Ancestors Legacy: Saladin's Conquest Review04 Jun 2019 0
Ancestors Legacy: Saladin's Conquest Review
Released 21 May 2019
You know you’re in for it when your game gives you a disclaimer at the start. You know you are particularly in for it when the game earnestly assures you that the views expressed by the characters in the game are not representative of the views of the game’s developer or publisher. Given how blood-soaked Ancestors Legacy was to begin with, it does make one worried about the content of ensuing gameplay.
I must emphasise that I can only review certain aspects of Ancestors Legacy – Saladin’s Conquest. I will not, for example, bother touching upon multiplayer. This is for a very good reason. Multiplayer in Ancestors Legacy is quite dead – certainly in my time zone anyway. It’s a shame, because I rather liked the multiplayer aspect. In a sentence, it’s a medieval Company of Heroes and its good fun. Thus for me, it is difficult to review the new faction we receive with this DLC. Suffice to say though – if you have a group of friends large enough, I think you’ll have a good time. If you aren’t so blessed, well, fire up the game first to check on how active multiplayer is in your area, otherwise – you run the risk of disappointment.
For those of us who are buying for single player adventures, I have some good news. For a relatively cheap DLC, Saladin’s Conquest has a fair amount to offer. Apart from a new faction usable in the game’s skirmish mode, there’s a rather large new campaign that goes with it. We haven’t covered Legacy in a while now, so it is worth noting that two other free campaigns have been added as well since release. If you’re on the fence and haven’t played in a while, I’d therefore suggest you give those a whirl to see if the game still interests you.
The campaign offered in Saladin’s Conquest focuses upon (curiously enough), the later campaigns of Saladin. We go from Saladin’s victory at Hattin to his capture of Jerusalem. It starts off properly too – instead of making us wait and giving us a set of scenarios that put the “endless” in endless build up, we’re dropped into the fun right from the start. The very first scenario deals with the battle of Hattin. Dare I say it, I’ve yet to encounter a better portrayal of a battle in a traditional real time strategy game.
It used to be, in the dark past, that RTS campaigns really began to show their limitations when they tried to depict some epic encounter. Usually what would happen is that the commander would order you to gather X number of resources, you’d watch your workers dig things up for half an hour and then the battle would commence with your meagre force tagging along whilst the AI battled it out. It was all decidedly meh. Not so here. First, we begin with a caravan - that the crusaders massacre, then we meet Saladin, massacring Christian pilgrims in retaliation, then we hear the crusaders are on the march and their soldiers are tougher – with scary knights. Time to get rid of all the water sources in the area. Once that’s sorted out, it’s time to harass their arriving army with horse archers so that they are forced to camp overnight – just as planned. Whilst they are either sleeping, patrolling or deserting, time now set all their tents on fire. Finally, with the crusaders exhausted, out of water and bleeding men, battle is joined. All in the space of fifty minutes with no loading screens. Escalation, skirmishes and full battle in one tidy package.
Such a high is hard for subsequent missions to follow. It’s then that the campaign starts entering obvious tutorial territory, with the subsequent scenarios focusing upon the uses of the new special units that are what set the Saracens apart from the other factions. Now – to be fair – the Hattin scenario was a similar exercise. It’s just that, as it showed you the difference between Saracen medium cavalry and horse archers, it fitted well with the storytelling. Not so these subsequent scenarios – the façade began to fall then.
Another gripe is the handling of certain actions within the game. I’ll admit to having been spoiled by many games that feature some form of (admittedly - generally false) choice. Here we’re given a task and we do it – no ifs or buts. I wouldn’t mind so much, but some of the objectives (such as attacking Christian pilgrims for the attacks upon Muslim caravans) can leave one wondering about whether one is the bad guy. Saladin, narrating the campaign, is careful to justify it and, in the time and place one can understand, but it still left a bad taste in my mouth. I realise that I probably shouldn’t be in the business of Holy War. As a non-specialist in the period, it’s hard for me to assess the veracity of the claims Saladin is making. Nevertheless, a quick scroll through Wikipedia seems to broadly support the game’s version of events and we’ll leave it at that.
On that note, we return to that disclaimer at the start. It’s funny what that does to you. I was very afraid about what sort of mess I might have to write upon – particularly when this is the same game studio that did the (rather well covered) Hatred a while back. Throughout my playtime, I was constantly on the lookout for things that could get certain people’s knickers in a twist.
Undoubtedly the crusaders are presented as the villains – but that makes sense from the story’s perspective (and indeed from my own understanding of the period – as far as that goes). Apart from that, there is also much shouting of “infidel” and the crusaders are constantly calling their enemies devils – I would too if my enemies cut off my water supply. All that feels right for the period once again. In my book - from the outset you’ll have to go in looking for trouble for it to appear, otherwise I think this stuff is relatively innocuous – even in today’s rather “interesting” political climate.
So there we have it, a solid DLC for a solid game. The DLC promises six hours-ish of gameplay, and my experience matches that comfortably. If you’re a multiplayer gamer, I’d probably pass, but that’s not the fault of the DLC. If you are looking for a decent story, reminiscent of the good old days of narrative campaigns in the style of Age of Empires II, I think it’s worth your time – just try not to think too deeply – lest you begin to spot some gaps.