Kalypso Media don’t seem to be doing too great at the moment, with Port Royale 3 and a lackluster sequel to the genuinely great Tropico 3, their recent releases have been a far cry from earlier titles such as Grand Ages: Rome, the aforementioned Tropico 3 and Patricians IV. I still have a lot of love for the publisher, because they’re capable of releasing functional albeit niche games to a market where other developers simply won’t bother. If anything, Kalypso should be the perfect publisher to release a highly polished 4X strategy space RTS – but Legends of Pegasus is far from highly polished; in fact, with a long an arduous tutorial campaign that explains too little, too slowly, like Kalypso‘s prior Port Royale 3, and broken and janky multiplayer that either doesn’t work because no one’s playing it, or I just can’t connect to anyone, I can’t help but wonder what the hell the publisher is playing at?

Developed by Novacore Studios, Legends of Pegasus is a 4X space strategy game with lashings of turn-based goodness, albeit without a “grid” in the sense of recent Paradox releases, or Civilisation. The story is set after a huge war which pushes the humans to the edge of the galaxy, as they reorganize the fleet and decide for themselves whether to go forward with a democratic or military government, fronted by a woman for pro-democracy, and the military elite for martial law. Yes, that’s the exact plot of Battlestar Galactica, season one. Someone at Novacore knows who their demographic is – and, thankfully for them, I’m a huge Battlestar Galactica fan – but mere nostalgia alone could not fix this game.

Before I get into the game, it’s important to note that Legends of Pegasus includes all of 0 graphical options, or four if you count the standard resolution, v-sync, full-screen and antialiasing as optional extras and not the bare minimum. I’m not sure why this is, because although the game will clearly run fine on low-end machines, it’d be nice to be able to change things like particle density or texture resolutions for battles with more units in – maybe for laptop gamers, or on some systems. For a PC exclusive title designed for a niche demographic of, ostensibly, hard-core RTS gamers, the lack of graphical options left me perplexed.

The graphical options in their entirety

Legends of Pegasus does include an all-original lore, featuring three races of unique species: Humans, X’or, and Arthrox. The humans, having been attacked out of the blue, are pushed into the “corners” of the solar system, where they must pull resources, protect themselves, and expand. The game features semi-animated cut-scenes with some Battlestar Galactica self-reflection and inter-parliamentary quarrels. These cut-scenes aren’t great, and feel a little cheap – but the voice acting is actually very good, with a lot of versatility – even if the commander sounds like some kind of mad-angry-space-pirate.

The Arthrox are a race of aliens whose structures and ships are largely Organic – kind of the Cylons – unlike the Cylons, however, the Arthrox disappeared out of the blue to avoid the impending doom of conflict. Their ships rely on a symbiosis between head and body – two separate albeit intertwined individuals. Once a ship is destroyed, it explodes like a dead whale filled with gas in the Atlantic ocean. Picture provided to the left.

Lastly, the X’or act as the lore’s Borg type character – although they have no biological parts what-so-ever, they strive to consume information from all corners of the universe. They attacked the Humans, whilst the Arthrox were on hiatus. Obsessed with knowledge, the X’or seek to exterminate and acquire new and interesting data; to boldly go where every science fiction race has gone before.

Where there are races there are of course differences to balance and general pros and cons to how each race plays; this being an RTS with some real-time space combat (but turn based strategy) you’ll expect to see some strengths and weaknesses. As it turns out, the X’or are a medium all-rounder, with medium attack and defense and average maneuverability. The Arthox are fast and agile, but lacking in armour – and the humans are slow, chunky, but tough – with good attack and defense.

The strategic turn-based function and combat

Legends of Pegasus’ map looks the same whether it is in real time or turn-based mode, but any actions you take will be applied at the end of your turn. So, if I click my fleet and move them somewhere, nothing will happen until I click ‘end turn’, at which point they will appear at the marked location. This is also true for structure and research, which takes a set amount of turns to complete. Upon the end of each turn, one turn rotation will be exhausted. If, however, an enemy craft enters detectable space, the game will switch seamlessly into a real-time mode, so you’ll have to react and allow time for ships to travel in real time to the location of the attack. Usually, this means a long-ass wait, even if you ‘warp’ your ship to the location. If, say, an enemy reaches the outer-ring of your solar system, your ships will spend the next X amount of minutes travelling there in real time, to be met with a fairly static and lackluster battle that is about as visually compelling as the colour Battleship Grey.

