That is the first thing that pops into my mind when I load up Legends of Eisenwald, a strategy title by Aterdux Entertainment. Set in a rather harsh, but regular, mediaeval setting, Legends of Eisenwald is a rather old-but-new title; it’s graphically flush, but mechanically old-school, and anyone familiar with the older hex-based strategy games like Heroes of Might & Magic will instantly feel at home.
When I first booted up the title, I had to choose between three characters; the Knight, a grave looking man decked out in thick armour and looking like he does not take no for an answer; the Baroness, a crossbow-wielding noble who, apart from the breastplate, looks like she is in her pyjamas; and the Mystic, a priestly man holding a book and garbed in religious clothing. After a small debate between the merits of being a Knight and a Baroness, I decided my play-through would be with the Baroness. She’s nobility; surely I could use that in the game to my advantage.
Turns out, I really couldn't. Not to its full effect, anyway. Decisions appear to be the major part of the game, and immediately as I was thrust into making one. My peasants had revolted (such a peasant thing to do) in a nearby town, and refused to pay taxes, so I had to go teach them a lesson. As I was nearing the town of Bog End, the literal bog end of the map, my castle’s horn was heard by Baroness. Someone had decided to attack my castle while I was out dealing with the peasantry!
I decided that I would punish the people later, and ran back to my castle of Luchensloch. I interrupted the attacking bandits on their scripted path and managed to strike first! They were quite a formidable force; two men with spears, a man with an axe, a man with a sword and a long bowman. Compared to my paltry force of a guy with a mace, a guy with a sword and dagger, and me, Baroness von Crossbow, I was in a bit of trouble.
Combat feels a lot like Heroes of Might & Magic, Disciples or even the old-school Lords of Magic. It’s a dynamic, turn-based system, where every move offers choices on who or what to attack or defend against. With my trusty swordsman going first, I decided to attack the nearest spearman.
Well, that wasn't really a good idea because he died before I could move him again. C’est la vie. But it’s an interesting look at the decision making process necessary to succeeding in Legends of Eisenwald; do you try and kill everyone as fast as possible, while exposing your strongest-but-weakest man, or do you turtle your team, and try and soften the blows?
It’s definitely a lot of fun. I spent an hour in a “3-4 scenario” walking around just slaughtering bandits, peasants and other nobility’s men. I might have also attacked Baron von Doppelzung’s castle because the option was there and they wouldn't tell me where he was.
The whole point of the small scenario, labelled “the Masquerade”, I was in, was to get yourself an invitation to Baron von Doppelzung’s annual ball. The twist is he has disappeared and now every other noble is considering waging war against every other noble… including the Baroness, who I'm playing. Which isn't a lot of fun to think about, I was struggling against hordes of peasants.
A few deaths later, I had won the battle and managed to obtain a leather piece of armour for my team. You can upgrade anyone in your team with equipment you find; hiring peasant men and women and equipping them with axes, clubs and anything not the stick they start with, is a key to early success. I also got two healing potions, and brought my team back to full health. I hoped I didn't have to see those bandits again.
While the game is very much in beta, it has so much potential I’m giddy just thinking about it. Building an updateable game on the framework of scenarios means that Aterdux Entertainment has the possibility of supporting an impressively large strategy RPG, and Aterdux seem to know what they've got on their hands. The setting is so much different from the regular quasi-fantasy mediaeval settings that are usually present in these games, the graphics are crisp and clear and gritty in a good way, and the presentation is top-notch.
But the game is very much still in beta. While everything I thought I needed was present – interface, combat, day/night time cycle, items, a bit of music – there’s a lot of chance to polish up. There were no sound effects in battle, which only bothered me for 20 seconds until I was absorbed, the UI is a bit clunky and harsh, and there’s still a lot of work to be done.
If this taste of the game is even all that Aterdux Entertainment have to offer (and it most certainly isn't), they could very well have a hit on their hands. Between slaughtering peasants, solving the disappearance of Baron von Doppelzung and all the other little side quests present in just one small scenario, the game is something different, something interesting and something well-made, and it’s something to very much look forward to.
By Tom Robinson
Do you think a mediaeval strategy RPG can be a hit?