This fantasy sequel is a good entry-level wargame.
There are 18 campaign missions, including bonus missions, but you won't get to play all of them in a single campaign because you have to choose your route to the final objective, and naturally, the desire to play the levels you missed may spur you to play through the campaign a second time. The bonus missions, which you can unlock by beating regular missions within a given turn limit, let you play with other factions, like the dwarves or the humans, and will sometimes reveal background to the main story. Also, within each campaign level there are secrets to discover and side quests to take, which will reward your exploration with experience, new units, spells, and items, so you'll still have something to celebrate if you don't win the "gold victory" needed to unlock a bonus stage. In addition to the campaign, the game offers seven stand-alone missions, which help make the single-player experience a long and satisfying one.
While the AI is impressive and will quickly take advantage of your mistakes, nothing compares to fighting against another human. Although we never had any luck finding a game on the Internet, there are others ways to find a multiplayer match. You can arrange a game on the official forum and connect by IP address, or you can play either hotseat or LAN games, which include the added bonus of hearing your friends' lamentations as you tear their armies apart. These multiplayer games are often pitched battles, where each player sits on the brink of destruction and prays that his opponent will be the first to show weakness, and the tension often starts from the first turn, since many of the 17 multiplayer maps put you right next to the enemy. Other maps are large and provide a stream of additional gold each turn, allowing for truly epic battles that can last for hours. Thankfully, multiplayer games can be saved and loaded later, if your previous commitments force an early armistice. The biggest problem with the multiplayer is that you have nothing to do during your opponents' turns, but you can minimize this by setting a time limit for turns, which is almost a necessity for four-player maps.
Elven Legacy's controls and interface don't break any new ground, but they get the job done. The one annoying control issue we had--accidentally moving one unit when intending to select another--can be avoided by doing all unit selection through the army panel at the bottom of the screen. Moreover, you can undo unwanted movements, provided the offending unit didn't discover any enemies or make an attack. Aside from controlling the camera, the right mouse button displays information about a spell, item, or unit in a pop-up window, which works just fine but makes you wonder whether some of this data, like attack range or melee damage, could have been displayed in the unit selection panel, where there is plenty of extra space. One thing the selection panel is invaluable for is identifying which units can act, with each unit sporting red and green orbs next to its portrait that indicate the ability to attack and move, respectively. As well, some other interface features that make gameplay easier include highlighting all the hexes that a selected unit can move to and displaying tooltips that reveal how well your unit might do if he attacked a given target.
Visuals aren't the selling point for wargames, and people who enjoy moving simple counters across a hex grid will find no reason to complain about Elven Legacy's graphics. It looks great for its genre, with distinct three-dimensional units and environments, good unit animations, and charming spell effects. On the other hand, non-grognards will be unimpressed, especially considering that the game specifically warns you against turning on the antialiasing. True to the warning, the game did crash a couple of times with the antialiasing turned on and was quite stable without it, but the visual improvements may be worth sacrificing some stability for. One additional bug showed up at the end of the campaign when the two different ending cutscenes played back-to-back in a seemingly endless loop. On the plus side, though, the system requirements are low, so you can play the game on an older computer. As for the sound, it holds up well by any standard, with sufficiently varied music, detailed sound effects, and excellent English-language voice acting.
Elven Legacy is a sure bet for fans of the fantasy wargame subgenre, but they're not the only ones who will appreciate its charms. Fans of more traditional wargames can appreciate it as a fun fantasy diversion, and new players will find it simple to learn and enjoy. If you are new to the genre, Elven Legacy is a great choice for an entry-level wargame. With its simple yet tactically robust combat options, its antihero protagonist, and its cutthroat multiplayer, Elven Legacy could easily become your "gateway game" to more sophisticated wargames.