Strategic role-playing games have undergone a number of developments in recent years. Whether it’s the massive success of XCOM 2 or the incredible satisfaction of Mutant Year Zero: The Road to Eden is probably my favorite when it comes to experimenting with new and interesting settings in the genre.
With Black Legend, the turn-based tactical game takes you to the city of Grant, shrouded in a poisonous fog and infested with cultists. An intriguing setup for sure, but is this a story of mercenaries being sent into a doomed city with the biggest on their feet, or will the cultists ultimately win this battle? We’ll find out.
Rough diamond for strategy lovers
The setup of Black Legend is certainly enough to grab your attention. As mercenaries of the king, you enter the city of Grant, shrouded in dense fog and eerily quiet.
An evil alchemist named Mephisto has created a mist that drives people crazy unless they are given an antidote. As a result, all the inhabitants are hiding in their houses and do not even open their doors for fear of being exposed to the fog or, worse, of encountering the cultists who are now roaming the city.
Add to that a literal bestiary for the various enemies and creatures that travel with them, and you have a great recipe for a terrifying atmosphere.
With the huge potential this premise offers, it’s a shame that more attention isn’t paid to the story itself. The scenes and conversations take place from the same camera perspective as the game, with voice acting that fluctuates between decent and too stiff to be believable.
An example of the latter is when certain explanations or instructions are given not only in the text, but also in the narrative. When a character talks about game mechanics or controls, it breaks the immersion for me.
While you can customize your character and recruit different party members, none of these options are memorable, and there’s no real plot development for them.
There are quests and conversations that you can have with people through their doors, but the static episode of the story doesn’t really manage to harness the potential of the setting and premise, which is a shame because there are a lot of interesting details invested in the enemies and the town of Grant itself.
There’s also an incentive to explore the city, and despite the lack of inhabitants, there’s a sense of presence thanks to the clever audio design and the uncertainty of when you’ll encounter a group of cultists.
The chests scattered throughout the various areas also encourage running around, but before we dive into the gameplay and mechanics, it’s worth noting that there’s no map in the game.
Instead, there are signposts all over the city that direct you to other signposts and can be used in conjunction with the compass at the top of the screen, but it’s not really a convenient way to navigate and, frankly, I got lost trying to get back to certain areas.
Still, opening the boxes and labels was fun and exciting. Wells also offers a quick travel feature later in the game. I understand that the decision not to include a map would have made navigation more exciting, but just the ability to mark locations on the compass could have made navigation less frustrating at times.
While the story and setting didn’t reach their potential, there are a few elements to the gameplay that will definitely appeal to fans of strategic RPGs. For starters, enemies roam the map in real time, with red circles marking their field of view.
This allows you to spot groups of enemies ahead of time and sneak up on them, or position yourself so that you can position your units to your advantage at the start of the fight.
For example, what I liked to do was start the fight when I was near some crates, because then I could place my divisional unit at a higher point when the fight started.
Once you get started, the user interface and general layout make it easy to get the information you need. At the top of the screen you’ll see the rotation order, while the units have health bars and icons indicating their class and any alchemical instability.
Yes, you heard right, the alchemy goes beyond the Black Legend story. This may have been my favorite part of the fight. Instead of having elements in your attacks, you can have one of the four color instabilities associated with Alchemy, applying that color to the enemy’s badge above their unit.
Some color combos are super effective, but they only work if you use a catalyst attack to significantly lower your score in exchange for a big damage boost.
This adds an extra layer of strategy as you play between placing more color stacks on enemies before a satisfying catalytic attack knocks over the proverbial dominoes in your favor.
Outside of combat, you can equip your units with various weapons and equipment. Interestingly, the weapons you equip also allow you to change classes at any time, so it’s not hard to change your party if you need to.
Some skills are also learned after a while, so you can equip them regardless of your class. This allows you to create truly devastating combos if you include the alchemical aspects of combat.
Aside from the problems I had with the story and setting, I have to tip my hat to the developers of Warcave for the gameplay elements, as they are truly top notch for the genre and offer satisfying levels of strategy.
Aside from the clever mechanics, the combat itself is not very interesting due to the simple and stiff animations. It’s fun to watch enemies crumble and fall to the ground as you deliver the final blow, but nothing about the combat is visually appealing, making some of the longer battles quite painful.
Black Legend’s gameplay shows a real fondness for the genre, but everything around it keeps you from really admiring and enjoying what it’s trying to do. Aside from the lack of visual polish and clunky navigation that make it difficult to really immerse yourself in the world, or the more positive gameplay elements, it’s not so much the compelling story.
Even Mephisto’s fog can’t hide a shaky presentation.
Black Legend’s presentation is mixed, even on the PS5. It takes a while for the textures to load when you move from one area to another, which is very annoying. During battles, I could see units getting stuck in the area when moving to a new area. Usually they get away with it, but this is another example that shows cracks.
The text is also too small for a big screen TV, but that’s a problem with many titles. But because the game conveys a lot of information only through text, this is noticeable even after the pre-release fixes.
Black Legend is a game that alternates between stunts, technical challenges, and some cryptic design decisions. It’s a brutal package, but fans of turn-based strategy who are willing to ignore it will be able to appreciate a lot about the clever mechanics.
Last point: 6.5/10
A copy of Black Legend was made available to PS5 players for review.
Subject of – Bradley Ramsey
Date of Insertion – 24/03/2021
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