It’s raining. Cold. You look for a sheepskin throw to warm your tired body, but then the ground begins to shake with the distant thudding of horse’s hooves, the air filling with the sound of faraway shouting as berserkers sprint as quickly as they can muster in their heavy chain link armour. Time to pick up the spear in the corner of your tent, and prepare for the oncoming onslaught.
No, this isn’t describing your work’s medieval-themed night out in Blackpool; what I’m actually referring to is a new title from Polish developers Destructive Creations, whose previous works include two positively-rated titles in Hated and IS Defence. Their new creation, Ancestors Legacy, is an RTS based in the Middle Ages of Europe. It brings with it a single player campaign, taking you through real events throughout history, and also multiplayer for those who wish to put their tactical skills to the test against the world.
On February 6th, Destructive Creations released an open beta onto the PC platform Steam, giving us a brief play-test of some of the multiplayer components. Three maps have been provided, one for each player size; 1v1, 2v2 and 3v3. There’s a good variety here, with the larger map, Autumn Rise, having a central location surrounded by water, leaving bridges as the only way to cross to the surrounding isles.
Powered by Unreal Engine 4, Ancestors Legacy looks great, made even better by a dynamically changing weather system, accompanied by day and night cycles. At night time, your troops have a lower field of view, which can be improved by giving them torches. But say goodnight to your element of surprise if you do this, however, as it will make you much more visible to the opponent.
If you’re familiar with Age of Empires, you will recognise many of the features here, except in Ancestors Legacy, it doesn’t feel as detailed. You start off with a single unit, the exact type of which changes depending on your nation: Viking, Anglo-Saxon, German and Slav are the available four. In this base, you also have a Town Hall, finished off with a few Shooting Towers guarding your perimeter. These will fire at enemy targets, but don’t bet on them being able to wipe out any oncoming force on their own.
From this starting point, you will need to construct a Barracks to give you the ability to recruit some foot soldiers; an Archery Range for, you guessed it, archers; and a Blacksmith to provide technological improvements to your nation. There’s also a Well you can construct so your villagers have water to throw on burning buildings, along with a Place of Worship that provides temporary “buffs” to your nation (I’m assuming that’s a morale boost).
When you go to create new soldiers, you get a whole squad of them, and to be able to do this you need enough resources and houses. In Domination - one of two multiplayer modes available in the beta - the aim is to capture outlying villages. The more you hold, the more points you “steal” from your opposing team. Take them to zero, or wipe out their bases completely, and you win the game. Capturing these outlying villages gives you access to more resources, so you’re not strapped for wood and food after building a couple of houses and creating two squads of Spear Raiders. Annihilation is the other mode available, which is more traditional in that victory is determined by destroying your enemies’ settlements.
There are a lot of variables that affect how strong your own army will be. Of course, you have the aforementioned upgrades from the Blacksmith, but Destructive Creations have also added a Squad Status function, with modifiers such as increased morale or extra health. Your units can be upgraded once they have fought hard, and defeated enemies. You can only hold 10 individual squads at a time, so keeping them alive is of utmost importance. Losing an entire squad after spending time upgrading them is a real kick in the teeth.
All in, this is a game with real promise. If you are to draw comparisons with something like Age of Empires, however, you are bound to be left wanting slightly more. When assigning villagers to tasks, Ancestors Legacy will automatically assign a number of them to go and fulfil what you are asking. Soldiers are created in groups rather than individually. This creates a much faster paced game. You’re not worrying about where you should place buildings or creating enough villagers, instead you’re focusing on building and strengthening your army to capture important points on the map.
To this end, it is very enjoyable. The games I have played online have been entertaining, and it’s always interesting to see how other players try and outsmart you. And, for a game that’s 5 months off being released, performance on PC is excellent; I have experienced no frame drops or freezing on my 1080 Ti and AMD 1800X.
It would be wrong to make a final judgement on this game based on its current state as a beta, but for RTS fans you should definitely add Ancestors Legacy to your calendar. It releases on May 22nd, 2018, for PC and Xbox One.