Legion: Legend of Excalibur Preview

Combining traditional RPG gameplay with real-time strategy, Midway's Legion: Legend of Excalibur seeks to achieve two rarely realized goals: provide a storyline on par with those found in Square Soft RPGs and promote RTS gameplay that is suited to the limited constraints of console control systems.

The real-time strategy (RTS) genre has carved out a popular niche for itself in PC gaming circles, with titles such as Starcraft and Command & Conquer leading the way with millions of copies sold. Attempts at kindling the same kind of magic with console gamers, namely in the form of Starcraft, Command & Conquer, and Civilization, have been adequate, but have resulted in titles lacking in both features and ease of use. With the hardware constraints and limited control systems of consoles, what's a developer to do? 7-Studios and Midway think they have found the solution in the form of their upcoming PS2 release, Legion: Legend of Excalibur.

Set in the time of Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table, Legion: Legend of Excalibur seeks to combine traditional console RPG gameplay with an equal measure of RTS simulation. On the RPG front, the game promises to be steeped in both story and character development. You'll begin as a soldier in Arthur's army, commanding small squad of inexperienced troops. While you hone your team into shape, you'll witness the growing bond between Arthur and Lancelot, the love-hate rapport between Arthur and Morgan LeFay, and the magical antics of the stoic sorcerer Merlin. Since the game uses the Arthurian legend as a base, you can be sure that trickery, revenge, and loyalty swapping will play major roles in the game's storyline.

Though the game will offer a number of alternate branching points and a variety of side quests, the major factor in strengthening your team and progressing the story lies not with one-on-one fighting, but cool, calculated real-time strategy battle. At times, you'll be asked to defend a castle or possibly attack a wandering enemy squad. At other times, you may be taking part in a major battle, fighting alongside entire divisions of troops, or simply sending your men out on patrol. Depending on the situation, you'll need to decide how and when to will your soldiers to fight. In a twist, however, you don't have total control over your entire division, but instead command four knights to distribute your orders down through the chain of command. At first, they'll lead poorly and battles will be difficult. However, as time marches on, your ability to command, as well as your knights' ability to lead, will improve. Because of this focus on leadership, resource management takes a backseat to planning in Legion. Your knights will take care of keeping troops fed and clothed, but it's your job to make sure they take up the right battles or engage in the proper attack plan. Fail and your men will be cut to ribbons. Succeed and you'll forge an unstoppable fighting force.

Because of the power of the PS2, this aforementioned fighting force will be visually realized via frantic, bloody battles and violent, bone-jarring confrontation. Heads will roll, literally. Taking a page from Koei's book, in-game action will vaguely resemble Kessen in appearance, albeit with 100 times the gore factor. If spurting limbs and cracking bones are your idea of a good time, Legion: Legend of Excalibur might be just what the doctor ordered. For FMV fans out there, rest assured that Legion will contain plenty of the requisite plot-advancement cinematics. This is the PS2 after all, and 7-Studios promises to assault the senses as much as the system will allow.

Designed by Command & Conquer's Eric Yeo and produced by veteran producer Lewis Peterson, Legion: Legend of Excalibur has been in development for nearly a year now. In contrast to its usual behavior, Midway is keeping information about the game at a measured minimum and is not rushing to give the game a specific release date. Simply slated for release sometime in 2001, the half-RPG, half-RTS Legion looks like it is being given the "we'll release it when it's done" red-carpet treatment.

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