The pathfinding AI executes itself remarkably well. I never lost a single troop across any length we trekked, although they’ll march in a single-file line to accomplish this. I would imagine that this would leave your troops dangerously vulnerable during an attack, but even your slowest units won’t suffer unrecoverable damage even if you plow through a sizable set of adversaries. You’re also able to manipulate their lineup formations within the group; a function much more useful than it sounds on paper. The game will naturally arrange sword-swingers in front with spellcasters in back, but this allows you to move any wounded to the rear. You can even place your lord directly in the middle to maximize their aura’s circumference. The interface is delicately detailed, and actually separates into individual windows that you may click and drag around the screen. Arrange to your heart’s content.
Another admirable innovation the designers had is in the handling of mounted units. A majority of the time the mount will be killed first; but your beasthandler will still have some fight left in them. Your temple knight’s steed may go down, but he’ll roll out of it and jump back into the fray. Your wolf rider may lose his wolf, but he’ll shake it off and howl back into battle.
Several checks and balances were rewritten in LOE compared to similar RTS titles. Platinum is now your singular resource to gather for assembling units and buildings. Simple? Yes. A relief? Definitely. Although you’ll find that platinum mines are somewhat scarce on resources (you’ll rarely find one with more than 3,000 pieces) they keep the scenarios challenging. It’s atypical for a mission to allow the building of an ungodly-huge force to sweep over a hapless enemy. This heavily detracts from any ‘epic’ feel this game is striving for, but it makes perfect sense on a smaller scale.
Nurturing your units up in level is rewarding, and you may ‘knight’ two of them once they reach level 6. Knighted units gain a visual upgrade in addition to one ability comparable to a first-level lord. You’ll be able to transfer a few of your remaining troops between levels, as well (and your knights ride for free.) Construction times for buildings and units take an incredibly long time, but they all sponge up a huge amount of damage as well. An important balance considering the low supplies of platinum mentioned earlier. It’ll take a moment of adjustment for RTS vets that appreciate the breakneck pacing of other RTS titles, but these elements are all intricately balanced within LOE.
The art design team deserves a hearty pat on the back. The elven Elddar Alliance construct stunningly imaginative curvatures, while the Norse-influenced Dawn Brotherhood build rigid, celtic lines. Naturally, the Shadowrealm assemble structures that are dark and seething with evil. Although weather is a lifeless topic on Norrath, the terrain is gorgeous, dynamic, and seamless. Hawks circle overhead, crocodiles populate the warm swamps, and sharks drift sleeplessly offshore. The forests are lush, the undergrowth is prolific, terrain smoothly changes hands, all with water effects that are altogether lovely. Neutral cities, while intending to be understated compared to your bases, tend to lack a certain density. Towns run one building deep along either side of a gauntlet that the scenario is worming you through. The underground levels just look dull. Lifeless or dreary would be fine, but the underground scenarios require a serious facelift or they should’ve been left out completely.
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