A couple of weeks ago I had a little rant about all the challenges developers face when trying to create a real world RPG, such as trying to make a real world place as thrilling to explore and discover as a fantasy realm, and how to keep things historically accurate whilst still being thrilling.
Well obviously someone heard me, because only a few weeks here I am immersed in a real world location, fighting real world enemies and solving real world problems in Legends of Eisenwald. Okay, that’s a little bit of an exaggeration. Legends of Eisenwald has a tinge of low fantasy to it, but the emphasis is definitely placed squarely on people and places rather than fireballs and the omnipresent power of petty gods and demons.
Funded via a modest but successful Kickstarter campaign, Eisenwald is a turn-based strategy/RPG that sees players creating a hero from one of three classes, Knight, Baroness (an armoured archer) and Mystic (not available in the pre-beta code we played), recruiting an army and then conquering castles, completing quests and generally carrying on like the protagonist of a rather grim medieval tale. If you think something along the lines of Heroes of Might and Magic you’re not too far wrong — but rather than being just another also-ran in the realm of turn based strategy/RPG, Eisenwald bring some rather interesting new features to the table.
From what I’ve seen so far the world map is rather lovely to look at, if somewhat old-school, but the real point of difference between Eisenwald and anything else in the game space is how the combat system works. It’s at once more restrictive and more action-oriented than pretty much anything else I’ve seen from similarly themed games. Instead of focussing on troops moving around the field of battle to gain strategic advantage, the combat engine in Eisenwald revolves around the idea of each unit being able to do something every turn.
Melee units are considered to be in combat any time they are next to an enemy unit and cannot leave combat until all adjacent units are incapacitated. Ranged units act similar to artillery, taking up position and raining down fire on any unit in their line of sight. The combat system feels simple at first, but even in my all-too-brief time with the game some rather deep tactics have begun to emerge. Placing melee troops in such a way as to create an effective shield wall whilst leaving enough lines of sight for archers to fire through seems to be of utmost importance. Flanking, angle of attack and range all feature into combat calculation as well.
The game is still clearly in the early stages, and there is some definite polish that needs to be done. What I’ve seen of the story so far seems to be a little cliche, and the animations definitely need some tightening up to do the combat justice, but aside from complaints about final polish, Legends of Eisenwald is definitely shaping up to be an interesting — potentially great — (almost) real world strategic RPG experience.
I wasn’t able to capture any screenshots or video of Eisenwald but this Youtube clip, whilst very slow, captures some of the essence of the combat engine. Enjoy!