Developer: Aterdux Entertainment
Publisher: Aterdux Entertainment
Genre: Adventure, Indie, Strategy
Platform: PC (Steam)
Release Date: July 2, 2015
I had known about Legends of Eisenwald before it was announced that it was going to be on Steam. I had seen the Kickstarter, and picked it up in it’s beta state on another distribution platform. I have played it through its many various patches and quirks. It fell to the side when I was tapped to start reviewing games for Anjel Syndicate, and was really never touched after that. However, when we were contacted and given a copy to review from Aterdux Entertainment, I was more than happy to try the game out in its gold incarnation.
Eisenwald is a low fantasy medieval adventure game that involves exploring, combat and slowly conquering/building up your own little kingdom. It’s safe to say that it has many different aspects to it, from making decisions that affect future outcomes, to fighting turn-based battles on a hex grid.
First thing you’ll notice when you start playing the game is that the art is beautiful. Aterdux did a good job of budgeting in atmospheric pieces that help make the game more enjoyable. Exactly what I expected from Dmitry Goncharov, who worked as lead animator on a lot of products, including Wargaming.net. The music is also nice, and fits the theme. The graphics are standard but fluid, despite the fact that it’s an independent game. It’s a very pretty game
Granted, the parent company is Russian, and their primary language/culture is Russian, but the game is done well in English, give or take a few grammatical errors. Sounds are well done, and the entire thing moves along fine, albeit slow at the start. Some gamers will not like the fact that there is some linear progression in the beginning of the game that pushes the player through a sort of tutorial on how to play Eisenwald. I recommend pushing through, though, since help given in the start is definitely worth it later on.
The game mechanics revolve moving your party represented by the lead character on the map. Your course is plotted out for you by moving along the easiest path to the place you clicked last. Sometimes this is problematic – trees and other terrain may interfere in your quest to click a spot on the map to go to. Since the game also goes through a day/night cycle, it might help to turn up the brightness so you can see better in the dim light of the evening. These things detract slightly from your experience, but it doesn’t ruin the game by any means.
When you enter areas such as fair grounds, churches, towns, inns and castles, you are taken to a screen with a menu. You can’t always do something in every location (sometimes you have to unlock further options by completing or taking certain quests), but most of the time, you’ll know exactly what to expect when you go somewhere. For example, most towns and castles let you hire fighters or peasants. Fairs or markets let you buy equipment and supplies. Inns give you the option of listening to rumors and possibly taking on side quests. Ruins and unique locations often lead to combat or exploration. It’s pretty cut and dry after a while where you will want to go.
The main story is about trying to bring peace to the land while slowly building up your own little kingdom. Often, you’ll go out to recruit allies or take over castles to expand your realm of influence. You’ll also want to engage in combat and complete quests to gain items or experience necessary to build your characters and arsenal up. Characters themselves are well done, giving you a sense of what kind of people to bring along on certain travels. Your main character is a knight, so he’ll always have that option of being a tank type fighter. Peasants fill slots like healers, infantry and archers. A few unique characters include soldiers you can mount on horses and arm heavily to do devastating damage on the battlefield, or religious folks who perform special buffs.
All of this circles around to the low fantasy aspect of Eisenwald. The only real “magic” in the game is the holy abilities of the priesthood and a few outliers. Healing is actually a medicinal trait provided by peasants and priests, and not really “magic.” So if you are looking for a fantasy game with fantastic magical spells and great fantasy creatures, then Eisenwald is not it. It does have lots of charm and gritty action to keep most strategy and fantasy fans going.
When you enter combat, your forces are arrayed on a hexagon grid. Fighters are positioned in the front, while ranged and weaker people are put in the back. You mostly arrange the formation in the party screen before you enter combat, and entering combat immediately places all the forces on the grid for you. With little ability to do any arrangement after you enter combat, this can be somewhat frustrating. However, the computer never tries to align opposition against you in illogical ways, and its own strategy is rather straight forward. I found that I could win most battles without losing important people often. Even if your people do go down in combat, they don’t necessarily “die”. You have some ability to heal your wounded at the church, although they won’t be available or effective in future battles until you do.
Knowing the abilities of your army is also important. Equipping them properly makes all the difference between winning big and losing big. It’s not hard to get the hang of what kind of unit does what – eventually you’ll stack your army to favor your style of play. Priests and peasants are always a necessity, by the way.
Eisenwald is a fun, pretty game. It doesn’t necessarily stand out, but it is different from most fantasy games. Low fantasy and a slow beginning can put people off, but I encourage most people trying the game to stick it out. It becomes better as it goes, and eventually you’ll be fully invested after an hour or two of play.
It is worth the price of admission for an indie game, given that most expensive triple A titles from huge companies aren’t nowadays.