reviews\ Jun 11, 2002 at 8:00 pm

Legion - PC - Review

Legion, but will players?">

Fresh from their highly acclaimed real-time historical wargame Europa Universalis II, Paradox Entertainment and Strategy First have teamed up again with the release of Legion, a turn based historical strategy game. Set during the time of the Roman Empire, play centers around forming alliances with some countries and taking over others to eventually rule the important bits of the world at that time.

On startup, players can either play a tutorial or dive right into one of four missions. The tutorial is short and sweet, but shows the essentials of gameplay needed to begin the game. The missions take place in Britain, Gaul and Italy, with straightforward objectives of subduing and controlling all the territory. Players can choose to play as either Rome, or one of the other historical groups of that location and time. Each territory will have a few towns scattered around, complete with basic garrisons and resources of wood, food and ore. These armies and resources can be built up and upgraded as time goes on to supply more soldiers and supplies, which will in turn enable more items to be built, as each building or army unit costs a set number of resources. Decisions will have to be made as to which items are more important in the beginning, as resources are limited at first.

The viewpoint can be toggled back and forth between the top-down view of the map and the individual cities. Building choices are displayed on a revolving "lazy-susan" type circular index, with the available buildings and soldiers highlighted. Each building task takes exactly four turns, so often players will do all their building tasks for their various cities, then click through the turns four times to get to the next building choices, at least in the beginning before the opposing countries start nosing around. The interface is very simple and easy to grasp, and won't take long to learn.

Combat is initiated in a turn-based sequence, wherein the units are given individual orders for battle and lined up on the field, but once the fighting begins, real time takes over. An odd feature to this combat feature is that no interaction is available once begun, players just sit back and watch the now inevitable outcome. The end results are determined by all the units of either side being routed, which seems to happen when a set percent of soldiers per unit expire. Once the battle is over, the player will be switched to the combat menu where the final fatalities are listed, as well as the experience points gained from the battle. If the player loses, the garrison is lost and the army will have to be rebuilt. If a city is captured during a battle, it can be retaken, but all the buildings will be gone and building will have to start from scratch again.

Graphically speaking, combat is adequately displayed, but no special effects are present. The two sides square off and march toward each other, and then lots of people fall down with little pools of blood beside them. I personally don't care to watch realistic displays of death, so this lack of realism doesn't affect me, but others may bemoan the absence of protracted death scenes. The background details are again adequate enough, but nothing to get excited about. Each battle scene pretty much looks like another. The enemy armies wandering around on the map are represented by iconic warriors that are grayed out until they cross into the player's borders, then turn into the dominant unit in their particular army. The general strength of the enemy units can be determined by the height of the banner the unit is carrying, but no specifics are known until the battle commences.

The music is orchestral and majestic in tone and is nice to listen to, although more variety would be even nicer. The volume, etc., can be adjusted in the options menu.

So, is this another Europa? Unfortunately, no. While Legion offers some amusement, there simply isn't enough depth to the gameplay to keep players involved for too long. Constructing the buildings in the cities is interesting at first, but palls after awhile because of the sameness of it all. Each city basically offers the same sort of buildings, and there are only three different resources to be had. There is no technology tree to advance resources or power, and while there is a diplomacy feature, it's not used for much more than very loosely held alliances. The battles are the most interesting aspect of the game, but since players can't issue commands during battle, even these lose interest after the basic strategy for winning is learned. Increasing the city-building features would help tremendously, because if managing the empire was the brunt of the game as in Europa, then the battle sequences wouldn't be as necessary for enjoyment. On the other hand, if this game is designed to be primarily a war simulation, as the title seems to suggest, then the combat features definitely need beefing up. On the whole, an average strategy game that will offer some entertainment for a short time, but probably won't keep many gamers playing on into the night for that elusive "just one more turn".

Gameplay: 7
The gameplay lacks depth, and needs much more variety to keep gamers interested for very long.

Graphics: 7 
The graphics are run of the mill, comparatively.

Sound: 7.5
The music is a good match for the Roman theme.

Difficulty: Medium
The interface is easily learnable and functional, but the battles do require a bit more thought, and will take several clashes to get the science of winning down.

Concept: 7 
A simplistic strategy game that doesn't really offer anything new, or tried and true.

Multiplayer: N/A

Overall: 7
A good strategy game doesn't depend on graphics like some games, but instead needs depth of play that engrosses players for hours without micromanaging them to death. While Legion manages to streamline the interface and automate much of the tasks, it also has left hardly anything for the player to do beside build new buildings and move armies around the board.


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