Preview: ‘Legends of Eisenwald’

I have never had much experience in RPG Strategy games, they never really stood out for me. But when I saw the trailer for Legends of Eisenwald I was really intrigued by the concept and the style. Now after playing it for about 8 hours I’m starting to regret not delving deeper into the genre. Legends of Eisenwald has become another Kickstarter success story as well as being approved by the Steam Greenlight community. On April 21, 2012 Aterdux Entertainment hoped to raise $50,000 for their game. Not only did they get their target, they received another $33,577 – totalling $83,577. With that extra big of leg room, I can’t wait to see the extra detail they can sap out of this beautifully styled RPG Strategy.

At the moment it is Early Access, so lots of features are subject to change. And as is the case with most Early Access games I found quite a few bugs, however these aren’t issues which will affect the end-game in any way. Aterdux Entertainment has made sure that they want to advance their game through the use of community feedback. However amidst all the bugs and crashes I encountered, I noticed there is just something so enjoyable about this game that I can see myself spending hours in it.

It is a pretty impressive feat considering at the moment there are no special effect sounds at the moment, or voice acting. You only have the calming medieval soundtrack (which is brilliant by the way) in the background, and the text bubbles directing the narrative. It got me thinking about the potential this game has for cinematic cut scenes. I can’t imagine the euphoric frustration the developers might have when they think about the potential this game has for some fantastic emotive cut scenes. Everything is there for it.

You are carried through the world of Eisenwald with the choice of three characters. The big plated Knight, the cross-bow wielding Baroness and the crafty Mystic. First off you are thrusted into a tutorial path, directing you through each style of play from hiring mercenaries to buying new weapons. You are taught where to go to get yourself healed, how to capture your own castle and pretty much everything in between.

Once you get past the tutorial you are sent back to your homeland after receiving perilous news about your land. Each area is basically a sandbox, which is littered with castles of different royalties, taverns, watch towers and other various buildings. Legends of Eisenwald is beautiful, simply put. The character models are well detailed and the world has been expertly crafted. The sunlight effects blended in with the rugged forest terrain and medieval styled buildings are done extremely well. It’s a great setting for the low-fantasy medieval world Aterdux are striving for. With that said though, the graphic options are very basic at the moment, but I assume a couple more details will be added down the track.

When you have chosen your character (the Knight was my favourite) you can freely move around the realistic fantasy kingdom. It revolves around a day and night cycle, with no movement points so you can explore every crook and cranny without having to worry about prioritising your next move. You also have the option to pause mid-game and speed up time which is a handy little addition, especially when you are waiting for an enemy or friendly to get out of their castle or to pause time and plan your escape route.

The storyline itself is fairly non-linear, you do have opportunities to change the outcomes of certain events. I felt like they could have a more noticeable effect though, the only ones choices that affected me were which families I decided to attack. The other minor options never really seemed to impact my motives.

When you do decide your enemies however, you can then attempt to take over their castle. However to do that, you must build your own army! There are plenty of different choices, with most classes starting at the ‘peasant’ level unless you hire yourself some mercenaries.

When you do decide on your personnel, you can level them up and choose different styles for them. For instance, if you pick up a basic archer when you level him up to level two, you have the choice between a quicker Bowman, or a slower-but-powerful crossbowmen. It adds a nice spice of variety to what you can choose, and it also makes it important to get right because other armies may have a better variety.

Each unit is split into three different lanes – the front is the heavy melee fighters, the middle is for the ranged, and the last line is for healers or enchantress. When you advance into combat, you are thrust into a small battle arena with hexagon tiles for each character. Without the sound effects it perhaps took away from the atmosphere, but those details will come. I found this style of combat was highly entertaining, and it was very satisfying watching my army rip down the enemy. However there were a few problems with the combat.

A few times I found myself unable to attack an enemy, and without the option to skip my turn in some cases. I had to restart the game and go back to my previous auto-save. It was very frustrating, especially when I only had one enemy to kill. Another is when you are actually defeated, unless you manually saved it to right before the battle and choose the “last save” option, you had to choose the “exit” option which literally shut down the game. It was frustrating, but with the option to return to previous auto-save, or return to free mode it will make it a lot less aggravating when you lose.

Upgrading my army was perhaps the most rewarding feeling, which ties in with buying new weapons from the local markets or fairs. Each character has a particular skill with what they can equip, however I was quite dumb and it took me ages to figure that out because I skipped over a couple of tutorial bits (facepalm). I ended up wasting a lot of coin and getting frustrated because it would never fit onto my unit. As a unit upgrades into a stronger unit, you can eventually unlock more varieties of weapon/armour choices. Something I would like to see implemented is the option to compare different armour from your inventory, to the armour the unit is using. It became quite a drag to drop-in and drop-out different armour to see which is better.

Your main character also has its own talent tree; however I didn’t find their talent trees particularly great. Each of the three characters has the same talent tree, which is a bit disappointing because I was hoping the talent trees would be specified for the style of class. A small note on the main characters, I wasn’t sure if it was a bug or I was missing something but I could never mount my main character on a horse even though I had the skill. It often left me very un-equipped when fighting against a leader, as their leader was always on a horseback which is very powerful and 10/10 times it ended in me getting obliterated.

As you move around the world with your brand new army, you can pick up quests from a few different places. You can drop in to your friends high in the castles to get some lucrative rewards if you help them, or you can visit the local taverns and try to find out some rumours. I found most of the dialogue in these missions quite interesting, which made up for the pretty basic quests every now and then. However the quest log still needs quite a bit of polishing. Often it wouldn’t recognise when I had finished a quest so it ended up just clogging my questlog.

You can also use mission markers in the tab which leave a red arrow on the map to where you are supposed to go. Not all of the missions have the option to pinpoint the exact spot though, which can be good or bad depending on the person. Some missions I had absolutely no idea where I was meant to go, until I luckily stumbled into the character in a tavern or walking around. It forces you to interact with the world however, and explore it.

It’d be great to see a mini-map implemented down the track, as it became a bit annoying having to open up my quest book every time I wanted to make sure I was going the right way. Exploration also aids in finding some expert mercenaries, which I really appreciated as it moved away from the convenience of finding everything you need in one place. Some taverns would have the basic fighters for cheap prices, and other taverns would have high-level mercenaries who are very costly but worth the money.

As your army begins to grow in power, you can attempt to take over enemy castles and make them your own. On attack, you would be disadvantaged with minor loss of health during siege and if you manage to overcome the enemy in the turn-based battle system, you take over the castle. However the castles don’t really do much besides open up another slot for your personal army which is limited to 5 slots if you don’t already own a castle.

You can’t upgrade the castles, or attach markets to them or anything else really. You can’t hire anyone in them to protect your castle, unless you move them from your personal army. It makes it a bit harder to actually defend castles if your character is on the other side of the map, and you don’t even get told it is being attacked. Again, it is Early Access so further features may come, but if they don’t it really is a huge miss.

I really can’t wait to see new features added to this game, it has huge potential to be a great game. I recommend anyone who enjoys some old-school RPG Strategy to keep a close eye on the development of this game. There are so many good things about this game, and with polishing on certain mechanics and added features I can definitely see myself churning hours into the world of Eisenwald.

Legends of Eisenwald is $14.99 through Steam, where you can join in the fun and provide your own personal feedback for the development team. If you’d like to find out more about Legends of Eisenwald you can visit their Steam page, or their official site.