Last month we previewed Afterdux's upcoming strategy game Legends of Eisenwald. The game had some interesting changes to the standard fantasy tropes so we reached out and were able to secure an interview with Alexander Dergay, the CEO of Aterfux to get more information about the upcoming title.
Could you give us a high level overview of Legends of Eisenwald?
Legends of Eisenwald is an RPG with elements of strategy and turn-based combat set in a low fantasy medieval world where superstitions of that time come alive. Our game is heavily inspired by classics such as Disciples 2 and King's Bounty. Since we took a more realistic approach to the game and setting, you won't have to save the world or anything like that, the goals for you in the game will be more down to earth - fighting for fame, gold or revenge.
Legends of Eisenwald is set in a fantasy world but one without magic and some of the other tropes of a fantasy game. Why did you decide to go in this direction?
On one hand, many of us in our team used to do historical reconstruction and LARP in the past, so we were naturally inclined for this low fantasy setting. But on the other hand, we all got a bit tired of all high fantasy cliches that you can see so often everywhere. We actually thought at first to make it just medieval, no magic at all. But when we started to design combat we realized, without some casting units, combat is going to be rather dull - just melee and ranged fighters. It was then that we decided we need some magic, but nothing bombastic - no armageddons or fire raining down on the battlefield.
How has the design of the game changes since inception?
As we were developing the game, our ambitions, fortunately or unfortunately, grew. In the beginning we wanted to make something simple, along the lines of our first game, Discord Times. But then as time went by we wanted to have more tactics in combat, more depth in our content and as a result the game got more complex. We had to drop a few promising features later on as we kept developing the game not because they weren’t fun but because of our limited resources. The game has been in development for 5.5 years and that’s quite a lot in every possible aspect.
Were there any features that you thought would be fun but turned out not to be once you developed it?
As I said, we dropped for example a few features like two stage castle sieges where at first you siege a castle from outside and then combat happens inside the castle. Upgrading castles seemed fun, but both of these things we hope to do sometime in the future. So far I recall just one feature that turned out not to be fun - we wanted all troops to be fully healed after the combat was over. In our first game many players did "delayed fights" when they basically waited and healed their troops. We were eager to avoid this mistake and removed healing completely. But after playing it, we realized that we acted too soon - with all units fully healed after combat, we didn't really care how we performed in combat. Whether or not we lost a character in a fight, he was soon alive and well after the battle. So, we reintroduced healing and then also came up with wounds system - all of this is in place now and it seems to work well.
How much of the game is strategic conquest and how much is turn based combat?
Many players tell us our game has a strategic feel to it. I would describe it as a tactical RPG - while there are a few strategic aspects like castles that control a certain territory and income and support slots for the army they provide, the game is still more of an RPG where you as a hero try to figure out things and where you have to resort to combat. So, a player would spend a little on strategic conquest and the larger portion of the game dedicated to following the story and playing through the turn based combat.
Could you talk us through how the two different game modes work together?
In a world map you travel to different locations, interact with NPCs, visit castles, villages, markets, churches, taverns, guard towers, towns, ruins etc. Sometimes you are provided quest information by someone you meet, in another case you have to listen to rumors, yet in another case you have to visit a few other locations to figure out what to do. All of your progress is stored in a quest journal so even if you missed a few lines while talking to an NPC, the journal will provide the necessary information. The quest journal is combined with a mini-map where many quests - but not all - are marked. This mini-map has also additional information regarding the different locations on the map, armies nearby and where you hero is in relation to all of that. Another window that you can open while on global map is the army window and inventory. In this window you can equip your troops and upgrade them when they have gained a level, or dismiss them when you don't need their services anymore (for example, mercenaries).
When you travel, you will often meet hostile armies. Then your encounter would lead to combat that will open a combat mode where your units will be on a hexagonal field a few hexes away from the enemy. Or sometimes in a conversation you can make a certain choice and might end up engaging in a battle. Attacking castles or other fortifications will also lead to combat but in this case you will receive additional damage (this is how AI estimates damages for the first stage of a siege - this is the replacement for the two-stage sieges that I earlier mentioned).
