Fallen Enchantress: Legendary Heroes is a single player 4X turn-based strategy game that takes place in the fantasy universe of Elemental. Following a magical apocalypse, civilization is trying to recover and reestablish itself in a world now filled with bandits, monsters, and rival factions. These are all just flavor details, of course — without a real “campaign” to play through, the setting and back story are largely irrelevant, but the effort is nonetheless appreciated.
Players set out to found a fledgling kingdom, scout out the world for resources to gather, grow their empire, and ultimately eliminate any opposition — your standard 4X fare. What set this game apart from most in the 4X genre are the titular legendary heroes, the first of which is the sovereign of your nation. RPG-like mechanics allow you to embark on mini-quests, recruit new heroes, level them up, and find loot with which to equip them — an exciting addition to the base 4X gameplay.
This breaks the game down into two main components: empire building and tactical combat. Building your empire involves founding new cities, researching technology, building city upgrades, and managing resources. Various “buff” spells can be cast on a city to boost it in some way, the research paths allow you to unlock numerous upgrades, and cities can be augmented into military fortresses, arcane research centers, or expansionist metropolises.
The empire building aspect of the game is par for the course in the genre — no major flaws, but nothing exceptional either. After a few games, I realized that selecting upgrades and research paths will ultimately become repetitive, but thankfully there’s a lot more that Fallen Heroes has to offer to keep a player engaged.
That’s where combat comes in, the basis of which is building units and, more importantly, recruiting heroes. This also happens to be where Legendary Heroes comes into its own. By expanding your towns and completing quests, you will gain “fame,” which will grant you access to new hero units. All units gain experience points and levels, but heroes can be upgraded into different classes such as Assassin or Defender, gain access to skill trees, and equip items much like an RPG character. The choices here are diverse and exciting, and even your base units can be upgraded with weapons and armor of your choosing as you unlock technologies.
When your army clashes with an enemy’s, a neutral faction’s, or a wandering monster, you’ll enter a turn-based tactical combat phase. Units take turns moving around the combat grid, attacking, using abilities and items, and casting spells. Initiative, defense, attack, hit points and more all factor into how combat plays out, as well as the specific gear your units have equipped. Even base units have access to an ability or two, depending on their equipped weapon — a spear may grant a piercing strike that hits two enemies at once, while a club may grant a devastating power attack that costs the attacking unit its next turn.
Combats themselves are strategic, diverse, and just plain fun. A “swarm” mechanic acts somewhat like the “flanking bonus” other game systems use, imparting a bonus to an attack made against a foe adjacent to one or more allied units. This makes tactical positioning and smart use of the battlefield an important part of the game, and using the right ability or spell at the right time can be crucial to victory.
While there are multiple paths to victory, the end-game weakens significantly as you widen your lead over your opponents. At that point, the question is no longer if you will win, but how many more bloody turns will it take. Perhaps this is just the curse of the genre, but the later into a game I got, the more I found my excitement being replaced with tedium. Once victory was assured, I would simply start a new game.
Thankfully, “replay value” would be the two words that best describe Legendary Heroes. The degree of randomness that goes into every game, coupled with the variety of options at your disposal and a high degree of customizability ensure that no two playthroughs will ever be the same. There are so many variables interacting with each other that you’ll want to come back again and again to see how a different setting, a different selection, or a different tactic will play out.
While I haven’t played Elemental: Fallen Enchantress, I’m given to understand that Legendary Heroes includes upgraded graphics, which I can’t comment on. Other improvements over the base game consist of two new factions, larger map sizes, a new scenario, as well as new monsters, items, spells, and quests. There’s word that Legendary Heroes was also meant to introduce bug fixes and performance optimizations, but I encountered a few crashes and clunky slowdowns during my play experience.
Fallen Enchantress: Legendary Heroes is the kind of 4X that brings my relationship with strategy games to a lofty peak. It is engaging and yet oddly meditative, almost relaxing to play rather than nerve-wracking and brain-frying.