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Ancestors Legacy is a real-time strategy game that gives you the opportunity to control 4 different groups – Viking, Anglo-Saxon, German or Slav – and plunder, pillage and conquer your way through 30 history-inspired missions. Resource management and tactical nous is advertised as king, despite the game not helping much with the latter.
Missions mostly consist of capturing and defending bases by burning down a village’s main building to claim it as your own before moving onto the next one. Your main base allows you to create an army of up to 10 units for this purpose, which is quite small for all the grandeur espoused of its warfare, but with battles sometimes including 3 or more parties, it does manage to live up to its billing somewhat.
As someone who is relatively inexperienced with the genre, I was happy to be reintroduced to its mechanics via the tutorials the game’s clean and efficient user interface, only to realize that there wasn’t much left to impress after its first few missions with its unrewarding gameplay providing disappointing little control and strategic mechanisms to the player.
While each of the 4 groups has a different variety of units with different strengths and weaknesses, it seemingly makes little difference to the often mass hackathon battles that draw your units in and give no effective way to change your formation. This is especially frustrating when your units are left standing idle, stacked behind each other, as the only way to shift their position is to force them to retreat back to your base, cancel the order and then send them back to fight which is highly cumbersome and takes far too long. This deems most battles over before they begin, even in easy mode, and if the fog of war feature is enabled puts the success of entire missions down to luck. Unsurprisingly, this inflexibility also applies to the enemy AI who, when close to your base and on the verge of victory, will let your units retreat 2-3 meters away and reform your entire army. I, hardly the master of such games, was decimated by an enemy countless times because I didn’t think its AI would provide such an obvious affront of logic. Mowing down enemies with a few well-placed archer units or a pincer attack to blindside enemies with two separate groups is satisfying, but these strategies are soon overwhelmed by the inflexible battling system.
The developer Destructive Creations ran the gauntlet a little here as their previous title attracted a lot of negative press for excessive violence and shock advertising, and while you can still kill villagers for absolutely no reason, it’s mostly accidental due to its mindless and unintentionally suicidal villager AI.
This theme of poor implementation can be seen throughout, with its decent features squandering all the opportunities its potential affords and ultimately finds itself a spot on the Venn diagram of forgettable gaming experiences. A prime example of this is the action that can be viewed through a shaky close-up camera which shows its well-animated action cinematically, only for a bug to cause fighters to stare fixated offscreen as they are fighting, to swoop in and ruin the illusion.
Perhaps the best compliment I can give the game, albeit backhanded, is that Ancestors’ poor voice-acting and lack of any story-based tension – echoing that of a factual Sunday morning cartoon but with bloody visuals – forced me onto its free battle and multiplayer modes, only to discover that they are by far the best offering in the game, with a nice selection of maps and adjustable options that provide replay value and bring some enjoyment to the title.
Ancestors legacy makes historical accuracy the hill it wants to die on but refuses to build any depth with its narrative, segmenting it into ample missions with minimal context. In addition, its crisp graphics and efficient user interface belie a game that cuts your budding army general legs off at the knees with few strategic gameplay mechanisms and poor AI. Consequently, while fans of the genre may be able to find enjoyment in its multiplayer mode, I recommend those on the fence to look elsewhere for a more well-rounded experience.