Legions of Steel, published by Slitherine and developed by Studio Nyx, is a digital recreation of the tactical board game of the same name that was released originally in 1992 and borrows heavily from the more well-known Space Hulk. Having not played the original board game I cannot say how faithfully the recreation is, but I can say that Legions of Steel most certainly feels like a board game that was designed in 1992.
Legions of Steel gives players the option of playing the game in multiple different ways. There are two short campaigns on offer and skirmishes against the AI for the solo player, hot seat mode for local multiplayer and online, asynchronous multiplayer via what Slitherine calls its PBEM++ server. During my time with the game, through the week after Legions of Steel’s release, I was unable to get an online multiplayer game started, although the maps and game-play on offer online are the same as can be accessed in the other modes.
The first of the two campaigns is essentially a tutorial that walks players through various maps while giving instruction on how to properly use the Commandos, tactics and maneuvers available to them. Even though it is basically a structured tutorial, it does introduce the story behind the game and makes use of a rather neat semi-animated comic book format for cut-scenes.
The story from the tutorial campaign leads directly into the story of the main campaign and is presented in the same comic book style cut-scene fashion. Unfortunately, the story itself is very bare-bones, cliche and contains many phrases that were either poorly translated or needed to go through an editor. Evil space robots have invaded the galaxy and it is up to the surviving races to lead the counter assault and save the universe. The player is placed in command of a squad of elite Commandos who must infiltrate the machine’s underground base and eliminate them at the source.
Legion’s of Steel’s campaign does do a good job of varying the objectives from mission to mission and slowly increasing the tension and difficulty, by adding in fog of war, or Electronic Warfare as the game calls it, for instance, but the game’s mechanics themselves really limit the approach that players can take.
There are four different types of Commandos available, although, in practice, they end up feeling more similar than varied. The standard Trooper can shoot once or twice per round and carries two types of grenades. The grenades are a fairly standard area of effect explosive and a more unique Forcewall grenade that allows the player to erect temporary walls that must be fired upon and destroyed before they can be moved past. The Heavy Weapon troop doesn’t have grenades but can shoot two/four times per turn. The final two troop types, the Corporal and Sergeant, are essentially carbon copies of the Troopers but come with valuable Leadership points that can be used for extra movement, accuracy etc. The Corporal and Sergeant units also can be upgraded between campaign missions to gain very slight boosts to their stats and movement.
Dice control nearly everything in Legions of Steel, including a crucial initiative roll made at the beginning of each round. Often success or failure of an entire mission will come down to which side wins the initiative roll during critical points. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but when playing as the Commandos, the player has access to a limited pool of Leadership points that can be spent for various things, including affecting the initiative roll. It is beyond frustrating to spend the entire pool of Leadership points on a make-or-break initiative roll only lose the roll and end up forced to replay the entire mission from the beginning.
When playing in the skirmish and multiplayer modes, Legions of Steel gives the choice between playing either the Commandos or the Machines. This initially may seem like it gives the game more re-playability but the Machine units are even more limited than those on offer for the Commandos. The Machines have access to only two troop types, one basic Nightmare unit that is only slightly different from the Trooper, and Assault Fiend, which can attack multiple times but takes two hits to kill rather than the standard one hit.
Legions of Steel’s graphics, other than the well-drawn cut-scenes are serviceable and the music has a pleasant ambient-futuristic sound but is easily forgettable, while the game’s sound effects are minimal at best. There is an odd buzzer like sound that Legions of Steel uses whenever a shot is taken and missed that really stands out. This buzzer sound is grating and rather annoying and is heard time and again throughout game-play.
I did run into one bug multiple times while playing Legions of Steel that was quite annoying, although it did not make the game unplayable. On occasion the game would stop allowing me to select my units with left-click. Thankfully each time this happened I was still able to select the units with right click and then click on the various stances or attacks that I wanted to use, but it was annoying to have to contend with. This happened in about 1/3rd of the missions that I played, seemingly at random.
Ultimately, Legions of Steel is too basic to recommend unless you are new to tactics strategy gaming and are looking to get your feet wet or absolutely cannot get enough Space Hulk and are looking for something that switches up the formula slightly. The story is cliche, the presentation is serviceable at best and the game-play is just too bare bones to offer any real longevity.
The copy of Legions of Steel used for this review was provided by the publisher.
Legions of Steel is an average game that really doesn't have the legs to keep player interest for long. While good for die hard Space Hulk fans and those unfamiliar with tactical strategy games, experienced tactical strategy players may find the game too basic.