Lionheart: Legacy of the Crusader
|a game by
|Black Isle Studios
|7/10, based on 1 review, 3 reviews are shown
|8.7/10 - 3 votes
|Rate this game:
|RPGs, Games Like Baldur's Gate
What looks a bit like Baldur's Gate, tastes like Fallout, and smells like a mouldy banner from the Third Crusade? Give up? Well, other than the mouldy odour, you might be taking an early glance at Reflexive Entertainment’s new RPG Lionheart. Why. you might ask, would we be interested in a game from the creators of such forgettable outings as Star Trek: Away Team and Zax: The Alien Hunter? Well, apart from the fact it looks rather pretty, it’s mainly because Lionheart is being created in conjunction with Black Isle Studios, they of Planescape: Torment and Icewind Dale fame. And you know that’s a good sign.
The game dredges up a spoonful of history beginning just after the 12th century, throws it into a centrifuge, and spins up a bizarre and warped look at the World-of-What-lf. What if, in the year 1192, Richard the Lionheart. Kinq of all Enqland, crusaded across Europe, eventually breaking the walls of the Middle Eastern city of Acre while the occupants starved? Oh. He did. So, what if these events precipitated the slaughter of some 3,000 Muslims? Uh, yeah, that too. But what if this slaughter precipitated a ritual known as the Disjunction, which introduced magic to the formerly boring Mediterranean? Aha! At last, fantasy. This event released spirits that eventually spread, invoking hordes of dark creatures and causing large-scale disorder. Enter the year 1588. The setting: Nueva Barcelona. It is the year of the Spanish Armada, and the Spanish Inquisition is attempting to wipe out all magical elements from the face of the Earth. You are a descendant of the long-gone Richard, attempting to clean up the mess of history with your mysteriously awakening powers.
In a promising move, Black Isle has decided to use a re-jigged version of the S.P.E.C.I.A.L rule system, from post-apocalyptic role-player Fallout, to manage the qame. It’s a decent system, often admired for its open-ended structure, which eschews player classes in favour of freedom of character development. Since magic was never a part of this system, the developers now have the task of trying to work it in, and have come up with a system of three magical disciplines, described as tribal, thought and divine.
In addition, the combat in Lionheart is all real-time, so the team has had to jump through a number of hoops to integrate the rule system. Instead of the Action Points of Fallout, for example, you'll have an agility stat that relates to your overall speed. And if you’re really into stats, here are some more: the game will have eight major areas over about 80 levels, four-player races, zero classes, more than 50 uglies and no less than 30 spells. And for those who whined about Fallout's lack of multiplayer mode, there’s now a four-person co-operative game. It’ll be interesting to see how Reflexive fares with an old-skool RPG after its legacy of action titles, but you’ll have to wait until later this year before finding out.
Download Lionheart: Legacy of the Crusader
Richard the Lionheart, Shakespeare, Nostradamus, Leonardo da Vinci... that lot... they’re all in here, lending historical ambience to a game that takes a reasonable stab at being true to the time period in which it takes place. However, historians of the time failed to record that way back in 1192, when Richard the Lionheart and Sultan Saladin were going at it for territorial control, one of Richard’s advisors persuaded him to perform an ancient ritual that created a dimension rift called the Disjunction, which unleashed a whole army of goblins, trolls and other fantasy types upon the world.
Historians may have missed this momentous event, but Reflexive, creators of Lionheart, did not. Which, of course, means that you’re tasked with taking on the aforementioned evil creatures from the Disjunction and stopping them getting their greedy mitts on a variety of holy relics.
It's all pretty standard fantasy fare, but with none other than Black Isle Studios lending their blessing to this game you would have thought something special was in store. At least that’s the theory...
2d Or Not 2d?
That is the question, and in Lionheart's case the answer is unfortunately "2D", as it features a flat 2D isometric backdrop, restricted further by a maximum resolution of 800x600.
The poor presentation suggests that the designers are stuck in likes of Morrowind taking the RPG genre to new highs. Lionhead just looks dated, basic and unappealing. Combat is no more convincing than the dated visuals, with a real-time combat system never making allowances for the often overwhelming number of enemies on screen, meaning that the mostly frantic battles are incredibly difficult to handle, especially early in the game. Combat can be paused and you can change weapons or spells, but you can’t stack spells up, nor can you target enemies while the action's paused.
