I’ve played a fair share of games that aren’t quite my go-to in terms of genres lately, but I was quite excited when I got the opportunity to play Black Legend, a newly released strategy role playing game which seemed much more up my street. Developed by Warcave, it’s a game that has you enter a cursed city to clear out the fanatical cult that has moved in and refuse to leave.
Starting off, you get given a quick tour of a small section of the commoner’s district in Grant, the city, and introduced to the lunatics that inhabit it. It’s a pretty interesting city to wander around, with lots of hidden little areas. For those of us who love to explore every inch of what developers create, this is almost heaven. Plenty of goodies to track down, lots of side quests and secrets hidden down alleyways, but what I enjoyed most was finding people that would give you additional information about the city, lorebuilding and so on. They’re not easy to spot either, as you’ll need to have your eyes peeled to spot any lanterns on, and if they’re next to a door, then you’ll get a bit of juicy lore from them.
The voice acting in Black Legend is also something that’s pretty solid. It’s by no means perfect, as with any indie game the direction can be a bit whiffy at times and actors see it as an opportunity to get noticed causing them to ham up the role somewhat, but it is decent if you exclude the minority of voices that do that. There are a lot of really good lines that have just the right inflection and intonation that make you genuinely interested in the game and want to hear more of what they have to say.
Combat is a bit of a double edged sword in the game though – I’ll touch on the bad later – but the positive side to it is that it does have some fairly cool gimmicks where you can attack an enemy and leave a status effect, known as a humour in Black Legend, and if they have two of them, you can do a catalysing shot which combines them for extra damage. It makes combat a bit more interesting than just use your best attack on whatever is in front of you and hope for the best. There are also a lot of classes you can unlock which have many different abilities giving you access to do things like poisoning or pushing diseases on your enemies, or even just giving you a healer for the party.
Having played a good chunk of Black Legend now, I do have to say there are a lot of failings with it. I don’t think I’ve been so disappointed for quite some time, because there was certainly a good chunk of the game that just feels terribly unpolished and simply unfinished. Graphically, although the game is laid out nicely – for the most part – it looks dated already. If you told me this was a game made for the PS3 I wouldn’t bat an eyelid, especially with the character creator reminding me of a more modern version of Runescape. Characters look boring and dead-eyed, and despite some of them having impressive voice actors, they’re presented in such a dull fashion.
There also seems to be a massive lack of polish in how the world works around you. Combat, for instance, is probably the best example. It isn’t exactly poor by any means, but upon entering an enemies cone of vision, you’re immediately thrust into a fight without warning or transition. You’ll be wandering around, an enemy will turn around, see you and immediately you’ll be locked into battle. Battles end with the same abruptness, and even when you’re in it you’ll not really be overly engaged, despite the interesting-ish gimmicks.
I can’t say I was a big fan of the user interface in the game either. It seems to just smack of the developer having run out of time to make something half decent and just went with the very first thing they built. There’s a compass, but I never saw any map markers on it and there are very few quest objectives that tell you to go in a cardinal direction, rendering it a bit useless. There’s no map either, and with a lot of the streets looking very samey, it can be very easy to get lost and not know where you have been and where you need to go. It doesn’t help that there are area transitions that are just imperceptible until you run into them, meaning you’ll have to run half way up a street and then hit the wall and interact with it before you can change areas in some cases. Even the text that alerts you of when you can interact things is extremely ugly, and looks very out of place.
There’s also a very basic tutorial that tells you how to do things, but there are a great many things that it doesn’t tell you. During the tutorial itself you’re engaged in battle with a bunch of cultists, but moments before you’re informed that you are actually four people and you should hop into your party management screen to change all of their classes and abilities. There had been no prior indication that I had a party and I wasn’t even told how to enter the party management screen either, I just made a lucky guess. During a battle, an enemy might clamber on a box and you may kill him while he is on it, but you’re not told how to climb up that box post-battle in order to loot him. It was just pure chance that I actually figured out that you can climb up it by pressing the inspect button as the game doesn’t hover that hideous text up for that, for some reason.
I’m extremely disappointed by Black Legend. I think what made it worse was that I kept perservering with it, in the hope that it’d turn around and become much better but unfortunately it never did. It just compounded my misery and disappointment. Perhaps they’ll do some patches and updates to fix it all, but in its current state, it’s a hideous game that isn’t worth your time or money.