I can’t really think of many games with medieval settings that don’t rely heavily on fantasy elements; The only games that come to mind are Chivalry: Medieval Warfare, and War Of The Roses. Legends Of Eisenwald is another such game, and this time, rather than a hack and slash, we have a strategy\rpg style game. Set in what I assume is Western Europe, Legends of Eisenwald is a fascinating game that took me by surprise with its more realistic take on knights in shining armor. Though it does have minor fantastical elements such as magic and the undead, it doesn’t rely entirely on things like monsters and dragons to make it interesting.
Legends Of Eisenwald is a bit difficult to describe. In the game you take control of a hero; this hero can recruit soldiers to fight with him. You travel across each map in the campaign to complete quests and capture castles and towns. The difference between Legends Of Eisenwald and most other strategy games is that you can only control one single party, and there’s no real castle management.
You capture castles and towns for gold and more troop support, and that’s it. You can recruit troops from castles, monasteries, towns, and even taverns. You can also buy items to equip your troops and better their stats. Rather than buying upgrades for your troops, they level up on their own; in this way, Legends of Eisenwald is a lot like a strategy game you may know called Disciples. This allows for a certain depth to be added to the game, as your soldier’s lives are valuable and you must keep them alive for your army to become stronger.
The game’s campaign takes you through several very large levels where you must complete objectives, along with following rumors to find hidden objectives. I’m a bit disappointed that Legends Of Eisenwald doesn’t have any sort of skirmish mode in case you just want to play a story-less game where you try to defeat your neighboring lords. Luckily, the campaign is interesting and engrossing enough to make this problem minor.
The game is mainly played in two phases: The overworld, and battles. I’ll talk about battles a little later, but as for the overworld; it’s great. Played from an isometric view, the maps in Legends Of Eisenwald were clearly crafted with love and care, as they are so detailed and so easy on the eyes. There isn’t a dull spot on any map, there’s always something of interest to look at.
The overworld is played in real time (with the option of speed manipulation and pausing), and the only real gameplay here is exploring maps, completing objectives, talking to other characters, and recruiting units. Many maps will have different lords who rule certain areas, and you can go to war with them or form alliances as you please. One problem I see with the dialogue boxes is that declaring war on lords is done with the push of a single button — you get no confirmation, no special diplomacy menu; the option is just there amongst other dialogue options. I really suggest that the developers patch this so that you at least get an “Are you sure?” window before declaring war, because you can ruin an alliance with one simple missclick.
Another problem with un-reversible missclicks takes form in certain quests. In the first level I found a cemetery rumored to be haunted by a ghost, but when given the option to leave or go inside, I mistakenly chose to leave and the option to explore the cemetery was no longer there. This resulted in me having to restart the entire level because I hadn’t thought to save yet.
Speaking of saving: Why can’t I clear a save file name by holding down backspace? The game automatically names your save files with the date and time etc., but I don’t like that. I like naming my saves myself. Unfortunately, due to only being able to clear one character at a time, this makes saving an unnecessary hassle, because you have to press the backspace button over and over before the name is cleared off. I never thought I would even complain about saving in a video game before now, but it’s incredibly frustrating.
As soon as you leave the first tutorial level, Legends Of Eisenwald stop fooling around. I was initially turned off by the first level, thinking the whole game would be as linear — I was wrong. Immediately afterwards, the game ramps up in challenge, and starts giving you choices — lots of choices. A good example would be the second level where you must bring peace to your homeland by settling rivalries between your vassals. Unfortunately you can only align yourself with one, and must defeat the others.
Each vassal was charming in their own way, but none of them were truly good people; they all had their vices, and it made the decision very hard for me. The first lord I met seemed convincing, but as soon as I met another, he told me of the previous lord’s own issues and made me rethink my decision. It’s choices like these that really adds depth and personality to the game, and it really engrossed me.
It took me totally off guard just how much depth Legends Of Eisenwald has. Just by going into a tavern and listening to rumors you’ll learn so many interesting things and hear so many stories — and it’s the player’s job to decide what to do with the information they acquire. The main story itself is interesting as is, but what I found so incredible was the use of rumors and optional quests: The player must follow up on these themselves. If you hear a tale about a hidden castle with treasure, you have to go find that castle; you don’t get quest markers immediately telling you where to go. It immerses the player so well into the world, and really made me feel like I was on an adventure where anything could happen.
Combat in Legends Of Eisenwald is probably the weakest part of the game. The mechanics behind it seem interesting at first, but quickly become a repetitive grind. In battles, each (melee) soldier can only attack the closest character to them, and they cannot move without attacking. This cuts back on the senseless running around from games like Heroes Of Might And Magic, but also locks characters into place until someone dies, which just results in clicking turn by turn until something different happens. There’s no way to strategize your movements, and thus it makes combat very very boring. It’s not the worst I’ve seen, it’s just not the best.
Editor’s Note: Looking back, I failed to explain that, while the combat is a bit repetitive, it’s also challenging. I don’t particularly like how your units get locked into place in combat, but I can see the strategy behind it. Playing the game more, I started realizing just how much strategy combat required. One wrong move can end the battle for you, as you really must make your moves carefully since there’s no take-backs. In that regard, combat is rather clever, involved, and fun. Don’t take the previous paragraph as me saying the combat is unfun and bad, it can just become a grind at points.
Legends Of Eisenwald is certainly a very intriguing mix of gameplay styles. It’s definitely not for everyone, but for those of you that enjoy turn based strategy, medieval settings, lots of lore, and don’t mind a challenge; Legends Of Eisenwald is for you. It has some irritating problems that make the experience less than perfect — but I believe they could all be fixed with a simple patch. Aside from the repetitive combat, Legends Of Eisenwald is a great strategy game that streamlines many mechanics, but not to the point where the game becomes too easy.
A Steam code for Legends Of Eisenwald was provided by Aterdux Entertainment for the purpose of this review.
Legends Of Eisenwald$29.99
- Immersive depth to the gameworld and lore
- Beautiful looking maps
- Making the player to explore for quests and rewards
- Streamlined, yet challenging gameplay
- Combat becomes very repetitive
- Too many un-reversible mistakes can be made with missclicks
- Creating save files is frustrating