Black Legend: Beware the City of Grant

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So, I have to say, some of this is my own fault. I saw that Black Legend was set in the 17th century, after some kind of war, and that in order to get the king’s pardon you had to go free a town from something. That’s all I knew when I was offered a chance to review the game. Seemed fun!

But, well, this is all my fault. Because it has not been fun. It’s been a drag.

The story begins outside the gates of Grant. A continental European free city of some sort, that’s been closed off to the world. Not because of plague or something real, mind you, but by a mysterious fog that kills people. There’s also roving cultists, followers of Mephisto, who have an antidote for the fog but it involves some kind of blood sacrifice. But they aren’t vampires, just bad guys.

(Some of this I gleaned from the game itself, others I took from the materials provided in the media kit explaining the lore.)

And, I dunno, I thought I was jumping into something a bit different. A period piece game set in the 17th century could have been interesting; it was a weird time. A world on the cusp of something much different. The English Civil War at mid-century was a flash in the darkness of what was to come 100 years later. A king overthrown and his shoulders relieved from the weight of his head. But, anyway, I’m digressing because this isn’t about any of that. It’s about the town of Grant.

You are seeking a pardon from the king of whatever country you fought and lost against in some great war that’s never quite explained. If you free the city, you will get your freedom. Most likely, you’ll just die. I’ll never find out either way, because I did not have it in me to finish this game.

Once you get in the city and you’re quickly thrown into whatever it is that’s going on. 

The intro section gives you the basics of movement and viewing, feeds you a bit of lore, and then brings you to your first bit of combat. 

But before combat, you’re going to need a bunch of information about classes, so that you can understand what’s about to happen. So, there are three classes and you don’t actually have to pick one to run with the whole game, instead you can switch classes between combat to level up skills within that class while you fight. After levelling them up enough, some class-specific actions become universal and can be used while you equip other classes. There are also four humours that different abilities cause damage under. When you combine those types of attacks in some combinations they cause more damage, and when you cause them in others they cancel out. 

Or something like that. There’s a ton of information thrown at you all at once and then you’re just kind of left to it. At no point during the actual combat is this stuff laid out. You’re given it in dialogue from your early guide—whose name I never cared to learn—and then it’s repeated in a series of infoboxes you can quickly flip through, but that’s all before the combat. Something step-by-step might have made the learning curve bend more toward playability. Instead, you’re just left to it.

Then the combat itself begins. It’s turn-based, which isn’t my favourite, but can be fun and engaging. For example, the original two Fallouts still hold up, despite their age, and the combat system there works pretty well. Here it does not work so well. Or at least not to my tastes. You have move points, and action points, and you and your four-member party have to maneuver around from grid square to grid square looking to get behind your enemies to do the most damage.

Now, where did these three other mercenaries come from to help you out? I dunno, man, they were just hanging around. From the previous dialogue, I’d kind of assumed most other people were dead. 

But the worst part is, the extra members of your party just mean that there is more combat. More bad guys to take out, more turns to take, more tedium to endure.

Grind, and grind, and grind…

Even when a fight goes well, once I started to get the feel for the combat system, and the importance of moving behind enemies and varying my attacks, it can still take a whole eon just to defeat a pack of diseased dogs. 

The combat isn’t fun, it isn’t engaging, and it’s often kind of hard for what you’re doing. Should it really take me and my three companions multiple turns to dispatch a pack of wild dogs, or a trio of grunting cultists? In Black Legend, it does.

God forbid you run into a large pack of cultists, you’re going to have to fight them all at once, even if you’ve just been seen by one guy. Combat takes long enough, and everyone has enough move points, that the initial distance doesn’t matter because you’ll be swarmed pretty quickly.

The game does set an interesting mood, and the non-combat navigation isn’t too bad. But the dialogue is weird, the story is pretty meh, and I just couldn’t bring myself to like it. You’re thrown into what seems like it should be an epic story, and everything just lands flat. All the backstory is hinted at, or written about in supplementary materials of the publicly posted press kit, but the game itself doesn’t bring you into things.

Maybe with a more compelling opening, and a less confusing class and combat system, one that was better explained, I might have gotten into it. 

Black Legend is a game I very much wanted to like, but from the second I walked into Grant, I began to dislike it. The further I went, the less I enjoyed it, so that I didn’t end up going very far at all. It’s possible that things improve after you explore first three or four districts of the city, but I’ll never know. The game doesn’t bring enough up front to have drawn me to the centre of town.

At one point one character tells you that you’re a fool for coming to Grant. That by seeking a pardon and entering the city, you’ve exposed yourself to more hardship, pain, and suffering than you would have if you had instead accepted a death sentence.

That man was right. I never should have gone to Grant, I never should have played Black Legend.

Black Legend

Developper and publisher: Warcave

Platforms: Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4, Xbox One, Windows (reviewed on Windows / Steam)

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Robert Hiltz

Robert Hiltz is a freelance writer in Montreal. He likes long walks on the beach, hitting his apexs, and clean headshots at range.

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