At First Glance Legions seems a lot like Civilization. You take on the role of emperor in an ancient kingdom, build armies, march them around and spend your time doing a lot of conquering and that sort of thing. When you capture their cities, you get more people and you build more armies. And so it goes on. Been here, done all that.
You generally start off with just one city and a few surrounding towns under its rontrol. In most of the towns there will be a garrison of infantry of some sort and you vill have a stockpile of the five main comm-xlities - wood, metal, horses, textiles and echnology, plus food/supplies for your miltary units and some gold in your treasury.
A game turn represents a month, and each town or city under your control will contribute some commodities to the empire's stockpile and its citizens will pay taxes. thereby boosting your bank balance.
Military units - each of which represent from 500 to 2000 men - are created from combinations of the five commodities, with the more useful units, such as transport ships and cavalry, costing more. You can buy and sell the commodities using money from the treasury, but too much buying pushes the price up quickly, just as too much selling off of stock makes it plummet. This means you have to plan which units you want to buy and when, bearing in mind that the more you have, the more food and supplies are needed. Unlike Civilization, Legions oilers only one way for your homeland to grow - by taking over other empires' towns and cities. This increases your turnover of taxes and commodities and helps you build more military units and so on. That said, there's a strong strategy element to it. Because military units consume a hell of a lot of food and supplies when they're in the field, you have to conquer as quickly as possible or watch your economy crumble. Timing is critical, and it's often a case of knowing when to turn back, make your peace and start building again.
A little whlnge...
The main difficulty with Legions is a perennial one with computer wargames - there is no dear explanation of how the combats are worked out. Each of the 43 different units has its own stated attack and defence value, a movement rate and production time, as well as a value in terms of the five commodities. Some units, however, are composed of 500 men while others contain
2.000, and units can be whittled down in size in increments of 500 when they take combat losses. However, there is no mention in the manual about how this affects combat, if it does at all.
There are other vague bits too. Each unit has its own description but again there's no indication as to whether it means anything or not. For example, in the manual, archers are said to be most effective against troops fighting in close formation. Quite right too. but do they get a combat bonus against formed troops like cohorts and peltasts? I just can't tell. Nor. I suspect, could the bloke who wrote the manual. Being a Windows program. legion's minimum hardware requirements are basically a 386 with 4MB of ram running Windows
3.1. but this is no lightweight program and 8mb and a 486 should be considered a realistic minimum. A good graphics card is also an advantage, because the game is so much easier to play at higher screen resolution as there's less scrolling on the map.
It takes up a surprising amount of space on the hard drive too. like i6mb. and there is absolutely nothing you can shave off that. There are no frivolous graphics or unwanted sound files to chuck away either. Apart from four simple tunes used as background music and an irritating string of battle sound effects while the computer is carrying out turn calculations, there is no sound anyway.
One of Legions' biggest selling points will undoubtedly be its network-play capability. On a Windows compatible network, one player becomes the host and lip to 20 other players can actually log into the game, using the built-in search mode. If a player logs off, that empire is then taken over by the computer and another player can log on and take over in turn. However, there is a disappointing lack of support for play by mail (or better still, e-mail) and head-to-head (serial link) modes.
...and another whinge
All of the game activities are carried out via nice, colourful dialogue boxes, most of which can be accessed from the toolbar found along the top of the screen. Others are available from the menus or simply produced by double clicking units or cities. As always, nothing is perfect. Map scrolling can be annoyingly awkward when you have a sizable empire to control.
It is also very easy to build a unit in the wrong city. The unit build dialogue isn't linked to the selected city, which means that, in extreme cases, you can build units on the wrong continent. Fair enough, some care is required, but if a defect in the interface design loses you a hard-fought game, it isn't much fun. Another minor complaint is the lack of a text overlay. There is an overview window available in three sizes, but if you need to locate an empire quickly (following an offer of alliance or whatever) it's pretty much guess and giggle. The automatic search simply takes you to the empire in question, leaving you to work out where it is in relation to your own.
Just doesn't add up
Aside from the interface difficulties and the lack of combat information, the economic model that forms the root of the game is decidedly suspect, although, sadly. I can't quite put my finger on why. The manual claims all kinds of possibilities for economic warfare - dumping stock to depress the market and so on. but in all the games I played the prices seemed to recover by the time the next turn came round.
The diplomatic side is a bit of a failure too. especially when playing against the computer. Not one of the mean blighters ever sent me a gift (even after I'd had a bath). That said. I soon got bored with sending gifts to other leaders. One of the first things they do to show their gratitude is declare war. As you grow stronger, more and more snivelly messages appear asking for an alliance, but none of them can be relied upon unless you are very strong indeed. In which case, why bother allying yourself with them at all? Just kick the shit out of them, I say. Despite my moaning. Legions is a title which deserves to do very well. It is easy to get involved in, and all the games hot up pretty quickly. Long-term challenge is what it's all about and despite the limited econo mic and diplomatic aspects, there's several months' gaming in the box. There may be some niggles and gaps in the manual but it still leaps into my top ten.
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP