Crossfire: Legion is an action-RTS (real time strategy) game that focuses on tactical combat with small armies. You can customise your roster, choosing which commander and units to bring for each of the three factions. The game tries to capture the “golden-age” of RTS by invoking a lot of the style and feel of the famed Command & Conquer series, while taking some inspiration from more modern titles.
The game is set in the CrossFire universe — which is an established free-to-play FPS (first-person shooter). It was developed by Blackbird Interactive, the team that created Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak and Hardspace: Shipbreaker — both very good games. I had high expectations when I booted up their latest creation.
It's hard to describe this game without starting by saying “It’s Command & Conquer but...” as it wears its inspiration like a badge of honour. Unfortunately it is beyond difficult to measure up to such an awesome, generation-defining series and be found anything but wanting. However, Crossfire: Legion does not fall at the first hurdle. The game is solid. It looks good, the unit designs are clear and readable, the technology tree makes sense, and the factions are distinct enough to have their own flavour. Upon initial inspection, everything looks great.
In the world of RTS there are two primary modes that matter for most of the audience — the story campaign and competitive play. One will get people invested into the game and universe, the latter will have them coming back for years after its release. Here, Crossfire: Legion begins to stumble.
The campaign, again, is solid. I only encountered one bug (a floating jet pack unit, very in-character) and there is a good amount of mission variety and objectives. The painterly 3D artstyle of the cutscenes (which has advanced since Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak) is welcome, as are the intel slices you gain after each mission. The problem it has is that it is not memorable, and the characters are pretty dull or outright generic, besides all being supermodels. This is worsened by its similarities to Command & Conquer, which embraced its campiness and has some of the most iconic characters we’ve ever seen in an RTS (or in any) game.
Putting the story and weirdly attractive characters aside for a moment, the game has three factions to choose from. Global Risk will be instantly recognisable as the generic, western-inspired faction (GDI and Allied Nations say hello), and bring some powerful but conventional options. Black List are “freedom fighters” who like to strap big guns to the back of trucks and have a plethora of sneaky options (uh, I’m seeing a pattern here). Finally, the most distinct faction is New Horizon, which has mechs, walkers, shields, and more advanced technology… with glowing swords (oh, come on! Not another one!).
You can see where I am struggling, the parallels between this game and the Command & Conquer games are so clear it's impossible not to compare — okay, fine. I won’t mention it again.
Sadly, Crossfire: Legion also falls when we get to the competitive multiplayer. Firstly, the mode is substantially different from the single-player, with the most obvious change being the sudden need to build buildings to increase your supply so you can build more units. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a RTS where a concept like “houses” (or whatever a game wants to call it) was introduced in multiplayer, but was totally absent in the campaign. You also now need to build your roster of units before you start a match, which could be extremely intimidating to anyone who is new to RTS titles and may not understand how some units and playstyles counter or synergise with each other.
Partly this seems to be what the developers are struggling with. Competitive play in RTS is always a pain to balance and now you’re giving players the opportunity to customise the roster of units they bring with them? So a player could easily just not bring a counter to something, or, they could just work out a rush strategy that will ruin all forms of competitive play. Given my limited time with the game I couldn’t explore this too deeply, but it is very concerning.
Having said this there are other options, playing with AI, a level editor, community made maps, a co-op mode. Crossfire: Legion feels like a feature complete game. Which is a breath of fresh air and I cannot praise the developer and publisher enough for this in the era of modern gaming that sees so many incomplete games hit shelves.
If you love Command & Conquer and want a little bit more of that flavour, after the drought the series has experienced (you can’t convince me to count C&C 4), this is worth checking out. But if you want to explore a new competitive RTS, it might be best to look elsewhere. A really solid game that is let down by forgettable characters and story, and a competitive mode that will be a nightmare to balance.
Crossfire: Legion (Reviewed on Windows)
This game is good, with a few negatives.
A really solid feature-complete action RTS title that brings back great memories of better games. You can have a lot of fun in the campaign and against the AI, but the experience is let down by a forgettable story, generic-feeling characters, and a nightmare of a competitive mode.