Lionheart: Legacy Of The Crusader
28th Oct 2003 | 14:55
Richard the Lionheart, Shakespeare, Nostradamus, Leonardo da Vinci... that lot... they're all in here, lending historical ambience to a game that takes a reasonable stab at being true to the time period in which it takes place. However, historians of the time failed to record that way back in 1192, when Richard the Lionheart and Sultan Saladin were going at it for territorial control, one of Richard's advisors persuaded him to perform an ancient ritual that created a dimension rift called the Disjunction, which unleashed a whole army of goblins, trolls and other fantasy types upon the world.
Historians may have missed this momentous event, but Reflexive, creators of Lionheart, did not. Which, of course, means that you're tasked with taking on the aforementioned evil creatures from the Disjunction and stopping them getting their greedy mitts on a variety of holy relics.
It's all pretty standard fantasy fare, but with none other than Black Isle Studios lending their blessing to this game you would have thought something special was in store. At least that's the theory...
2D Or Not 2D?
That is the question, and in Lionheart's case the answer is unfortunately "2D", as it features a flat 2D isometric backdrop, restricted further by a maximum resolution of 800x600. The poor presentation suggests that the designers are stuck in the past. With the likes of Morrowind taking the RPG genre to new highs, Lionhead just looks dated, basic and unappealing.
Combat is no more convincing than the dated visuals, with a real-time combat system never making allowances for the often overwhelming number of enemies on screen, meaning that the mostly frantic battles are incredibly difficult to handle, especially early in the game. Combat can be paused and you can change weapons or spells, but you can't stack spells up, nor can you target enemies while the action's paused.
Further compounding the issue are the companions who can join your party. There's no way to give them orders outside of telling them to follow you or to stay behind, so how they behave in battle is left largely to chance. Also, there are several annoying crash bugs, although a patch should be out by the time you read this. Be sure to check the website for updates.
With so many things going against it already, Lionheart would appear to be facing an uphill struggle, however it's well equipped in several other areas.
From Here To Infinity
Lionheart is a strange amalgamation of Baldur's Gate II's quest-heavy approach and Fallout's open-ended skill system. However, while Lionheart has neither the slick and convincing interface of the Infinity Engine games, nor the complexity of the Fallout series, it works on other levels by marrying simplicity with well-presented quests and convincing dialogue. At the outset of the game, you're given a single character to control (you can make your own custom character too if you so choose), and introduced to your spirit guide which is your source of magic in the game.
The SPECIAL skill system first used in Fallout is used here too, giving you the same kind of flexibility of character customisation as in that legendary series. And while this system has been simplified for Lionheart, the skills and spells are very clearly presented, making leveling up and skill point allocation a joy to behold. The system falls somewhere between Fallout and Diablo, if you can imagine such a thing.
Lionheart's strongest point however is in the number and diversity of its quests. In the starting town of Barcelona, you'll instantly find a multitude of these, with much of the first half of the game being spent here. This also proves to be Lionheart's best part, since there is a distinct lack of quests later on when it turns into a combat-heavy dungeon romp in the lead-up to the finale.Ultimately, whether or not Lionheart proves to your liking will depend very much on your expectations.
In honesty, the Black Isle endorsement of Lionheart is probably the worst thing that could have happened to it as it's not nearly as deep or polished as the Black Isle classics. Despite this, it's still a fairly enjoyable game. If you can see past the dated presentation and the somewhat awkward and badly realised combat engine, you'll find Lionheart to be an undemanding and enjoyable experience. If, however, you insist on nothing but the best and you want another BGII or Planescape Torment, do yourself a favour and give this a miss.