Fallen Enchantress: Legendary Heroes Review

PC Gaming is a language of sorts – one that I’m not yet fully versed in. You see, I learned to count to ten in PC language when I was a kid, back on Age of Empires and Discworld games harvested from the detritus of my father’s computer desk. Back then it all seemed so much simpler. Perhaps it was. Perhaps my adult mind – stuffed to the brim with learned systems, strategies, and conventions – is far less posed to deal with the new and unfamiliar. I’m not quite sure how to approach anything that has happened back in PC land while I’ve been abroad for the past ten years.

Take Fallen Enchantress: Legendary Heroes for instance. One look at the thing, and initially I thought I had it pegged. There are armies marching to and fro across a colorful cloth of fantasy conventions. There are goblins, inns, and baleful ruins. There are research trees. There are cities rooted into the countryside, churning out units and researching for fourteen seasons how to make pikes, or breed horses. There is mining and resource gathering. Instantly it reminded me of Age of Empires. This is fantasy-themed real-time strategy, right? Of course it must be!

Fallen Enchantress is not an RTS though. It’s a turn-based strategy game set in the world of Elemental, a world in which destruction has happened and a cast of would-be conquers have emerged like magical Napoleons out of the doomsday dust. So, with my expectations realigned — and after a confusing period of time in which I thought the game had bugged on me because my units would no longer move – I attempted to forge an empire in the world of Elemental.

* * *

Seeing something resembling virtue in his chiseled, noble face, I choose Lord Relias as sovereign of my first game. There he stands, on the map, seemingly a giant among doddery fern trees and a nearby roaming group of goblins. The first thing I do is direct Relias to an apparently suitable tile of land and tell him to found the capital of our new empire. The thing about this is that I have no idea what it will mean for the future of my empire. I’m ignorant of the virtue or drawbacks of civic unrest, or accumulating elemental magics via shards. If the tutorial touched on these elements at all, it was fleetingly, with almost a shrug.

“Go and figure this out yourself,” the game seems to say. “Can’t you read PC game?” it asks me, barely bothering to hide the smirk. So I grope blindly at buttons, and order new research projects, staring at the numbers in confusion. “Yay, more food yield, that’ll be good… probably.”

am given the power to name my new city, though. Uncertainly, I get to pen the opening sentences of this new story. I may not have a clue what food yield means, in practical terms, within the complex machinery of the game, but as I type a name of my choosing into the box, I can understand, narratively at least, what might be going on.

Stories? Ah, stories I can understand.

The act of playing Fallen Enchantress confuses me. It assumes a degree of PC-centric comprehension that I, and certainly others, woefully lack. It’s the kind of game that demands to be met halfway by the player, and I’m not even sure it’s a journey worth making. Perhaps it’s me. Perhaps my time in Console Kingdom has made me soft and stupid. Perhaps some games are about rooting through the in-game help files. This game, with its impenetrable spider web of rules, systems, and numbers, is difficult to learn, but maybe that’s its strength. It’s frustrating, but for now I keep at it.

Seasons upon seasons in the future, Relias and I have three cities in our fledgling empire. One, in frustration, is named something I hardly have the gall to type in this article, and I allow myself a childish smirk whenever I select it to order a new unit built, or to plan construction of a new building whose purpose I can still only guess at. While my empire grows in uncertain ways, Relias and I have more urgent things to attend to. Much of Fallen Enchantress is about expanding my empire through construction, or diplomacy, or conquest, but if one thing kept my interest, it was the storytelling.

My sovereign, or any other champion who has asked to join my cause (allegedly this is to do with my empire’s fame stat, although I cannot elaborate further) can activate quests at notable locations on the map. Doing so opens up a window with a slip of text: a brief description of a scenario, encapsulated in a few short sentences. During one such instance, a beggar challenges Relias to a duel, and we decide to entertain the man. Having lost his fight, the man pleads with me to let him join me, to which I agree. And then I have a new unit, another fighter whom I can kit out with loot I find in derelict ruins, and for whom I can choose specializations via Fallen’s impressive set of leveling trees.

For all practical purposes, I may have gotten just another thief, soldier, or mage, but for the rest of this game, that man will always be the bright-eyed beggar who thought his skills enough to challenge a Lord. He will join us on our journey of conquest, or a quest in which we attempt to unlock an ancient evil from behind a shrouded gate in some far-off place, over a mountain. Mechanically, this is all standard, and while the game drags me kicking and screaming to learn its functional nuances, its demand that I use my imagination to bridge the mental gaps and make its story work is something I’m all too willing to surrender to.

One day, Bacco the Beggar falls to a party of orcs in battle. He is taken to my nearest city to recover, but he has lost one of his fingers. I’ve got no idea if this has any practical effect on Bacco’s ability to fight. I don’t know if the unit receives a penalty to accuracy, or strength, or some other attribute. It almost doesn’t matter, though, because in my head the character of Bacco the Beggar, the lowly man with the pride to challenge a Lord, has proven himself in my eyes. He is no longer a unit in a game, but a character in a story that I have, in part, made up in my head. Fallen Enchantress: Legendary Heroes is a game written in a language I can barely decipher, but it’s flair for facilitating story through play is a language I can understand, and one that I do appreciate.


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Author: Aled Morgan View all posts by
Aled has served with distinction as a UNSC Spartan, become a Pokemon master, and saved the kingdom/world/galaxy more times than he can remember. Mixing a passion for gaming with a passion for writing since he was a child, Aled will play anything and everything he can get his hands on. When he isn’t trawling through virtual worlds or pawing at a keyboard to make words happen, he plays Ultimate Frisbee.

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