The Demoman: Elven Legacy

For me, reviewing strategy games is tough, because I absolutely suck at strategy games, so the review often focuses on how much I suck at strategy games rather than on the strategy game I am sucking at, and whether it sucks or does not suck.

With that long, awkward sentence behind us, let's take a look at the Elven Legacy demo. It begins with a cutscene explaining how wonderful and noble elves are, and how jealous everyone else is of them. If I could just briefly address the elves here: it's not that everyone is jealous of you, it's that we don't like you. It's the arrogance, see, the other-worldliness, the immortality you're always rubbing in everyone else's faces. We're not jealous of you, we just loathe your smug woodland asses. For the record, the only elves anyone actually likes are Legolas, Mr. Spock, Zooey Deschanel, and the ones who bake cookies in that hollow tree.

This is an elf in my army. I didn't protect him properly. He got killed.

Finally, to the demo: to get acquainted with the controls, I played the tutorial, which demonstrated the standard turn-based strategy set-up: you have different units, and they move differently and attack differently. Although when I'm playing they tend to die similarly--quickly and in great numbers.

It's a little hard to understand the tutorial due to a bug that often begins the narrator's next sentence before he's finished his previous sentence. I wind up trying to decipher instructions like "Your scout units can move past enemies in adjacent hexes by -- After attacking they are able to -- Healing your units can be accomplished by clicking the -- Now you've learned how to invade towns." Not fully understanding what each unit can do, combined with my aforementioned ineptitude at strategy games, indicates the upcoming battle is not going to go well.

This is an elf in my army. I didn't protect her properly. She got killed.

One nice addition to the standard strategy play is the RPG element: as your units fight, they gain experience, and that experience can be spent on special skills, such as a bonus being applied when fighting on different types of terrain, or poison being added to weapons so wounded enemies will eventually die. It means that each of your units, even if they are both initially the same type of unit, such as archery or cavalry, can still be unique and customized for different circumstances.

The circumstance my units keep finding themselves in, meanwhile, is being dispatched to strategically questionable hexes on the battlefield by their idiotic commander (me), resulting in vast numbers of them being hewn apart by orcs and wolves. I start with two archery units, one infantry unit, and some sort of flying boat that drops bombs. I also have a few special elves, one with a magic bow and one who casts spells, who each fight on their own (and die on their own).

This is a flying boat in my army. I think you can guess what happened.

At some point during my first battle, my flying boat is destroyed, though I never see it happen due to the game constantly wresting the camera controls from me. It's nice that the game wants to alert me to the movement of enemy units, but it also means I miss out on a lot of what's happening to my own units because my camera is yanked in some other direction. I never see my flying boat go down, or even being attacked--it's just gone from the battlefield at one point.

I finally do get my act together, win a few skirmishes, and eventually march to the wall I'm supposed to be attacking. Beyond the wall are enemy siege units, several of them, which start lobbing bombs at the remains of my forces. I retreat, hoping to move my archers out of range, though the visibility restrictions of the game prevent me from spotting a unit of nearby enemy wolves, who swarm in and attack. Followed by another group of wolves. And a group of giant boars. And a group of orcs. And another group of orcs. And some more wolves. And some Spanish Conquistadors. And some more boars. It's all over pretty quickly.

I'm not sure what 15th Century Spanish explorers are doing here,
but they fire a mean crossbow.

As bad as I am at strategy games, this one still seemed especially hard, and especially for a demo level. There were simply an enormous number of enemy units, most of them hidden from sight until I was right on top of them. I did really like that specialized units could be made even more specialized by earning skills and abilities, but otherwise this seems to be a fairly standard strategy title, set in a fairly standard fantasy world, which I failed at in a fairly standard manner.

[Christopher Livingston is a freelance writer with plenty of time for games but not enough money to buy them. Thus was born The Demoman; a shadowy yet helpful figure dedicated not to helping you decide which expensive games to buy, but which free game demos to play.]

Download the Elven Legacy demo.

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