Monitoring the battlefield is also a huge pain the neck, since the zooming function is so incredibly limited. In Sins of a Solar Empire for example, you can zoom out to a point in which the entire known universe is but a spec, but in Legends of Pegasus, you can only zoom out to about 1/5th of the map is visible, leaving you a lot of scrolling around, looking for targets. This makes planet management a huge pain, too, leaving you to navigate between the three major map-types for planetary  system and galactic map navigation through the chunky GUI.

When in real-time mode, the combat isn’t dysfunctional or broken, it’s merely acceptable. The graphics are poor, with not a lot of visual effects to blow your mind – but there’s a nice shimmery glaze against some of the ships which looks very pretty when you shift perspective using the ALT key to have a look around. Aside from that, combat is very static and not very animated. Bullets sort of come out of anywhere and hit anywhere, and whilst explosions are quite nice to look at, the biological splodge’s look comical. When it comes to strategy, though, all you can really do is adjust the relative height of your ships and try to turn them away from angled shields to allow them to recharge. Other than that, sit back and watch a functional albeit rudimentary space-battle unfold. The battles look strangely two dimensional for a space game, and that’s something that did grind on me as a science fiction fan.

It’s very difficult to accurately target a ship, requiring you to zoom in very close – and when you do that, the ship movement seems more severe, meaning you’re literally chasing an enemy ship with your mouse frantically trying to tag it with the right clicker.

Campaign and resource building

There is a story – in fact there’s a story for each faction – but because of the derivative nature of the narrative, and the obvious emphasis on “this is a tutorial”, you’re not left to enjoy and get on with it. Endless reams of text break up your progress, and as you’re asked to do everything at once (build a structure, click end turn 6 times until it’s done, move on to the next thing) you feel like they’re wasting both your time and the game’s time. They take some effort to introduce things like planetary variables, such as morale, civilization, structure, etc., but they don’t really explain how they affect anything. They simply show how to do stuff, not what the effect of doing something is. 

This is all exacerbated by the fact that many of these variables don’t actually have any effect during the campaign tutorial – because of that, the campaign is a watered down and elongated skirmish that barely carries any coherency across. To be fair, however, there is a plot to get into for real science fiction fans, and if you find yourself enjoying the luke-warm and fairly shallow gaming mechanics, you might have a good time – it’s just not fun to watch them stretch relatively simple tasks into the space of anything between 6 and 17 moves, actually telling you to spam ‘end turn’ until one job is completed. It’s lazy, and they could have done more.

The campaign progressed slowly – and just as I thought I was getting somewhere, I was tasked with creating a mining structure on an asteroid. When I followed the instructions, I found that I had not succeeded. Stuck, I looked to the tutorial and realised that I couldn’t bring up prior instructions. So, I searched on the internet “how to setup a mining structure.” All I had to do was take the freighter to the asteroid field. Easy enough. The problem was, I’d already done that – but the ship sat there like a limp dead space-whale. Why? I realised, having seen some YouTube videos of this particular part, that my game had bugged out. Two hours of my life was spent wondering if I had done something wrong, of if the game had bugged out. Some more research later, and I came across a multitude of bugs, crashes and multiplayer impossibilities that plagues Legends of Pegasus.

It lived up to its own legend

I’m not a reviewer who researches other peoples opinions before I write. What I say is between the game and my own experience, and I don’t care if X, Y and Z had this, this or this experience – my opinion is determined by a sense of objectivity within a realm of my subjective experience and expertise. Legends of Pegasus  decided to ruin all that, by having me research bug-fixes for itself. In doing so, I became aware that in fact this game was a broken mess – and although I merely encountered one bug and an inability to play online, others had encountered many more. It’s a shame, because space combat games are coming back – but what surprises me here is that Indie developers are actually doing a better job that publishers like Kalypso who have a long history of top quality RTS games. Sure, not all of them are set in space, but that shouldn’t get in the way of proper quality control.

8 hours of campaign time later and I still don’t feel as though I’ve gotten to the soul of Legends of Pegasus – ideally that should be because it’s a massive, 4X strategy RTS – but not so in this case. Legends of Pegasus is just a derivative, broken effort where competition excels in almost every way. If you think you’re looking for Legends of Pegasus, the chances are you’re probably looking for Endless Space or Sins of a Solar Empire: Rebellion.

A turn based strategy, Legends of Pegasus doesn’t really have enough scale and depth to merit the ample time given to productivity and economy management – something that other, similar games have managed to cram into an exciting real time experience.