After combat you would often get some loot, and it's usually wise to travel to a church, town or another location where you can heal your army and maybe sell some of the loot you got and buy new better equipment for your army.
Why did you decide to do a kickstarter for the game? What additional things did the the funding allow you to do?
We went to Kickstarter when we ran out of our modest funds after two years developing the game. So, looking for funding in this fashion didn't really allow us to do many additional things, it was more a matter of being able to continue work and finish the game. However, the successful campaign and a few reached stretch goals lead us to a few additional things - the story got richer since we employed our writer then full time, plus we were able to create a few bosses and special characters. The funds from Kickstarter lasted us 10 months but still it was a great help from our backers that really saved us and our project.
What are the different classes players can play in the game? How do the classes level up as you play the game?
As a hero, you can play either as a knight, a baroness or a mystic. It's a classic choice between a melee character, a ranged character and sort of a wizard, but the mystic is actually is more of an alchemist. As they level up, they have some common skills they can choose or they can develop the ones pertinent to their class. For example, a knight can be upgraded to ride horses or to fight with two-handed weapons, a baroness can choose a stunning shot by a crossbow or an aimed shot by a bow, and a mystic can be upgraded to use actively his only spell that makes direct damage to enemies by moving towards them and apply this spell since in the beginning he is like other caster units who don't have the ability to move except to retreat when in contact with the enemies. By the way, the option to retreat was introduced after feedback in Early Access, our initial design didn't have this feature.
All the heroes will not change their appearance as they grow in levels. Other units in your army however will. There are peasants women that can be upgraded into healing enchantresses or witches, acolytes - into bishops or inquisitors, recruits - into guards or knights, pikemen, etc. Overall, there are over a hundred unique units in the game and you can develop an army that fits your playstyle.
Could you talk about the economic model for Legends of Eisenwald?
The economic model of the game is rather simple - when you own a castle, it provides income that you can pick up there each day. Also, castles can have villages, mines, mills, smithies, etc, close to it. The income from these locations is delivered into the controlling castle which makes castles really important - not only do they provide extra support slots for your army but also generate and store your income. If by any chance bandits overrun your poorly protected castle, you will lose the gold stored in that castle as well.
But the income from castle and villages is not the only place to find gold in our game. You can get gold from combat, by selling loot and sometimes as quest rewards.
Legends of Eisenwald has a fairly interesting unit creation and evolution system - how did that come to fruition?
Our game is heavily inspired by Disciples 2 and so our unit evolution system is very similar to that game with the only exception that in our game there is no need to build anything to hire a specific unit like in Disciples 2. This also provides flexibility since you can upgrade the same units into different specializations at the same time. For example we have a tier 1 noble. You can upgrade him either into esquire, which is a unit that can be mounted or into a dual wielder and you can have both of them in your army.
And we are really happy about our unit customization options. Very often in games you can extensively equip only your hero. In our game, each unit can be given 4 different amulets, helmet, armor, weapon, a shield (if a unit can use one). And each weapon in the game has its unique bonuses that add a layer of tactical choice for the combat.
Is there anything we missed that you think is important?
With our game we intend to provide a player with an immersive experience that goes beyond simple gameplay mechanics. We carefully selected and researched weapons and armor, history and folklore, our composer wrote beautiful music and the story turned out impressive according to the feedback of our beta testers. So, I recommend that players really dive into our game, not just for an hour or two, but at least get to the fourth map of our campaign. This is the biggest and richest map in the game which is called Windfeld. The campaign will span eight chapters, your choices will really matter, and the outcome might surprise you as it surprised many of us the first time we finished the entire game.
We'd like to thank Alexander for taking the time to talk to us as well as Ted for coordinating the interview
Hi, my name is Charles Husemann and I've been gaming for longer than I care to admit. For me it's always been about competing and a burning off stress. It started off simply enough with Choplifter and Lode Runner on the Apple //e, then it was the curse of Tank and Yars Revenge on the 2600. The addiction subsided somewhat until I went to college where dramatic decreases in my GPA could be traced to the release of X:Com and Doom. I was a Microsoft Xbox MVP from 2009 to 2014