Vikings’ have well-documented violent predilections, and a love of imposing that on unsuspecting societies. Given that the gaming industry thrives on violent and bloody gameplay, it’s curious to have such a dearth of quality games based on Vikings and their lore. This is what I was hoping to find in Ancestors Legacy.
Ancestors Legacy was initially sold as an authentic representation of medieval European history and the bloody battles therein. That is not quite true… The battles are bloody, for sure. Even with my limited knowledge of medieval history, I remain confident that Vikings were not quite mindless berserkers constantly roaring to the halls of Valhalla in a blood-fuelled rage.
The game is similar to RTS classic, Company of Heroes. You generate small units from a main base and, as you explore interesting maps, you conquer smaller settlements. These in turn, contribute resources to your war efforts. Repeat… This perhaps seems somewhat limited, but the variation in campaign missions circumvents the feeling of groundhog day
The combat is squad-based, and somehow feels like a merger of XCOM and Company of Heroes, though definitely leaning more into the latter. Each unit consists of around 10 soldiers, independently controlled, allowing you to flank opposing forces. These units can be upgraded, and each unit type has its own upgrade perks. Perhaps that the squads are smaller helps replicate the sense of intimacy present in XCOM that’s absent from games such as Civilisation and Age of Empires.
The battles unfold as a function of the relative strengths and weaknesses of each faction, as well as their special characteristics. For example, the Vikings are a race that should be played with aggression. This is due to their strength and speed. They also generate units faster than other factions, meaning your soldiers are more disposable. They are vulnerable to archers and cavalry, and that’ s where the Germans and Anglo-Saxons come in. The Germans have a strong cavalry, which can be countered by the Slav archers. As you can see, the gameplay is a little Rock-Paper-Scissors, but it keeps the game interesting.
However, as I played, it become apparent that the strengths of your enemies can be countered by increasing your numbers. This was most easily executed while controlling the Vikings, as unit generation speed was enough to counter some particularly challenging scenarios. This undermines the core mechanics of the game, and was something I discovered quite early. Hopefully this is re-balanced in later DLC or updates.
A strong point of the game is that the layout of the maps needs to be considered when deciding your tactical manoeuvres. For example, using a defensive strategy in narrow passages will often lead to success, while flanking enemies will often lead to a successful encounter in more open areas. There are other environmental quirks. You can hide in shrubbery and mount an ambush, or employ spike traps, for instance. Likewise, you need to consider using siege weapons for well fortified settlements. These are nice inclusions that do bring novelty to your battles. The importance of environment can’t be overstated, but knowledge of strengths and weaknesses will likely be instrumental in determining success or failure.
A major drawback is the limited control you have over units during battle. This places greater emphasis on initial decisions and developing an understanding of the maps, rather than your strategic adaptability. If you make poor initial decisions, then the battles are often not recoverable. It leads to the feeling that the outcome of your battle is more dependent on guessing enemy formation than your ability to adapt. That felt like a shallow experience and hampered my enjoyment.
There are six campaigns, each containing five missions. The campaigns are quite varied, encompassing massive battles, conquer maps and some surprisingly well-developed stealth missions. Not only that, you’ll be acting as noted historical figures, such as Ulf Ironbeard, Edward the Confessor and Mieszeko.
The campaign is around 30h and the missions are generally fun varied enough to avoid repetition. The stories are interesting and well presented, but developing user competency is ultimately the goal of an RTS campaign. The campaign is varied and difficult enough that, by the end, I definitely felt comfortable with the mechanics
Graphics & Performance
Graphically, the game is very pretty. The action, when zoomed in, is very visceral and definitely feels more intimate in a way that most other RTS games. The textures are also high quality and the maps are very detailed. The character models and animations are also excellent, with each faction looking sufficiently distinct. I haven’t played many RTS in recent years, but unit homogeneity was always a frustration of mine, so it’s nice to have variation in the ranks.
The presentation is excellent, particularly the zoom feature which allows you to remove the UI to appreciate some wonderfully cinematic combat. However, the user interface is too busy and the text too small. This led to some difficulty in keeping up with what’s happening as a result. I didn’t notice any means of increasing text size either. Without trying to stir the “artistic direction” pot, this is a failure of basic accessibility options.
Performance was excellent on my i7 6800K, paired with a GTX 1070 and 16GB DDR4 Ram and installed on a Sata SSD. I actually can’t think of a single instance of notable frame drops. This remained true as I zoomed in and out of action the action to test stability. The game ticked all the performance boxes.
Overall, Ancestors is a solid experience, but it doesn’t really do anything to break the mould and push the genre in a new direction. The campaigns are fun, including some interesting set piece battles. The aesthetic is nice, and is graphically sound and performed admirably on my setup. While there are better examples of the RTS genre, namely the Total War series, I think this might be a little bit more accessible to people new to the genre.
A Solid RTS Entry But Doesn't Break Any New Ground
- Overall - 6.5/106.5/10
A solid experience, but doesn't drive the genre forward
+ Good use of environment
+ Visually stunning
+ Great Performance
– Tactics not particularly useful once units have engaged in combat
– Outcome of battles feels a bit RNG
– UI is a bit cluttered and text too small
– Most faction strengths can be combated by generating greater number of units