Further compounding the issue are the companions who can join your party. There's no way to give them orders outside of telling them to follow you or to stay behind, so how they behave in battle is left largely to chance. Also, there are several annoying crash bugs, although a patch should be out by the time you read this. Be sure to check the website for updates.
With so many things going against it already, Lionheart would appear to be facing an uphill struggle, however it’s well equipped in several other areas.
From Here To Infinity
Lionheart is a strange amalgamation of Baldur's Gate Il’s quest-heavy approach and Fallout’s open-ended skill system. However, while Lionheart has neither the slick and convincing interface of the Infinity Engine games, nor the complexity of the Fallout series, it works on other levels by marrying simplicity with well-presented quests and convincing dialogue. At the outset of the game, you’re given a single character to control (you can make your own custom character too if you so choose), and introduced to your spirit guide which is your source of magic in the game.
The SPECIAL skill system first used in Fallout is used here too, giving you the same kind of flexibility of character customisation as in that legendary series. And while this system has been simplified for Lionheart, the skills and spells are very clearly presented, making leveling up and skill point allocation a joy to behold. The system I falls somewhere between Fallout and Diablo, if you can imagine such a thing.
Lionheart's strongest point however is in the number and diversity of its quests. In the starting town of Barcelona, you'll instantly find a multitude of these, with much of the first half of the game being spent here. This also proves to be Lionheart's best part, since there is a distinct lack of quests later on when it turns into a combat-heavy dungeon romp in the lead-up to the finale. Ultimately, whether or not Lionheart proves to your liking will depend very much on your expectations.
In honesty, the Black Isle endorsement of Lionheart is probably the worst thing that could have happened to it as it's not nearly as deep or polished as the Black Isle classics. Despite this, it's still a fairly enjoyable game. If you can see past the dated presentation and the somewhat awkward and badly realised combat engine, you’ll find Lionheart to be an undemanding and enjoyable experience. If, however, you insist on nothing but the best and you want another BGII or Planescape Torment, do yourself a favour and give this a miss.
Proof That What Goes Up, Must Come Down
The first half of Lionheart is spent almost exclusively on the completion of quests. The second half is spent almost entirely in D/ab/o-esque style combat. If you hate either of these playing styles with a passion, be warned that Lionheart will force both on you at different points in the game for lengthy periods. It's fair to say tho game would have received a higher score if there was more of a balance between the two play-styles, mixing them up sporadically, rather than segregating them to separate halves of the game. It almost feels like two separate teams were working on each half, which mars what could have been an excellent RPG.
In the 12th Century, the Third Crusade was at its apex in the Holy Land. However, a fateful event led to the Disjunction, causing magic and demonic creatures to spill over into out world. It took the combined might of former foes Richard the Lionheart and Saladin to cast the creatures back into the breach, but the damage had already been done; magic was now free on the Earth. Now, 400 years later, mankind is still trying to come to grips with its new heritage. The Inquisition is in its height of power in Barcelona, while England embraces and works with magic at the highest levels. So come join 16th century Europe, but perhaps not as you know it. Find your place in the world of Lionheart!
Black Isle Studios shows why the Baldur's Gate franchise is so popular with this new title. Play one of four distinct races in a fully realized world, with exceptional graphics, excellent audio effects, and an intuitive, simplified user interface. Gamers will also be pleased at the open-ended character development possible in the game, which allows you to go in whatever direction you wish. Whether it be as a purebred human joining the Inquisition, a Feralkin trying to dominate his or her bestial nature by committing to the Knights Templar, or a Demokin mage intent on becoming one of the secretive Wielders, Lionheart has a rich and varied storyline. Also, a lot of historical aspect is used as well, as you'll find yourself rubbing shoulders with Shakespeare, DaVinci, Cervantes, Machiavelli, and others of the genre. Multiplay also looks to be pretty good, though weighted by the unwieldy GameSpy Arcade and currently lacking the populace of more broadly circulated titles.
However, extremely serious bugs keep Lionheart out of this year's top tier games. Often inexplicably, the game will crash back to the desktop, whether it be in the middle of a quest, loading between levels, or otherwise. Even multiple saves will not protect you from this problem. Though Black Isle and designer Reflexive look to be aware of this and a patch for this is in beta testing, this issue is enough to keep many players away.