Fallen Enchantress: Legendary Heroes

Review

posted 5/23/2013 by Tom Bitterman
other articles by Tom Bitterman
Platforms: PC
Elemental: War of Magic was awful.  Elemental: Fallen Enchantress (FE) was OK, and showed promise.  Now StarDock has taken the bold move of dropping the “Elemental” part of the title and just gone with  “Fallen Enchantress: Legendary Heroes” (LH).  No word yet on whether the next title will be “Legendary Heroes: Mystic Kingdoms”

LH is a standalone expansion for FE, which I previously reviewed, so I will not go into great detail about the game's setting or mechanics, as they are largely unchanged.  Still, some summary remarks are in order before the expansion's features are discussed.

The backstory remains the same: there was a big magical war a while back, the land was laid waste, and now only a few people (including you) can use magic.  Your goal is to either unite all the kingdoms under your rule, wipe out all your rivals, complete the uber-quest, or cast the mega-spell and bring the land the peace it needs to rebuild.


Your tools are standard 4X tools:  The spin of FE is the way they work.  FE attempts to make each of the X's into a mini-game in its own right, and to weave these distinct games into one overarching, big game.  The goal of LH is to improve these mini-games in their own rights, and make them fit together more smoothly.

The titular “heroes” get a big makeover.  Previously you recruited heroes by wandering around the map.  If you had the requisite tech and enough money, you could recruit whomever you could find.  Heroes could lead groups of units and would random traits as they leveled up.  In LH, one gains heroes by amassing enough fame, at which point you get a choice of two heroes to recruit.  You can only keep one and the other never shows up again, so you can shape your “hero stable” to favor the type of hero (magic, melee, ranged, stealthy, etc.) you want.  You also get to choose what trait you want a hero to get upon leveling up from an all-new hero-trait-tree.  Heroes are now almost mini-yous.

Fame is a new mechanic, but works more-or-less behind the scenes.  One can gain fame by going on quests, clearing monster lairs, or building certain buildings.  There is a ton of changes in this expansion, but most of them work that way – you don't notice them as such, but the game seems to work better because they're there.

Factions showed greater differentiation in FE than the original game, but were still pretty similar.  Now each faction has a special ability that only its troops can use.  These abilities don't have a major impact on play, but do emphasize traits that the factions already had.  For example, Wraith units were always kind of ghost-vampire-like, and now they can drain hit points from opposing units as their special ability.


In order to combat too-rapid early expansion (an unbalanced tactic in FE) founding a new city now causes unrest across your empire.  This is, admittedly, not a new mechanic for a 4X game, but the dev teams willingness to incorporate it shows a willingness to learn from mistakes which bodes well for the future of the franchise.

Some important changes were made to tactical combat, also.  The first important change was to the special abilities of weapons.  Most of the basic weapon types can now have special abilities: axes can cleave, shields can bash, daggers allow for a counterattack, and so on.  The other important change was the addition of two new range types.  “Line” range means an attack can hit all units in a line (a lightning bolt can hit three units in a row).  “Adjacent” range means just that, but now weapons and spells can be tailored to work only against adjacent enemies (like the Wraith special ability).

An important new tactical combat mechanic is the “Swarm”.  If your unit is adjacent to an enemy it gets a bonus to accuracy and damage for each other unit you have adjacent to the same enemy unit.  It doesn't sound like a lot but this is a huge deal to groups of weaker units (and an even bigger one when you go against the solitary super-monsters on quests).  It's such a simple, sensible mechanic one wonders why it isn't more widely used.


Not as immediately obvious, but still welcome, are the new monsters.  It's nice just to see some variety, but many new monsters have special abilities (immunity to weapons, spell-casting) that make for a change from the “get lots of guys and go whack at it” combat mode.

Also nice are the new spells.  Some of them are old standards that one wonders how they got left out (lightning bolt, raise skeleton), while others seem unique (tectonic shift).  A bunch of new summoning spells have been added, making being a Summoner a more realistic career path.

Along with new spells come new traits.  Between spells, traits, weapons, and items it would be possible to play this game for years without ever having to repeat a hero's loadout.  This game is made out of replayability on the RPG side.

The changes have not fixed everything that's wrong with the game.  The auto-fight option is still definitely inferior to manually fighting it out (and sometimes oddly better).  There are still some AI glitches – I had a unit on auto-move get captured in an enemy city's zone of control somehow, and the game got confused, resulting in my having to take over control of the unit for a while.  It still seems like winning by quest is not a viable choice – by the time you can visit each quest location and defeat their guardians you could simply conquer the world.  Overall, however, this is a more stable, better balanced game than it's predecessor.
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