Black Legend, the debut game of Warcave, is a pretty interesting title. The game’s got one of my favorite aesthetics- medieval gothic- and has you entering the city of Grant as a Mercenary out to stop the Mephistien cult.
As a tactics game, Black Legend does quite a lot to set itself apart, incorporating some RPG-like elements with jobs, skills and a unique twist on how element systems work. How does it all come together as a game though? Read on and find out.
The World of Grant
I really like Black Legend’s setting, based in the city of Grant. It’s got this really proper European flair to it, thanks to developer Warcave’s own backgrounds. While it still looks largely familiar to anyone who enjoys medieval Gothic aesthetic, I feel like it feels a little more full thanks to the added native touch. Nothing really feels generic here, and that’s good.
There’s also much to say about the game’s sense of atmosphere. The entire town looks dreary, the streets are largely empty and the game’s mysterious gray fog just give it this perpetual sense that something’s out to get you. Some of the early fights take place in graveyards where you’re fighting off cultists, making this almost feel like one of H.P Lovecraft’s short stories.
One detail I really like is on the game’s dockside portions, where you hear the sound of seagulls constantly. It’s a simple effect but really ramps up the spooky factor of the game. As someone who’s lost plenty of chips to seagulls, nothing quite sells the horror aspect like being able to hear them but not see them.
Black Legends’ Best Of Tactics Approach
Black Legend is a tactics game, with the developers promising a lack of reliance on percentage-based success. Like many tactics games, a lot of the depth comes from managing your action points- making sure you have enough to pull off many of the game’s combos to do big damage.
One nice thing is that the game is entirely void of random encounters. You can see enemies on the overworld before you engage them, and once the fight starts the game’s grids will appear. It reminds me of Divinity: Original Sin in this regard, especially since the grids are faint enough that you still get to enjoy how good the game’s environments look.
One really cool way they promote tactical gameplay is the game’s Alchemy system. This takes the slot of a typical element system, and following up alchemy attacks with catalysts causes reactions for big damage. Rather than incorporate some form of magic, the types of elements you can be hit by are related to your damage types. For example Sharp weapons cause the White effect, representing poisoning from the metal of the blade while the Black effect procs from heavy impact.
On top of that you can combine effects, making for even bigger damage on your opponents. This is really cool since you’ll be able to plan your party around what kind of effects they’ll do, then mix and match the combo effects as you see fit.
Like I mentioned earlier, the game kind of eschews the XCOM-like reliance on hit percentages. There’s no random missing to ruin your runs anymore, and I honestly think that this should be the standard for tactics games going forwards. There are still things like crits, but I think randomly getting a damage boost is a lot more reasonable than losing the game because Nuffle decided now is the time to fail a 90% hit rate attack.
This also works well with the game’s focus on flanking, where you’re rewarded with bonuses for having your unit operate as, well, a unit. You’re obligated to pay attention to where enemy units are facing, since hitting them in their blindspots gets you more damage. Meanwhile it pays to have your own units watching each other’s backs, since you obviously don’t want a random cultist getting big crits on you.
On the opposite end, characters with shields take less damage from their front and left sides, and characters can hold parrying daggers for similar effects too. The fact that you can freely choose what direction to face is great too, and if anything makes the game feel like BattleTech since you have so much to take care of every turn.
Not using up all your Action Points also pushes you up on the game’s Turn Order, which is another way to really take your game up to 11. Since all the positioning based stuff only works for melee attacks, giving ranged attacks a chance to shine by saving AP to reposition themselves on Turn Order is a great way to make each class viable in its own right.
It really gives a nice rhythm to the game’s combat, since you’re way more incentivised to focus down single targets instead of having each one go after individual targets.
That being said, prepare for some frustration if this is your first tactics game, as you may suddenly find enemies spiking in health and damage since you’re not playing by the game’s rules. The game clearly doesn’t want you running around with one almighyty smiter, so make sure to pay attention to your whole party if you wanna kick cultist ass. Admittedly, the tutorial can feel a little front-loading too, since there’s a lot to swallow with things like flanking, how shields work and et cetera, so anyone not used to tactics games might find themselves overwhelmed.
Building Your Party
On top of this, the game has a pretty robust job system, with each job specializing in a different one of the game’s weapons. The jobs affect a lot of the characters’ playstyles, letting them hit multiple targets, or giving them more mobility. I really like the flavor behind the job names, since they’re very much not beholden to JRPG tropes. Still, I imagine it’ll be hard to brag to your friends how powerful the Landersknecht is if you can’t pronounce it.
You also have a variety of passive skills in Black Legend, letting you really suit your playstyle based on your class selection. These are largely class-locked and the game suggests trying out different classes with characters if you want them to level their stats up more evenly.
You’ll only be able to go into battle with 4 mercenaries at a time, although computer-controlled NPCs can sometimes join you pushing the total up to 5. I feel like the combat is pretty balanced around the 4-man party, since it’s just enough to build your strategy around Alchemy Attacks and different job combinations.
You can also customize your characters, letting you easily spot the ones you want for specific roles. One thing to note is that this is an in-universe customization, so don’t expect anything silly like a hot pink suit of armor. It also means don’t expect any bishie mercenaries either, everyone looks appropriately disheveled for people from medieval Europe.
While I would have loved some sort of color customization I get why it was left out. Black Legend’s biggest strength is its atmosphere. The inconsistency of a bunch of RGB mercenaries against the rest of the depressing city would have probably been too much, so I’m glad they kept it in-tone.
The gear in the game looks really good too, especially the plate armor. It’s got this not entirely bland but not overly ornate feel to it, and I think it works really well with the game’s aesthetic.
Black Legend – Closing Thoughts
Black Legend’s definitely not a game for everyone- admittedly, the amount of combo nonsense you can pull off isn’t anywhere near the levels of games like Final Fantasy Tactics or full-on JRPGs. But it’s definitely a step up from the increasing number of XCOM-likes, combining a lot of really interesting ideas like flexible job systems, unit-facing as well as toying with features like elevation.
The game’s absolutely dripping in atmosphere too, and for a lot of people that’s going to be a strong motivator. One thing is that it keeps things way more grounded than other similar-genre games like Bloodborne, so it may be disappointing when you find out your greatsword really is just a greatsword and not some overly-elaborate trick weapon.
The main flaw of Black Legend is its over commitment to its art style, since the grey roads of Grant can all look samey, and if you’re not already committed to playing the game it’s going to get frustrating since you’re going to get lost often. But if you were already ready to sink lots of time in this game, you’re probably in for a good time.
|Borrows the best from the tactics genre||Getting lost isn’t fun|
Game reviewed on PC. Review code provided by Warcave.