As someone who’s a bit of a history buff, I’ll take historic settings over fantasy worlds in my strategy games every time. To me, what makes games like Civilization exciting is getting to rewrite history, and knowing that the game I’m playing is based (albeit loosely) on real events that actually happened really spices up a genre that doesn’t often appeal to me (mainly because I suck at strategy games).
Aterdux Entertainment’s Legends of Eisenwald, a tactical strategy/adventure game with light RPG elements, scratched my strategy gaming itch this week and tore me away from my ongoing game of Civ by offering up a sizable non-linear storyline set in medieval Germany. Historical context aside, though, what I found was a pretty deep tactical wargame that fans of games like XCOM and Final Fantasy Tactics will adore, if they can just get through the rather boring and needlessly long tutorial that makes up the first hour.
As stated before, Legends of Eisenwald’s main course is a sprawling adventure revolving around warring kingdoms in the Middle Ages. Picking one of three different main characters — a knight, a baroness or a mystic — you’ll be treated to a 30+ hour long campaign where your goal is to lead your kingdom to victory over its neighbours, conquering opposing castles, training up armies, and occasionally making choices along the way that subtly change the storyline and which missions you’ll get to play. It’s not a deep role playing experience on par with a game like Expeditions: Conquistador, but Eisenwald‘s campaign is a reasonably interesting story filled with all the staples of medieval drama, including political intrigue, betrayal and tenuous alliances.
Legend of Eisenwald’s core gameplay can basically be summed up as a sort of medieval XCOM game. Most of your time in the game is split into two separate sections: an exploration/management game where you explore the world map, recruit soldiers and purchase upgrades and equipment for your army and strongholds; and the turn based combat mode, where you direct your men across a hex based map and try to carry out the objectives of the current mission. Overall, the game is fairly complex and has a lot of things to see and do. Much like XCOM, how you manage your army and its supplies can make or break your strategy and it’s a lot of fun seeking out new soldiers or upgrades. The combat itself is rather simple, but still offers a lot of strategic options to try out as your soldiers level up and advance along their respective skill trees. Anyone with a passing interest in tactical strategy games will feel right at home playing Eisenwald.
Everything’s mostly fine on the aesthetic front as well. Legends of Eisenwald runs well and it’s pretty too, with its overworld graphics in particular bringing to mind the little plastic landscapes used in tabletop wargames. The game’s music isn’t particularly memorable, but it also gets the job done, serving as adequate background ambiance for your skirmishes. Unfortunately, the game’s overall presentation is a little rough around the edges, and it took me quite some time to become immersed in the game world. At first, the UI, with its dozens of menus and occasionally non-responsive buttons felt downright intimidating. As if that wasn’t all, there are more than a few typos lurking in the dialogue, and in-game descriptions that are needlessly confusing or not specific enough. Ultimately though, these flaws shouldn’t detract too much from what’s otherwise a competent game.
Overall, Legends of Eisenwald is a decent title that hardcore strategy fans will adore. For $29.99, it’s an absolutely huge adventure, and the branching story paths and questlines add enough incentive to try it again once you’ve beaten it. If you have the time and the patience for these kinds of games, check this one out. Check out Legends of Eisenwald on Steam here.