Hands-onLegion: Legend of Excalibur

We get a playable version of Midway's action strategy RPG. Impressions are inside.

If the build we received today is any indication, the 7 Studios-developed Legion: Legend of Excalibur plays a whole lot like a PC-style action RPG, with some mob-controlling mechanics thrown in for good measure. The game puts you in the role of King Arthur, albeit one that's been newly minted: You gain the stature necessary to wield the mighty sword Excalibur minutes into the first mission. The story revolves around Morgan Le Fay, the wicked sister of Arthur and slayer of Uther Pendragon, their father. Having grown into a powerful sorceress, she's raised armies of villainous men, both living and undead, to invade and conquer her father's former kingdom.

If you've played games like Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance, Record of Lodoss War, or any of Diablo's console incarnations, then you'll have a good idea as to how Legion feels. You move your main character around in real time and attack enemies as they approach you on the field. Your primary mode of attack is a series of chain slashes, which, if timed properly, can result in a fairly devastating five-hit combo. If you mistime your attacks, though, you'll just alternate swipes in a manner that's only fractionally effective. The key to correct timing is to watch for a little sparkle that appears at the tip of your sword after you attack. If you enter the command for the next attack right before it appears, you'll segue into the next stroke in the combo. If you miss it, though, you'll start back on square one. You also have access to a more powerful attack, the execution of which is regulated by your stamina meter--the gradually replenishing bar under your health meter. This attack is basically a circular slash accompanied by a heavy windup. It does a good deal of damage and hits basically every enemy in your immediate vicinity. Furthermore, after completing the first mission, we gained access to one of Arthur's powerful magical attacks. By hitting both the X and square buttons simultaneously, and sacrificing a full stamina bar, we were able to summon a dragonlike apparition that spat fire on the ground, damaging all enemies in its area of effect and setting fire to trees and structures therein.

The strategy comes into play once you start to recruit loyal Britons. Basically, the nonplayer characters that you hook up with will generally fend for themselves, but, by means of the R1 trigger, you can access a set of menu options that will let you issue orders to them. You can tell them, for instance, to attack the strongest enemy, to fall back, or to rally to your location. We haven't yet messed with a group larger than five or six soldiers, so we don't know how well it works in the craziest of frays, but from what we've seen, it generally works well enough. Arthur will call out orders as you issue these commands, which makes for proceedings that are kind of dramatic.

The game is looking pretty nice at this point, with a brisk frame rate, nicely modeled and clearly textured environments, and some really cool particle effects. Huge numbers of characters can be onscreen at any given time, and the game doesn't seem to stutter much, if at all, even when you've cast some cycle-eating spells. The game's CG cinemas also bear mention in that they look like they cost a whole lot of money to produce. They're very polished looking, and they were rendered at a great resolution. Though some of the character designs are a little on the staid side, the technical quality of the movies themselves is pretty impressive.

We haven't spent too much time with it yet, but already Legion looks like something that could be quite interesting. The game is scheduled for release in June, and we'll have a review ready to coincide with the game's release.

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