Everywhere you turn today, there’s a some police or court room drama on TV. CSI, NCIS, and Law & Order are the three I tend to commonly see on TV today. Question is, how does one take a court room drama and make it into a video game? Well, Telltale Games did just that with Law & Order: Legacies. Does the concept work? Let’s take a look and find out.
To begin with, Law & Order: Legacies is an episodic point-and-click game, much like other games by Telltale Games, but this one works a bit differently. Most point-and-click games (hereafter referred to as PaC) have you choosing different actions, getting and using items, and so on. Most of Law & Order: Legacies is either answering questions or bringing up topics. At first, you may be scratching your head, so let me explain how an episode works.
The episodes work pretty much like an episode of the TV series. You even get an intro complete with the Law & Order theme, as well as the DUN-DUN sound effect as the game displays the time and location of the current scenario. The first little bit of an episode has you interviewing people who may have some connection to the crime you’re investigating. You’re given a few topics to choose from, and you have to make sure that you’re talking about stuff relevant to the case, as other topics might give you a red herring. You’re occasionally asked if you believe a witness as to what they’re saying, and if you answer correctly, you have to back up your reasoning. Each “correct” answer gives you one star. Each scenario has a certain number of stars to gain to “ace” the interview, and the better you do, the higher your detective rank. Getting an answer wrong will give you a strike, three of which means replaying the scenario. Plus, you’ll likely miss out on some important info, making the game harder later on. At some point, you’ll have to search a scene for evidence of the crime. This can be tricky. You’ll be shown a list of what you’re looking for, and it’s just a matter of scrolling the screen back and forth and drawing a circle around the objects you need. Occasionally, you’ll have to circle things like a trash can to remove the lid and peer inside. You are given a target number of guesses, but if you go over, it doesn’t really affect the episode, just your score. In the second episode, it took me 26 guesses to find everything. The target was 14.
After a few of the interview scenarios, you’ll end up arresting someone. As far as I know, you can’t say “yes, arrest him” or “no, I don’t think he did it”. It’s an automated cut scene, so the person they arrest is the person they’re after. Next comes the interrogation, which works a lot like the interviews, except you have to be a little more careful, as you’re interviewing the person who likely did the crime. Following that is the court room, and this is where things get even trickier.
During the court room scenarios, there are a couple different situations you’ll be in as a councilman. First off, you may have to examine / cross-examine the witness currently on the stand. The game will give you a hint as to what to focus on, such as not letting the person on the stand justify the crime that was committed. This part’s not too bad if you just take it slow and consider your options. Another situation is when you’re listening to the other councilman do the examining / cross-examining, and you have to learn when to object to a statement that’s made. The game tells you what to look out for, things like speculation and not having the proper expertise on the subject matter. This is where I learned very quickly that being a councilman or a lawyer is not in my future. During the courtroom scenarios, there’s a Justice Scale at the top with a meter to the left and a meter to the right. The more you mess up, the more the red meter on the left fills up, meaning the jury is leaning towards the defense. The better you do, the more the green meter on the right fills up, meaning the jury is leaning towards you. Every action you do may change this meter. You really have to pay attention to know when to object, or when to just do nothing.
After a few court room scenarios, it’s time to negotiate a plea bargain, which apparently I suck at as well. The more the jury is leaning towards you, the better you’ll be at plea bargaining. The defense will make an offer, then you can make a counter offer. I’m not sure how long this can go back and forth, because in the first episode, I think I accepted the initial offer, and in the second episode, after an offer, counter offer, and a counter counter offer, I didn’t accept the plea bargain. If you accept the plea bargain, that’s it, and you eventually get to the closing scene of the episode. If you don’t accept a plea bargain, you have to make your closing arguments. Again, with this, you’ll want to make your case and not make the jury sympathetic towards the defendant. As far as I know, whether or not you lose the case, the episode ends there. That’s really all there is to it.
Honestly, I thought that for a PaC game based on a court room drama, Telltale did pretty well with it, but I do have a couple issues with it. First off, the graphics aren’t quite up to par with today’s games. Now I know that graphics don’t make the game. As a fan of the classics, I’m fully aware of that. However, I’ve seen the graphics from their recent Back to the Future game, and Law & Order: Legacies looks like they took a step backwards a bit. It’s nothing big, but it does kind of annoy me. Gameplay-wise, there is a feature that’s kind of nice, but really takes out a lot of the replay value. After most of the scenarios, you’re shown how you did, then are given the option to proceed to the next scenario or replay the previous one. The problem is that there’s no limit to how many times you can replay the scenario. Remember how I said I sucked at being a councilman? In Episode 2, I replayed one scenario four times because I kept messing up. It’s a nice feature, but unless you strike out in a scenario, I don’t think there’s a real way to “lose” an episode. Essentially, you can keep replaying a scenario until you can get it down perfectly, which probably won’t take too long. Each episode lasts about an hour or so. This means that even if you replay a couple scenarios, it still won’t take much longer than an hour and a half. It would have been nice if you couldn’t replay any scenario until the episode was done. That would give you more incentive to replay it and try again. Once you’re done with an episode with a high enough score after replaying scenarios over and over again, there’s really no reason to play it again.
Now that that’s out of the way, there are a few good things to talk about. Again, the way the episodes play out was really well done. It starts off with someone seeing a crime (or the results of the crime rather), then you get the actual Law & Order intro, except with the characters’ names instead of their voice actors, and then the scenarios work out like in the TV series. The voice acting and dialog is pretty good too. I’m not sure if the voice actors are the shows actual actors, as I’ve rarely watched the show, but from the little I’ve seen of the show, it sounds pretty similar. The dialog did get some laughs out of me, especially when you have to talk to a teenage hacker in one of the episodes who prefers to remain anonymous…even though you already have his name and number. Although I really don’t see where the detective rank ultimately comes into play, the game will make you think if you want to get a higher score. There are times in which I correctly answered whether or not I believed someone, but then I blanked on how I knew that. Basically, you have to remember just about everything you’ve heard, as something mentioned in the first scenario may be needed somewhere past the episode’s mid-way point.
Overall, Telltale Games did a better job with Law & Order: Legacies than I thought they would. If you’re looking for an action-packed PaC game, this isn’t for you. If you’re the kind of person who likes to just sit back and think about the situation and determining the correct outcome, this is one to check out. Also, fans of the TV series would probably like this one, especially if they’re like me and try to figure things out before they can on the show. Granted I’m not that good, but the games do make you think. Not to spoil it too much, but the first episode isn’t too hard. A couple stumbling blocks here and there, but the second episode pretty much said “okay, you know what you’re doing, NOW the game begins”, and I just failed the courtroom scenarios. Still, for $20 for a season pass that includes all seven episodes (one through five are available at the time of this review), that’s about $3 per episode, which isn’t too bad for a one to two hour episode.