7th Legion Review
By Mike Armstead |
The developers of the real-time strategy game 7th Legion forgot to include something in their game: strategy. They relied instead on gimmicks, blind luck, relentless action, and an all-powerful computer AI that easily overwhelms your dumb-as-a-post soldiers.
Vision Software, 7th Legion's New Zealand-based development company, has created a frenetically fast-paced game. Structures appear the moment you click, barracks and factories quickly create soldiers and weapons, and some units sprint to new locations. But, if you pause momentarily to assess your situation, undetected enemies may suddenly swarm onto your base, overwhelming your stunned infantry. The winning strategy clearly is to build your base quickly, defend it relentlessly, and as one Microprose PR person put it, "KILL, KILL, KILL." But, despite all this action, the nearly nonexistent strategy coupled with other frustrating features will soon wear down players who prefer using skill and planning.
Ostensibly the two warring sides are humans who have spent about 200 years incommunicado on separate planets. So you'd think they'd have created different weapons, structures, and exoskeletons. Not so. Both sides are equally matched in all categories including healing priests. No attempt was made to create different but balanced weaponry or soldiers.
The manual makes a big deal about each unit's back story, but that's wasted ink when it comes to translating the story to gameplay. All you have is about a dozen types of infantry, tanks, and weapons. Why they look and behave the way they do is apparently immaterial. What's missing from the manual and game is a tutorial, or at least a minimal explanation of all the gaming elements, icons, and actions.
The game is also behind the technology curve. The tiny 2D warriors look like they predate Warcraft, none of the structures is animated, and the grainy, between-scenario cutscenes have no connection to your latest victory (they do make nice promotional box shots, but don't be fooled). Vision Software does get extra credit for some reasonably cool-looking explosions. And the incessant techno soundtrack maintains a fever pitch, but the wimpy sound effects are abysmal.
With a nod to Magic the Gathering and other card-based games, 7th Legion has a deck of 50 "battle cards" that it doles out randomly at regular intervals. Some cards annihilate anything and everyone in sight, which comes in handy in a pinch. But to get such a card is truly the luck of the draw and, unknown to you, your computer or human opponent may have the same immolation ability. That element of chance may appeal to some, but it is darn discouraging to build up a huge base with beaucoup units, then see them all suddenly burn to a crisp. Throw in multiple power-ups that pop up haphazardly around your map and you'll quickly see that Lady Luck rules this game.
In addition, 7th Legion has no resource management, supposedly to let you focus on the nonstop, battlefield action. But since your troops are nearly brain dead, you'll likely grow weary micromanaging them as they go up against very intelligent enemies. The game's one saving grace may be its multiplayer mode. At least there you're on equal footing.
Here's the deal: If you like essentially mindless action where skill takes a back seat to luck, 7th Legion is for you.