Legends of Eisenwald is one of many occurring Kickstarter success stories. Starting on April 21 2012, Aterdux Entertainment asked for $50,000 – they got almost double that, totaling £83,577. It really shows. Their Steam Early Access release might not be to everyone’s taste, since this is a game that prides itself on bringing back old-school mechanics, and it’s a little rough around the edges at the moment, but the high fidelity visuals and slight iterations on the classic Might & Magic Heroes VI dynamic make this a turn-based RPG strategy game worth knowing about.
Starting the campaign, the first thing you’ll notice is the lack of sound effects on units and in battle. Being an Early Access game, it’s usual to expect rough edges. Aterdux Entertainment have clearly prioritized their build, though, because RPGs are a complex genre. Things that are supposed to work – do work – and although the sound effects would be nice, the beautiful soundtrack more than makes up for it. If there’s one thing Kickstarter isn’t short of, it’s inbox messages from would be composers for your games.
Visually, Legends of Eisenwald is a very attractive game. The character models are detailed and well textured; the ground textures are notably beautiful, and react to sunlight. Although the graphics options are very lacking at the moment, I went ahead and had a look at the config file, finding a bunch of changeable options that may or may not have worked, including: volumetric fog, reflections, HDR, AO, armor reflections, and various music effects that I don’t think are implemented yet.
One thing we’ve to praise Aterdux Entertainment on is the implementation of a proper tutorial. in Legends of Eisenwald, you needn’t worry about spending movement points, because there aren’t any. At the start of the map, I found myself playing within a realistic fantasy kingdom; one keep, a town, church, light-house, and various villages were scattered across the terrain in a style reminiscent of something like Divinity 2. The ability to free roam, spending time with a full day and night cycle, and not action points, meant that I could happily explore the map searching for secrets and enjoying myself without worrying about that annoying ‘end turn’ button breaking flow.
Legends of Eisenwald isn’t a terribly complex game, but it delivers on its promise to enter players into “the world of Eisenwald in this RPG with turn-based battles and experience medieval romanticism and adventure.” Gameplay centers primarily around classical text based quests, seeking out information from locals, cherry picking information to find what you need to complete quests. The dialogue has a few typos here and there but it’s generally well translated, and nothing seems too lost in translation. It would have been nice if the quest log didn’t tell you when you had been told pertinent quest information, because once indicated you feel no need to continue talking to people at inn’s or in the town. I could see that annoying a lot of people, but if you’re going old-school you might as well go the whole hog.
Combat is also competent, although without the sound effects there’s a lack of atmosphere. It’s all very standard, but that’s no bad thing. These games are few and far between with this much polish and prettiness. You organize your party into three lanes – heavies at the front, monks and healers at the back; archers sit safely in the middle. Moving forward and attacking will use points, and you get one action per character each turn. You can move a step and attack in a single turn. If this sounds familiar, you’re probably pretty excited, because the rich mix of familiarity and a fresh face makes Legends of Eisenwald something of a welcome title.
Upgrading your party is tied neatly into exploration. Buy weapons from small markets across the map, and get new quests from passers by and taverns. Hiring more fighters for your party is also a matter of exploring different buildings, and I appreciate this as a shift away from games which rely on one structure, or one location, to hire all of your units from. Everything is a little lateral in Legends of Eisenwald, and that’s no bad thing. Although I haven’t sunk much more than 3 hours into the game so far (I’ll wait for the full release to start my adventure), I can recommend it to anyone who has a sense of what this is from what they’ve read. Yes, it’s one of those games, but it’s highly polished (beta permitting), and gorgeous. It might not have the most depth in the world, but the dynamic, questing mechanics, and battles are all worthy of your time. It’s a whimsical RPG, and a well made one at that. Can’t wait to see more.