Beyond my burning love for all things RPG, I intently salivate at the mouth when I hear the word ‘Strategy’. There’s something about the ability to laud control over little armies that gives me some sort of powerful feeling in my jellies. Say what you will of that.
Cue Ancestors Legacy, the newest PC-to-Console conversion from developers Destructive Creations. Released initially on Steam back in May 2018, the title is seeing a kick around both PS4 and Xbox One. I’m typically apprehensive approaching strategy games that aren’t brought exclusively to console, it normally means that parts of a game can suffer. In most cases this can range from the inability to successfully recreate a comfortable UI/control scheme or a game that lacks the distinct polish of its PC counterpart. There are plenty of examples of developers nailing it or failing miserably.
I’m happy to report that Ancestors Legacy has its wits about it. A beautiful blend of RTS and nostalgia from the off. The game greets you with a dark, deeply gratifying soundtrack that positively fires up the manly warrior Viking in you. If you like your history, this outing has it in droves. The game is split between 4 historical nations of old, the Vikings, Anglo-Saxons, Germans (then known as the Holy Roman Empire) and the Slavs. Set across the nations are two individual leaders, each with their own parts to play in early middles ages. Starting out you’ll be plundering the Kingdom of Northumbria with your Viking hordes, only to move on to commanding Rudolf I, King of Germany, laying waste to Bohemian lands.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s still plenty to Ancestors Legacy for the non-history buffs out there. The beginning cutscenes are beautifully rendered in an archaic-shaded art style, if somewhat occasionally jumpy whilst your loading into the action. On the first campaign, your commanding Ulf Ironbeard and the Viking horde, and the first scenes are almost reminiscent of the D-Day landings on Normandy Beach as longboats are torn up, crashing against each other and being set aflame by the Northumbrians. Couple this together with stunningly timed sound, flashes of lightning and some foreboding ambience from the roaring thunder and you’ve set the pace for the game.
Every environment is rendered wonderfully, from the ebb and flow of the waves foaming as they crash against the rocks on your stormy landing, to long grass swaying side to side as your troops pander through it to hide from enemy patrols. It’s these small details that separate Ancestors Legacy from being your tired old campaign heavy strategy outing, where the concentration is in all the wrong places. I found myself stopping at some points in the game just to take in what was around me. Not to mention, if your rocking a PS4 Pro, you can experience it all in glorious 4K.
Ancestors Legacy is what you’d call a homage to real time strategies of old. You have a maximum squad limit of 10, so it’s important to be conservative and pick your battles which certainly adds an element of tension to each decision you make. A squad has individual troops that die (gratifyingly watching a spearman impale an enemy has to be one of my highlights) and there are really satisfying moments where you can watch each separate troop facing off each other that just adds that sense of realism you only normally get in titles like Total War.
Keeping an eye on troops is important, placing them correctly even more important and making the call to retreat them is necessary. Your juggling concepts like morale and flanking to ensure you hit hard and leave healthy. And whilst these concepts aren’t entirely new, it does get you thinking on your feet and making a long-term plan to ensure total victory. Your squads will earn experience and you can tech them up 3 tiers (very much like the system in Company of Heroes) which gets you attached, and there is nothing more devastating than pouring a little heart and soul into a set of troops, to see them decimated by a poor judgement call. It’s unforgiving, but satisfyingly challenging.
Despite this, the battle system in Ancestors Legacy is underpinned by a Rock-Paper-Scissors methodology. Spearmen are good against Horsemen, Axemen beat swordsman etc… which can sometimes take away from a game that has a promising amount of depth. It doesn’t do the experience a complete injustice, it just takes the edge off the more challenging aspects once you know what kills what. You’ll sometimes find yourself feeling a little déjà vu as you score through the campaign missions, again, it doesn’t detract from the overall experience too much, but it’s not a new concept either.
Which brings me to what would normally be my personal bugbear with a conversion title, the comfortability of control. I can hand on heart say I was going into Ancestors Legacy with no illusions about delivery, but I was pleasantly surprised. I played it on the PS4, and the controls were easily accessible (with a nicely descriptive early in game tutorial) that had me feeling like a boss from the get-go. The UI is simplistic, but it’s clean so your worrying less about clutter and more about burning down houses and killing villagers. It’s not ever going to be as smooth as the PC experience, but Destructive Creations has come as close as they tangibly can.
Ancestors Legacy is a glorious and bloody jaunt through the middle ages, matched perfectly with amazing strategic depth, a dark atmosphere and real attention to detail.
You might find some of the games concepts a little tried and tested at times, and there are moments in cutscenes where you’ll get a little stutter whilst your loading a chapter of the campaign, but nothing that diminishes what the game is all about. Which is enjoying the ambience, challenge and glorious bloodshed of the middle ages and having to really think about how you approach each scenario. Mix that with a cleverly simplistic, but clean UI and you have the makings of what Ancestors Legacy is, a great addition to the RTS genre that will leave you feeling nostalgic and satiated.
Developer: Destructive Creations
Publisher: Destructive Creations
Platform(s): PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), PC