After their earlier game War Party explored an alternate version of history with dinosaurs and cavemen, developer Warcave is now launching Black Legend as a multi-platform release set against a backdrop of the late middle ages. We played this new turn-based strategy game on a PlayStation 4 Pro.
As with War Party, Black Legend has roots in history but provides a fictional take on things. The setting is more realistic this time around though, as the fictional city of Grant is based on actual architecture of cities in the north-west of Europe, where Warcave’s studio is also based. Here, you lead a band of mercenaries into the city to deal with an alchemist named Mephisto and his loyal cult-like following.
Although there’s a dark and brooding fantasy-like atmosphere to everything, Black Legend takes a more realistic approach to enemy design than you’d expect. You can even choose to stick to the shadows and mist as often as possible and avoid combat, sometimes bypassing a dangerous confrontation by opening up a shortcut in the city. There’s no minimap to help you navigate though, which was a bit of a nuisance for the first few hours even though there are markers to help you find your way.
But although you can try to avoid combat, Black Legend was clearly built with an emphasis on turn-based combat in mind. The mysterious art of alchemy features prominently here, with abilities that border on the traditional use of magic in similar games. As if you’re making a chemical concoction, you’ll mark enemies with the elements of humourism (earth, water, fire and air), and the right combinations can bring devastating effects upon your adversaries.
Certain items can further boost your effectiveness, but you’ll spend a lot of time trying to balance your group to make sure abilities and alignments strengthen each other before heading into combat. Black Legend, in a crowded space of turn-based strategy games, provides a novel take on combat – and it’s especially interesting during boss confrontations. Here, understanding the dynamics of combat and reading the enemy’s patterns and abilities before countering with a strategy of your own might mean you need to have several attempts, but the satisfaction when you beat a boss is very real since it’s directly linked to your own mastery of these alchemy-inspired mechanics.
As fun and original as the combat is, however, there are also instances where you get dragged into it when you don’t want to be because you’re busy following a more narrative-driven part of the story. What also doesn’t help is the less-than-inspiring backdrop. Grant looks like a city overrun with the plague with its dreary and dark color scheme, but it also all looks quite ‘samey’ and has a lack of detail and personality – making the game look relatively dated especially in the next gen playing field.
There are very interesting elements to Black Legend, but we couldn’t help thinking it needed a bit more polish – something that’s further illustrated through few minor technical issues we saw pop up with things like unbalanced audio and visual glitches. It’s a fun alternate history take on the genre, but we’ve seen similar settings better realized in games like A Plague Tale, Bloodborne and Vampyr and the gameplay is held back by issues with story pacing. A diamond in the rough.