarkable. Players can create their very own heroes to use in a campaign, they can set almost every rule and every modifier in the game before starting a new kingdom, and with the character and city progression as deep as it is, fans of RPGs will have a really fun time with all the options that are available.
Visually, the game looks rather bland. Granted, I know this is a top-down isometric view that most won’t pay attention to, but when looking at character models, it just looks off more times than not. It is a downer for me because when I created my own personal hero and customized his looks, it still carried the appearance of a blocky model from about seven years ago.
Of course, I had a great time with Legendary Heroes, but there are a few quirks with the game that made it a little sluggish to play. Certain design choices on how units are moved and separated, and small facts like an army will automatically go into a conquered city and I have to manually select each party member, take them out of the city, and then combine them into an army again just made it tedious at times.
During combat, precise clicks seem to be required at times and there is no rhyme or reason for them. I would end up moving instead of just range attacking all because I clicked on what seemed like a single pixel that was wrong. Small little quirks never ruined my experience; it just hindered it somewhat because I was running into them numerous times due to how long a game can last. Of course, many of these issues can be repaired with a patch, and Stardock has been doing a great job so far with updates and support for the game.
Fans of 4X games and RPGs should really look into Fallen Enchantress: Legendary Heroes. The amount of customization and the way city building and character progress is handled left me coming back for just one more turn. There are a few missteps here and there, but nothing game breaking at all. There may be a few times you will get dealt a bad hand in the random generated world, but you will be having so much fun taking on quests and building your starting city that you won’t mind too much. For $40, you get one rather addicting fantasy game with Legendary Heroes and I can’t suggest it enough.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.