Oh, Legends Of Pegasus. For a game which threatens at the title sequence to pull people in with an engaging story and thrilling tactical gameplay, you aren’t half a let-down. Let us fill you in.
Legends is a high-level 4X (that’s eXplore, eXpand, eXploit and eXterminate, game fans) empire-building strategy game, with three playable races: the ever-present humans, the insectoid Xor and the biomechanical Arthrox. It begins with your ragtag fleet escaping certain destruction by a superior enemy through a wormhole, with the fate of the Earth unknown but on decidedly shaky ground (stop us if you’ve heard this one before BSG fans). Your immediate priority is to take stock of the situation, set up colonies to shore up your numbers, and begin to rebuild.
Actually that’s a lie; your first task is to sign up for an account with publishers Kalypso, for you can’t even play the single player unless you hand over a valid email address. These kind of ‘requirements’ are getting more prevalent in the wake of dropping sales and piracy, and while some gamers put up with such excessive tab-keeping in order to play the latest AAA releases, in no way can it be justified for a small release such as this. Registering for online multiplayer is one thing, but forcing an account sign-up before you even get to the title screen is a bridge too far.
Once you’ve signed away your soul, you join what few ships remain in your convoy after their fateful jump to a new world and aid them in fending off scavengers and building up a new fighting force. The main activities are turn-based, but the game switches fairly smoothly into real-time for the combat – it’s a nice little mechanic, but one which this reviewer has seen before. The battles themselves are rendered well enough, with ships’ weapons blasting convincing chunks out of each other causing plumes of smoke and exploding gas to jettison into space. After securing your people for the time being, the fleet’s long-term survival must be ensured, and this acts as a convenient introduction to the colonisation and mining elements of play. Once the required ship has landed, various structures can be created to sustain your fledgling outpost. In this the amount of guidance is somewhat lacking; I was staring at the screen for a good ten minutes wondering why my factory wasn’t building, until I spied a tiny progress bar that showed me the build time was exceedingly incremental and I had to click ‘end turn’ another twelve times before the building would actually be complete.
Another fairly crucial niggle is the camera. In high-level fleet management games such as these, having a good camera is key, allowing you to sweep across vast swathes of newly-acquired territory, or zooming in to manage ships or personnel at an individual level. A game which accomplished this with great aplomb was Massive Entertainment’s Ground Control (which although a little dated now is free to download and definitely worth a look), but sadly Legend’s viewing setup is not of the same calibre. Zooming in and out is too rapid for the wheel, and the cursor keys do not pan the camera as you expect they ought to. The option to rotate the camera is present, but the real-time combat is strictly in the 2D plane; no three-dimensional tactics here.
The voice work is of a generally good standard; ships acknowledge orders and chatter amongst themselves, and an effort has been made to make them respond individually, but it doesn't quite mesh together in places and at times you get the... stilted... cinema hotline... effect that plagued games such as the early editions of Pro Evolution Soccer.
You must keep your economy ticking over in order to generate enough moolah to expand your sphere of influence, but again the game doesn't give you much of a hint at how to balance this, and you can easily get into crazy amounts of debt with nary a word of warning. These sort of issues may be obvious to a seasoned strategy game fan, but the setup and lack of guidance is sure to be very daunting for a first timer. In a similar vein, the planet / star system names are all generic Greek letters and numbers, making it hard to keep track of exactly what is where.
There are novel elements and choices here and there which have me lamenting what could have been a very decent game, but this is where I must take it to task for being so carelessly unpolished. The interface is functional, but lacks the gloss of what you generally would expect for this sort of space-faring title. The default resolution cut off the sides of the screen so that mission objectives were totally obscured; when trying to correct this, the game crashed. In various areas, broken English is abound, and obvious placeholder text has been left in. The soundtrack, while appropriately lush and epic, cuts out at times for no reason. The tech tree, an important touchstone in developing your arsenal, offers little beyond meagre percentage upgrades to your existing weaponry and armour, and again placeholder text is rampant. Ship design is functional and the different factions have distinct variations, but the AI is noticeably ropey, with entire groups often targeting a single non-essential ship en masse. Selecting individual ships seems to be hit-and-miss depending on the angle of the camera.
On the whole, this has the feel of a beta that should have never got out of the starting gate; major revisions are required before this can be considered anywhere near playable in the long term. If you fork out for this you are paying for an unmistakably unfinished, buggy product. Why it was released in this broken state is anyone’s guess, but it isn’t doing anyone any favours.
The developers Novacore obviously had vaunted ambitions of Legends being the next must-play 4X title, but in truth it doesn't even come close to past luminaries such as Sins Of A Solar Empire or Galactic Civilizations. It's a real shame because there are the seeds of a solid game here, but they have not been carried through to completion. If you need a new 4X fix, you'd be better off checking out Endless Space or the underrated Neptune's Pride. Avoid this like the plague, at least until they have a chance to straighten out the main issues listed above.