Standout or imaginative RTS games a rare sight these days. If you see any at all, you'll see that they play on the established themes and lack any innovation in how they play or what you actually do in them.
In a cool play on words, developer Ice Code Games tried to change all that with Re-Legion. It took a bleak cyberpunk aesthetic akin to Blade Runner and combined it with religious elements as well as a dash of Hellraiser to bring something that's definitely different. But is it any good? Let's break it down.
Re-Legion is available for purchase on Steam.
The story of Re-Legion is set in a bleak cyberpunk version of Earth and follows Elion. It all starts with a cutscene where he stands amidst a field of corpses lamenting his fate. He sounds and looks like some sort of very ominous cyber-god mixed with Pinhead. It's an intriguing start to the story that then takes a trip back to a time before he went all Hellraiser and caused all the ruckus.
Once there, we are introduced to his regular old self -- a suit wearing idealist that wishes nothing more than to see the controlling government and corporations of the world torn down and people waking from their cyber-nightmare. To this end, he starts to gather a following that evolves into a cult with him as the prophet. While that might sound like a real journey -- it's not. The story lacks any subtlety whatsoever and most of the events happen as a sudden as a hit to the head.
We go from Elion as a regular dude to a prophet that has many followers all in a time span of 10 minutes. More prominent followers are like: "Hey, you should start a cult!" and Elion is like: "That's not what I had in mind, but ok!". It literally unfolds like that and the only thing holding the narrative are some moral choices throughout the story and the mystery of how that intro cutscene came to be.
Re-Legion doesn't play like your classic real-time strategy game. Instead, it opts for a Dawn of War 3 style of strategy where controlling points on the map is paramount to success. These points come in the form of buildings that produce the two main resources -- faith and money.
You'll find that most Re-Legion's mechanics are centered around the whole cult shtick. So for example, you won't be doing any base building or unit constructing here. What you'll do instead, is preach your faith to the NPC citizens scattered around the urban maps and convert them to become yours to control. Once they are converted, you use the aforementioned resources to "evolve" them to a more advanced unit.
The game takes great care to introduce one unit per mission, for both you and your enemy. Most units excel at different things and certain ones even have special abilities. From regular old brutes that melee their way to victory to preachers that walk around the map on their own to convert the unfaithful or even enemies. Throughout the campaign, you'll receive upgrades that will make some units very fun to play, especially Elion who will turn into a veritable cyber god by the end.
Starting out, you'll find that most missions are fairly easily won with high unit numbers. It will get increasingly more difficult as you approach the end of the short campaign but still -- most of the situations can and will be solved with strength in numbers. There's no difficulty setting to speak of so you won't be able to adjust your experience in any way. What you see it what you get.
Most missions will revolve around either wiping out the enemy or capturing a specific building and it can get really repetitive after a while. What doesn't help is the painful omission of other game mods. No multiplayer, no factions and no skirmish or free play of any kind. Although the main campaign will slightly differ depending on some of your choices and religious dogmas that you choose when first starting out -- it doesn't change the core gameplay or present any wildly different scenarios to the ones you saw the first time around.
The entire game is one of those cases where it presents a cool idea, then executes it in a poor way. While it can be fun amassing a huge neon-glowing army and sending them into a "pew goes laser" conflict -- it just isn't enough. Even that will be fairly problematic due to poor unit pathfinding that makes them go all over the place or get stuck in the environment sometimes. Numerous minor bugs and poor enemy AI certainly don't help the overall package, sometimes making the game feel like an early access title rather than a full release.
VISUALS AND AUDIO
As mentioned, the game features a dark, neon infested aesthetic. Religious and cult-like themes give the game a slight horror vibe and some cutscenes even further emphasize that with creepy voice-overs and even darker color tones. Although the texture quality is nothing to write home about, the design of everything, from maps to units perfectly fits into the general theme.
Important buildings are clearly identified with the generous usage of neon while enemy and player controlled units feature a bit more color than the neutral citizens. These visual choices also play well into the story. Non-interactive buildings and NPC citizens are greyed out to signify them being unimportant and brainwashed by the modern society. Only when you convert the neutrals is that they awake and step into the real world.
Music is also a high point of the presentation. It blends well with the overall visuals, mixing synthwave and retro-futuristic tunes with serviceable combat sound effects to make a satisfying whole.
Despite the many problems, I liked the short time I spent with Re-Legion. Although it definitely lacks content that I feel any RTS should have, I really appreciate the fact that the cult themes didn't simply stay on paper and have really impactful gameplay elements attached to them.
It doesn't reinvent the wheel by any means but its core elements blend well together. The story lacks some subtlety but it manages to be surprisingly interesting to follow and offers some meaningful choices that reflect gameplay-wise. Wrap it all in an interesting, cyberpunk visuals and you've got a really solid RTS game. If anything from the previous sentence tickles your fancy you might want to give this one a go. Others should probably look elsewhere.
|+ Cyberpunk setting, atmosphere and visual presentation||-- Severely lacking in content|
|+ Ok story with some decision making||-- Poor enemy AI and unit pathfinding|
|+ Some cool cult mechanics and units||-- Technical issues, bugs, crashes|