Ancestors Legacy is a real-time strategy game that has been been ported to Xbox after its PC release last year. As part of the resurgence of RTS games that Xbox has seen recently, Ancestors Legacy isn’t exactly heading into a niche market anymore on console and has a standard to match now.
Ancestors Legacy is mostly your traditional RTS game you’ve played before. You collect resources, build up your base, progress through tech tiers, and build and upgrade units. All of your construction, upgrades and units centre around the use of three resources: wood, food and iron. Where you might be used to building resource nodes on your base, Ancestors Legacy is a bit different. You have to go out to villages around the map and capture them so you can take control of the resources at each of them. Some villages will offer larger resource benefits so there’s a bit of strategy in which villages you take over. Villages also don’t act like traditional bases since they don’t let you create units from them, however you can replenish existing squads by recruiting from the village. In the Domination mode in Skirmish villages also act as the main objectives, meaning players have to hold them to gain score and win the match.
For a more traditional experience you can choose Annihilation, a game mode that only has a winner when all of the key buildings in the main base on one side are destroyed. When I played this mode I noticed that it dragged out for quite a long time since completely burning all the key buildings before the townspeople can put the fires out or rebuild the building. I don’t see this being much of a problem in 2v2 or 3v3 environments since you can coordinate with teammates to attack a village together, but going into a village with a single army, especially late game is an uphill battle, even if the enemy has no defences. Attacking main bases is easier if you have siege machines but just transporting them across the map is going to have a high cost.
Units are different between each of the four factions: the Vikings, Anglo-Saxons, Germans, and Slavs. Their differences are so major you couldn’t play one and not understand the other but they have a lot of minor things like unique units, heroes, visual differences on buildings and tech advantages that suit different playstyles. The Vikings have good infantry, the Germans have better horsemen, the Anglo-Saxons have better bowmen, and the Slavs have a hybrid unit in the form of horse-mounted archers. Understanding the rock-paper-scissors system that the units use is the real key to battles. Each unit will be weak against one type of unit but weak to another. For example, if the enemy is using axemen, who don’t have the defences of shieldbearers, or the speed of horsemen, then you are at an advantage if you have bowmen to cut their ranks down before they get close enough to start fighting. Then you can have infantry to protect the archers from horsemen. Or so you’d think. There’s a couple of systems in place that are a double edged sword with this type of gameplay.
First of all is the fact your archers can hit your own men. If you have your archers positioned directly behind your infantry you’re punished for it when it comes to a fight, so you have to position your archers on higher ground or on a flank. However, this ends up putting you in a position to get flanked by the enemy since your archers are wide open. If you have two people that know how to maximise their efficiency with each enemy it can quickly become a circle of who flanks the other last. There’s also a morale system which from what I could tell, is a debuff to a unit’s entire stats, making them much less effective in battle. Low morale can be caused by being flanked, outnumbered or even having no food in a worst-case scenario. Some factions also seem to have lower morale naturally. It can also be amplified in battle by debuffs from unit abilities. Some units may also have other abilities like boosting defence by making a defensive circle or a speed boost to chase down enemies that are retreating.
There are more elements that make the game more in depth than just whittling down morale and flanking enemies thanks to the maps and other ways to order your units. Long grass is scattered around areas on the maps so you can conceal units and attack unsuspecting enemies nearby. Even smaller things like the time of day or weather can offer a tactical advantage. There’s also high ground advantages for bowmen and the ability to place traps so you can cover more narrow paths. Units can also be ordered to take an offensive or defensive stance, or in bowmen’s case they can be told to hold fire if they’re hitting friendlies too much. All of these little individual orders and abilities you can give to each unit makes the game much more personal, which suits the 10 unit cap you have. It rewards micromanagement and looking at individual units rather than shovelling a massive clump down one side of the map. Although I do wish there was an option to have more units and have some huge, hectic battles.
Outside of the Skirmish/Multiplayer modes there is a campaign to play. Made up of five missions each across six chapters, there’s a decent chunk of content to go through, teaching you the basic mechanics along the way and giving you chances to put them to use. The campaigns also offer some gameplay you wouldn’t really get the chance to do in a Skirmish match, like using stealth to go through fields with a single squad and raid villages undetected. These little changes from the gameplay to something you’re not able to do in any other mode help keep you going through rather than just loading up a Skirmish. The scenarios and cutscenes are rooted in real history, although I’m not sure how accurate it is. While the sort of comic artstyle of the cutscenes was nice to look at I did notice there was some lag or frame drops as the cutscenes played which was very off-putting. Besides that though the campaign is solid and worth a playthrough.
A copy of the game was provided for this review by the developer/publisher