Legio Review

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Legio Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Developer: Ice Game Studios

Platform: PC
Reviewed on PC

Windows System Requirements: Pentium 4 2.4 GHz, 512 MB RAM, DirectX 9.0c compliant video card, 200 MB HD space, internet connection, Windows XP or more recent operating system

Lorenzo and Forentia, fraternal twins and the sole children of now-dead king Theoron the Witty, both believe themselves to be rightful heir to the kingdom of Bella Lagucia. Born simultaneously, the two have agreed to a tenuous peace and shared rule, resolving all disputes through a traditional strategy game called Legio.

Kyle Ackerman

Legio has far more gratuitous violence, customizability, and grotesque characters than a typical game of chess. While it lacks the depth of chess, it is certainly entertaining, and against other human beings, it provides a surprising amount of play for its measly $10 price tag.

Legio blends straightforward turn-based strategy and a simple, reflex-based mini-game to create a briefly engaging contest with elements of collectible miniature games and combat chess. Somewhat like Bandai's defunct game Navia Dratp, Legio features a variety of specialized pieces on a grid-based boards (with different configurations and obstacles), each with its own movement rules, special abilities, defense and attack strengths. Both players may choose from the same pool of pawns, each deducting a certain number of points from a total available for the match, to build their own custom army.

Once you've chosen your army, players take turns (based on the speed of the units) moving and attacking until one side is exterminated. The twist to Legio is that the results of combat aren't pre-determined, nor do they depend on the results of a random number generator. The success of an attack is determined by a skill-based minigame in which a circle swings around and through a target. The closer the circle is to the center of the target when the player clicks, the more devastating the attack. It's a cool concept and entertaining when you play an opponent of similar skill. After a while, though, the system seems like a deterministic turn-based strategy game in which the player can occasionally screw up the result. Against human foes with like talent, Legio becomes an interesting strategy game with slightly variable outcomes. Against a human with preternatural clicking skills or the hard AI, this game mechanic can be simply frustrating.

Each competition between Lorenzo and Forentia starts with a battle on the drawbridge that links the sundered castle the two occupy. That first battle is well-balanced – the point costs associated with each pawn (and the maximum number of each type of pawn that can be used) result in fairly-matched forces. But every match is the result of two battles. The loser gets to pick the second battleground, but the winner gets to carry over all surviving pawns. The choice of game board isn't nearly as influential as having a few extra combatants, so the winner of the first battle is almost assured to win the second battle and the overall match. That usually makes the second battle less-than-fun for the loser of the first battle.

Anyone interested in playing against human foes, be they online or using the game's two-player hotseat mode, will need to practice against the AI several times. Not because the strategy is extremely challenging, but because the game's documentation is incomplete. It takes a couple of games to get used to the pawns' powers, strengths and restrictions. For example, the first time I used the priest pawn, I didn't realize his healing power only worked on units in the next square, just as I didn't realize the magician pawn didn't need line-of-sight to magically blast his enemies. Each such discovery cost me a match, adding time before I was fully prepared to fight.

Finally, while the pawn choice and army size are well-balanced, attacks are one-sided, turning some battles into extended waiting matches. When a pawn attacks, it does damage and the defender has to wait for his turn to counterattack (if he survives). As a result, there's not a lot of incentive to be the first one to send units wading out into combat. Even using single melee units to draw out the enemy can be a risky gambit. Against humans and AI alike, I had far more success relying on ranged units rather than melee units.

For all its issues, Legio is a clever turn-based strategy game mixed with a reflex-based mini-game that offers considerable, entertaining play for $10. It certainly won't keep you occupied forever, but it's worth returning to occasionally for a quick match against friends, and it presents more than enough matches with the AI to be worth the price of entry.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on May 25, 2010 5:06 AM.

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