Ancestors Legacy review (PC)

From the team at Destructive Creations comes Ancestors Legacy, an RTS game that takes place in the age of the Vikings, during which the German, Slavic and Anglo-Saxon empires also battled for supremacy. Currently out on PC, here’s our report.

That the team at Destructive Creations was extremely talented was clear when we played their very first game, although most people merely noticed the controversy surrounding Hatred. Technically, it was impressive, and that translates into Ancestors Legacy as well – a stunning real time strategy game that takes on an unfamiliar setting for the genre. Taking place in medieval Europe, the game focuses much more on the battles that took place on the mainland rather than the ones in England – expect less focus on castles and much more on wooden strongholds that are often temporary in nature as your forces march on.

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Ancestors Legacy features four different nations/armies to choose from, and they all follow the classic RTS pattern of resource gathering, base building, upgrading and entering into combat. For fans of the classic RTS formula, this is certainly a delight, as quality titles in the genre have become rare over the past ten years or so. Combat is more squad-based than unit-based though, which makes sense when you consider the historical context of the game – something the developers pride themselves on. With so many of your soldiers on foot, it makes sense for them to band together – which creates Total War-like scenarios, though with less of the tactical depth that those (more turn-based) games provide.

Partly story and objective-driven, Ancestors will have you perform a multitude of missions that almost give the game an RPG flavor. As the invading party, you might capture a town during one mission, only to stay clear of the opposing forces in the next one as they’re too great in number. The narrative structure ensures that missions play out in a sequential order – something I’ve been a fan of ever since the early Command & Conquer days. I enjoyed the “tide of war” aspects and generally favor a narrative experience over a strictly tactical one, and Ancestors provides exactly that.

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What sets the game apart from many of the classic examples in the genre is that combat, thanks to modern technology, is not just played out from an overhead view. You have the ability to zoom into the action almost to a ground level and witness the carnage from that perspective, which provides a very visceral look on these bloody confrontations. This is reminiscent of Total War as well, but the visuals in Ancestors have a far more dramatic and cinematic flair to them. On the other hand though – there’s less tactical involvement despite being able to select formations before heading into battle.

Because the game is designed around a narrative context rather than just providing battle areas, there is a bit of RPG-like exploration to be done as well. Exploration can lead to tactical advantages, opportunities to flank and ambush, as well as a richer experience in general. Some missions actually require you to do this, as you sneak around the enemy troop formations and movements.

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The game looks marvelous too – which was no surprise to us when we considered Destructive’s previous work. We had also seen and played a very polished demo of the game during last year’s Gamescom, but it’s always nice to see a game live up to its promise. What we didn’t play with at the time was the ability to control the game using its built-in gamepad support, which appears to work great and shows promise for the console release that I believe will come later.

As it stands, Ancestors Legacy is an excellent new RTS game built around familiar gameplay mechanisms that date back to the classic era of the genre. Perhaps Destructive Creations could have done more to innovate and/or offer more diversity on top of the cinematic combat and RPG elements, but if you fondly remember and play the classic kind of RTS that this is, then you’ll love Ancestors Legacy.

Score: 8.6/10

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