Legion Gold

Legion Gold

Written by Tyler Sager on 6/18/2003 for PC  

My first thought after playing a few hours of Legion Gold was, “Huh. Why on Earth did this ever get the ‘Gold’ treatment?” My second thought was, “If this is the bigger, better, Gold version, I’d hate to see the original.” Unfortunately, more play time only reinforced these early observations. Legion Gold just isn’t a fun game.

Legion is a turn-based strategy game set around that time when Rome was stomping through most of Europe, bullying the other nations. In each of the campaigns, players take command of Rome or one of the other nations, and try to conquer everybody else. This can be done through diplomacy (which never seemed to work very well for me), or the more traditional application of force. There’s very little back-story or plot in any of these campaigns. Players just choose a side and begin.

Play focuses around the buildup of cities and armies, as in most strategy games. Cities are the center of both military buildup and resource gathering—there are no resource collection sites outside of the city walls. Depending on the size, each city has a certain number of building spaces available. These spaces can be filled with resource-producing buildings, such are farms and mines, productivity enhancements, such as shrines and temples, or military-unit producers. Each city also generates workers, which can either harvest resources or be converted into military squads. At first there may seem like quite a few different building choices, especially when considering all the different nations available for play, but it quickly becomes apparent that there just isn’t all that much variation. There may be different graphics and names for buildings of different nations, but play-wise things are identical. Which doesn’t do much to increase the replayability factor. Military units are much the same way—different countries boast lots of different units, but as far as I can tell, the mid-grade infantry from one nation has exactly the same combat effectiveness as any other.

One annoying aspect of building structures and buildings is the timing involved. Only one building can be built per year, although any number of troops can be built. All troops and buildings are completed in the spring. Since each turn is one season, most of the game is spent building, clicking the “next turn” button 3 times, and setting up the next building cycle. Unless you’re embroiled in a fairly heated military movement, you’ll only find yourself actually interested in about one quarter of the turns of the game.
Once spring rolls around and military units are built, it’s time to send them off to war. Battles are done in a fairly unique manner in Legion. Not good, but unique. When two armies decide to face off, a tactical screen opens up. Here, players can decide how the squads are deployed. Players choose a formation and attack speed for each squad. After that, the battle begins, and players have absolutely no control over what happens. Combat takes place with both sides fighting it out in real time, but there’s no control from the player after the initial placement. It’s pretty much like saying, “Alpha team, form a wedge and Get ‘em! Bravo and Delta, you line up, wait a bit, and Get ‘em! Omega squad, you guys just sort of clump together and run real fast and Get ‘em! Now go!” After a battle or two, this gets exceedingly dull. The manual states that this combat system was chosen for historical accuracy, since generals had little control over the troops once things started. That may be true, but “historically accurate” and “entertaining” are not necessarily the same thing.

Depending on a squad’s morale, they may decide to run away after taking too many losses. The side that causes the enemy to run away or die more, wins. At least, that’s what I think happens. Even with lots of battles under my belt, I’m still not sure exactly what is going on. There’s no feedback from the units, no after-battle rundown of which squad performed well in a particular terrain or against a particular enemy. There’s really no way to know which formations or units work better without lots and lots of play. And Legion just doesn’t manage to hold interest long enough to learn the subtle nuances.

That’s about it for the gameplay in Legion. Improve cities, build armies and conquer opposing cities. The AI is fairly competent, however, so this isn’t exactly an easy task. In fact, I tend to suspect at least a tiny bit of cheating on the AI’s part. Regardless of whether or not the computer plays fair, it does play rough. If you can get past the tedium of combat and the lackluster construction progression, there is quite a challenge to be had in the handful of campaigns.

Graphics are uninspiring. In fact, they appear downright out of date. Had I seen this game 3 or 4 years ago, I probably still wouldn’t be impressed. Legion is strictly 2D, and most of the screens are completely devoid of animation. And when there is action, it’s really difficult to tell what’s going on. Units fighting on the field of battle are hard to differentiate. Now, this isn’t a problem, since there’s nothing you can do anyway, but it’d still be nice to tell which side was which at a glance. The music is nice enough, but not outstanding. Sound effects are generic but serviceable. On a positive note, everything was stable and apparently bug-free. All in all, however, Legion’s production values are a bit underwhelming.

Games need to be fun. Challenging is a good thing, but fun is a necessary thing. And Legion just doesn’t fall into the “entertaining” category. Combat is repetitive and dull, replayability is severely limited, and that “just one more turn” factor is missing. Although Legion isn’t an absolutely terrible game, with so many other wonderful turn-based strategy games available, it’s hard to recommend this title to all but the most die-hard strategy gamers.
A turn-based strategy game that is lacking in many ways. Combat is dull, resource management and infrastructure buildup is uninspired, and there is very little incentive to replay any given campaign. Unless you’re in severe need of a turn-based strategy title, let this one sit on the shelf.

Rating: 6 Flawed

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.


About Author

I'm an old-school gamer, and have been at it ever since the days of the Atari 2600. I took a hiatus from the console world to focus on PC games after that, but I've come back into the fold with the PS2. I'm an RPG and strategy fan, and could probably live my gaming life off a diet of nothing else. I also have soft spot for those off-the-wall, independent-developer games, so I get to see more than my share of innovative (and often strange) titles.

Away from the computer, I'm an avid boardgamer, thoroughly enjoying the sound of dice clattering across a table. I also enjoy birdwatching and just mucking around in the Great Outdoors.
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