RTS games are a rare breed these days, more so in the AAA category. Besides an occasional Total War game, fans of the genre are mostly left starved of a good tactical experience. Well, I'm glad to announce that Destructive Creations studio is about to satisfy that hunger. A studio best known for their 2015. game Hatred. A game that despite being received poorly made quite a splash with its controversial theme where the main character was actually a deranged homicidal maniac looking to kill as many people as possible.
This time around, with Ancestors Legacy, you'll be doing much of the same, but instead of controlling a one-man army, you'll be doing it with actual armies and with a bit of a historical context. Although it looks like a classic RTS at a first glance, it's so much more and worthy of your attention. Why? Let's break it down.
Ancestors Legacy is available for purchase on KeenShop.
When playing Ancestors Legacy I was reminded of two other games, Total War and Company of Heroes. Which is no small feat considering those two franchises gave us some of the best strategy games to date.
First, the historical setting. The events of the game take place during the Middle Ages, between the 8th and 13th century and the 4 separate campaign follow different nations, the Vikings, Anglo-Saxons, Germans and the Slavs. The campaign for each nation is further split with a choice of a different hero where each hero has their own story told across 5 chapters. In total that's 40 missions for you to play through and it's going to roughly take you around 10-20 hours to complete it all.
Now when it comes to stories themselves, each chapter begins with a static, 2D cutscene with the narration of events that led to your current predicament and there are some in-game cutscenes featuring the game engine but they don't do a good job of making you care about anything that's happening. I found the stories to be forgettable, not interesting and just an excuse for me to get into the thick of it.
They do offer some interesting scenarios gameplay-wise as well as interesting maps, but that's about it. Luckily, once you are in the thick of it, you won't care as much about the story as the gameplay is quite fun. Each campaign has you starting off with just a handful of soldiers with which you complete different objectives depending on the situation while later missions have you in a more classic – build a base, raise an army type of scenario.
Here, the first thing you'll notice, and this might come as a bit of a disappointment to some is that you don't decide on the placement of your buildings. They are instead automatically built on a predesignated location in the patch of land that is your settlement.
Resource collection works in a similar manner to Company of Heroes, as wood, metal, and food are automatically collected, and the collecting can be increased by capturing other villages and settlements across the map with your soldiers. Now while I don't mind cutting down on micromanaging resource collection, I certainly would have liked for a bit more control when constructing a settlement and a bit more options when it comes to settlement defenses.
But hey, this means that you can focus on the warfare and managing your units in combat which is the real meat of the game. First of all, you don't control individual units. Ancestors Legacy puts the focus on squads of several units. A squad health bar is divided into as many pieces as there are soldiers in the squad and these change color depending on how much health an individual has. Healing can be done anywhere by setting up a healing camp that brings the risk of making the entire squad vulnerable to attack while units can only be replenished when in proximity to your settlements.
When it comes to factions and its units, each has their own set of strengths and weaknesses. For example, the Germans have good cavalry and fast early game upgrades but no heavy infantry with slow late game upgrades. Vikings, on the other hand, have excellent infantry but no cavalry and limited ranged units.
Also when you go one layer deeper, each type of unit is strong or weak against another type of unit, like shieldmen being strong against archers but weak against cavalry for example. All of that combines to make an exciting rock-paper-scissors system that despite somewhat low unit variety invites experimentation and gives plenty of tactical options that when learned, translate to a lot of fun.
Units are not the only factors to take into consideration when entering combat. Positioning plays a key role with flanking being the most effective tool in your arsenal, the second being unit morale which can be affected by both the combat situation and the lack of food resource.
Great thing which the game will proudly display in the very first campaign mission is an actual unit line of sight and stealth mechanic which provides plenty of opportunities for setting up ambushes, flanking enemies or bypassing them outright to take a shot at their settlement. There's also the possibility to set up traps and improve unit armor which really makes a significant difference on the battlefield.
The one thing I didn't like about the combat system is the fact that you have limited control of your squad once it's locked into combat. You can only wait it out, or press a button to retreat which will garner significant losses and hurry your units to the outskirts of the nearest settlement to lick their wounds. Your squad will even slow down, as if awaiting combat when an enemy squad is close, making manual retreats where you outmaneuver your enemy almost impossible.
Lastly, the multiplayer promises to be an important component of the game but alas, we haven't had the chance to properly test it as doing the review before the release itself meant that there weren't very many players and matchmaking yielded no results. There are 10 multiplayer maps in total, and you also have an option to go at it against a fairly competent AI if that's something you enjoy.
VISUALS AND AUDIO
Not only does Ancestors Legacy shine in the gameplay department but it does so in the visuals one as well. Usually, the designers in this kind of RTS games don't have to go the extra mile as most of the action is viewed from a birds-eye perspective. Destructive Studios, however, threw that out the window and made a game that's great to look at, be it zoomed in or out.
Lush and detailed environments, day and night cycle, weather effects and highly detailed units combine together to bring a beautiful experience that often had me using the cinematic zoom just to stare in awe at what was going on, even at the expense of a tactical overview. The unit combat animations are excellent and they don't blindly swat at the air in front of them when in combat. They engage the enemy, actually hitting them with their weapons to produce torrents of blood as well as dodging, pushing back and blocking to really drive home the immersive feeling of witnessing a war.
Additionally, another aspect of the game that stood out to me is the map design. They are designed to be believable with lush forests that reduce line of sight, rivers, wheat fields and cliffs perfect for ambushes, as well as plenty of other small details that make them feel like livable places that have seen their fair share of war long before you arrived. Really, props to the designers.
It's not all eye candy as the sound does follow the visuals in terms of quality. This will be evident as soon as you start the game and are greeted with a superb Viking-like chant that sets the general tone. Each faction has appropriate music attached and it's quite an achievement making them all sound memorable.
The boots on the ground sound design is also up to par. Everything from horses galloping to individual slices, stabs and clanks of metal weapons is clearly differentiated and sounds do get more intense the more you zoom into the action with the cinematic camera being especially filled with auditory feedback, making you really feel like you are in the middle of a battle.
As an avid RTS fan, I found my time with Ancestors Legacy to be a joy. It might not appeal to those looking for a base-building or a more micromanagement heavy RTS experience and while the game certainly has its problems, the good far outweighs the bad. Besides looking and sounding amazing, it also offers a tactical experience that might not be as deep as Total War but is also much easier to pick up, play and enjoy. Suffice it to say, that if you are an RTS fan, this is a must buy, and if you aren't, Ancestors Legacy just might make one out of you.
|+ Tactical yet simple combat system||– Low effort base building|
|+ Amazing visuals and animations||– Low unit variety|
|+ Great soundtrack||– Uninteresting story|
|+ Light on the micromanagement||– Light on the micromanagement|