My four-strong party surrounds an enemy character from all sides. One character throws a rock, another a dagger, my third one stabs him in the back and triggers a cascading effect that takes this cultist down. The other three are well-positioned to gang up on at least one of my own party members. But good use of my abilities and some healing will probably get me through this battle.
Black Legend is a party role-playing game with turn-based combat. Warcave handles both the development and the publishing of the title. I played it on the PC via Steam but it is also offered on home consoles from Microsoft and Sony and the Nintendo Switch.
The game has all the elements of its genre. Gamers manage a party of four, with armor, weapons, and accessories that can be equipped. Enemies come in groups and initiative is used to create a battle order. Players have to deal with a relatively tight action economy, attacking about once per turn and positioning to get as little damage as possible. There’s healing, only in combat, and complex paths to move around a city that lead to objectives, vendors, and conversations.
The tactical combat has one innovative idea but otherwise sticks to familiar concepts. Each character occupies one square and has both movement and action points. The player can use these to choose the best position to get to, attack, use items, or set status effects. Flanking and backstabbing attacks are preferred. Healing is crucial as the number of enemies increases. And humors are the best way to deal with powerful opponents.
The system is based around the view, developed by Hippocrates, that four substances govern the functioning of the body: blood, phlegm, yellow and black bile. In the game, the player can use his characters to stack humors on enemies, affecting their rubedo, albedo, nigredo, or citrinitas. Then a normal attack can catalyze these unbalanced humors, dealing big damage and disabling foes. Enemies can do the same to the player, adding another layer to a familiar tactical puzzle.
The game also adds a wrinkle to progression, by allowing a character to switch classes at will. One can learn passive skills by using them, then switch and build an entirely new hybrid character, based on the needs of the party and the tactical situation.
The story of Black Legend is built around Grant, a free city that’s not full of cultists. The player leads mercenaries who have a chance to redeem themselves after a war and there’s plenty of supernatural elements to deal with. The concept and the execution aim for something like Bloodborne, something in very overt ways. But the world itself never manages to be very interesting and the writing is functional and nothing more.
The fact that the setting is uninteresting means that the new mechanics are wasted. After a few battles and a few cool moments, I had nothing to push me forward. The fact that combat is slow and that moving around the city is confusing did not help keep my interest level up.
Black Legend is the kind of game where people tend to float when they should be walking. Some might say the graphics would look 5 years old a few years ago. A small development team should have been a little less ambitious in the presentation department, especially given how hard it makes to enjoy the tactics.
Grant looks like a very generic European-style medieval city, with little in the way of personality. The characters would be at home in a low-budget period drama. The amount of gray that can be on screen at times can be overwhelming. The soundtrack is dark and moody, suited to the story that’s being told but so repetitive that it begins to grate. The voice acting and the rest of the sound design are also unimpressive.
- Combat system
- Class concept
- Historical inspiration
- Graphics quality
- Story appeal
- Slow action
The story does little to appeal, although the setting has some potential. The presentation is bad. The city is filled with tropes and no surprises. The development team has a good grasp on mechanics and that will keep die-hard fans of the genre playing for a while. But to reach a wider audience they need to improve all other areas of a future release because Black Legend seems impossible to redeem.