Quick Pick: Land of LegendsJan 26, 2005 · peterb · 4 minute read
Indie Game Week may be over, but that doesn’t mean Tea Leaves won’t continue its coverage of independent games. Since yesterday’s article was about consoles that can only be used to play duly authorized corporate funded and developed megaprojects, let’s veer off today and look at a small, independently-produced game for Windows PCs: Tiny Hero Game Studio’s Land of Legends.
As I’ve mentioned several times, I have a soft spot in my heart for turn- based tactical combat games. Land of Legends falls firmly into this category, derived straight from board games such as Squad Leader and computer games such as Warlords. Here’s a few brief comments about Land of Legends, based on the beta. The metamechanic in Land of Legends is, in my taxonomy, “Single move / Turn Based.” By this I mean that you move one piece at a time, and you have the option to move all your pieces on your turn, rather than there being some attempt at simulating simultaneous movement via initiative. This is a fine system, with a number of virtues. It’s simple to implement, of course, and also easy for the player to understand. Some of the best tactical combat games, such as Nectaris and it’s barely-known sequel Earthlight, fall into this category.
The art in the game is bouncy and lighthearted. It’s heavily influenced by both Japanese manga and Richard and Wendy Pini’s Elfquest. Animation is minimal at this point in its development, but that’s fine – the graphics are meant to be iconic, and they get the point across perfectly. One element of the interface that doesn’t work quite as well are the cards used to represent units. They’re meant to be a compact representation of all the attributes and powers a unit can have. And they are. They’re pretty, and have a nice sense of style about them. But I found the icons beyond attack, defend, and move to be a bit bewildering, especially when every piece has its own unique power. To work around this, you hover the mouse over the icons to get a tooltip-style description of what it is, but doing this thirty times in a battle gets tiresome. I understand the desire to invoke the feel of a collectable card game, but it doesn’t quite gel here.
Only a few maps were available in the beta for single-player play, but they were diverse enough to showcase some of the careful design that went in to the game. One aspect of the game balance that I liked is that there are quite a lot of “support” units that don’t deal direct damage. For example, the “Mystic” unit has the ability to increase the mobility of your forces by allowing a piece that has already moved to move again. Another nice attribute is that most of the battles available have a specific goal besides “kill all the bad guys,” so there’s some strategic flexibility built in to the engine. On the downside, most of the maps that are available in the demo are extremely small. None approach the size of a decent Warlords map or, choosing an open source example, The Battle for Wesnoth. It may very well be that the released version will have some battles more epic in scope; we’ll have to wait and see.
One interesting technical note: the beta of Land of Legends was written in C#, and relied on the .NET framework and Managed DirectX. This means that that build, of course, was completely impossible to port to other popular platforms, such as Linux or MacOS. The game is currently being ported to C++. I do hope the developers consider making the game available on other platforms: portable code is good code. I enjoyed the taste of Land of Legends, and look forward to trying it again when it is completed. That it plays as well as it does this early in its development is a good sign indeed.
Land of Legends supports online play, but I didn’t try this it out, as inevitably when I play tactical games online I get whipped like a copper bowl filled with cream, and then I have to go sulk for two weeks.