Definitely not the holy grail.
As a fan of all things fantastical and hack-n-slash, I approached Midway’s Legion:
The Legend of Excalibur like a starving man approaches a big, juicy burger.
I was ready to sink my teeth in. But upon biting down, my senses were greeted
not by a melange of intermingling flavors so much as turkey and cheese.
The story of Legion is confusing and a little disappointing. The back-story
to the legend of Excalibur is introduced in a quaint, storybook-style in the
DVD extras. You take on the role of King Arthur or another member of the Round
Table in an effort to stop the forces of the evil Morgan Le Fay. Then the game
starts, and there are lots of fireballs, everyone dies, and all of a sudden
you’re this huge knight and you have to kill everything. So right from the get-go,
Legion dispenses with storytelling and goes straight for the jugular.
would be fine if the gameplay were fast, ferocious and fun. But other than one
combo which takes about a half an hour to perfect, the gameplay is just really,
One thing that is nice about Legion is the ease with which you can
command your other troops. In any given level, you can have three sidekicks.
Each one is relegated to an R or L button. By double-tapping a sidekick’s button,
you can play as that sidekick. Press the button once and you can tell them to
attack, stand their ground, or guard. Very nicely done. With this system you
can switch between battles on different parts of the map, effectively X-comboing
enemies to death in several places at once.
The melee fighters have two kinds of attacks. The first is a weak, normal
attack, and the other is a stamina-sucking, damages-every-enemy-around kind
of attack. The latter would be useful except that you can only use it twice
every five minutes.
But that’s where the combo system comes in. At the end of each swing of every normal attack your character’s weapon will glisten. Pressing ‘X’ at this moment will cause your character to swing again, pressing ‘X’ at the end of this swing will result in yet another, and if you manage to hit ‘X’ yet again you’ll execute your special attack at no cost to your stamina. Plus, the final attack in the combo knocks all enemies back from you. With a little timing you can hit enemies with only the last attack in the combo all the time.
Unfortunately, all characters use this combo. The Lady Gwenevere attacks with
a bow and has no combos, but she’s useless except as a supporting character
anyway. Merlin has some nice offensive spells, but can’t actually engage in
combat without being destroyed. Legion comes up far short of any respectable
mark in terms of gameplay balance and depth, and is a little too repetitive
to be worth playing for more than a couple hours.
But the problems don’t stop there. The missions are repetitive as well, usually calling on you to 1.) Arrive at a village, 2) Protect the mayor, and 3) Kill the boss. All this is done easily thanks to your trusty combos and sidekicks, but putting one level after another of the exact same constitution seems unbelievably lazy on the part of the developers.
I also take issue with the second level, which is reeeaaally hard unless you
pull off a trick that makes no sense. In the beginning of the level you’re given
the ‘Summon Dragon’ spell by Merlin. After he takes off, about ten huge, heavily
armored enemies show up who are beatable but not within the time limit (which
you don’t know about until time runs out). These guys will chase you over the
entire level kicking your ass…unless you figure out that if you run over this
one bridge and then stop as soon as you get off it (this part is essential,
because if you keep running they’ll keep pursuing), they’ll all stand there
on the bridge, which is flammable. If you managed to set fire to the bridge
with the Summon Dragon spell while you were on it, it will eventually burn down
with them on it.
why do they stand on the flaming bridge? Why don’t they pursue? Was this on
purpose? It must have been, as the Dragon Summoning spell is too crappy to be
of any other use. But the device by which you must beat the level isn’t intuitive
enough, and is a great example of somewhat shoddy craftsmanship, much like putting
several identical levels back to back.
And just to pile one more gripe on top of all the rest, saving can only be done between missions. Argh.
While the graphics are decent, they’re certainly nothing special. In some levels there is only one enemy model (barbarians, anyone?). The worst part is getting stuck. Even though all the terrain looks the same, lots of it isn’t possible to traverse. Stray off the beaten path and you may never stray back, even after wiggling the analog stick and cursing for a half-hour.
The sound is nothing outstanding. There’s only one sound byte for enemy screams,
and it’s female, so whenever you kill a big male enemy he screams like a girl.
The voice-acting is even worse. King Arthur is this peevish pushover, while
Gwenevere is a foolish bossy type. The dialogue is like something out of a Peanuts
strip, while the look is straight out of Krull. This irreconcilable clash of
character elements leads to a strange game.
If you’re looking for an easy hack-n-slash to play in between servings of
some better, more robust game, then Legion: The Legend of Excalibur might
not be a bad rental. Otherwise, I’d leave this sword in its stone.