Legion of the Damned: Darn Good Hex-based Strategy

Posted: December 17, 2011 in Strategy

The iTunes store is full of turn-based strategy games, some that focus on content and playability, while others emphasize looks and design. Legion of the Damned fits nicely into the category of well-balanced, entertaining and just the right level of challenging gameplay. Ok, so there isn’t a category like that, but Legion should appeal to those who want both brains and beauty in their gaming experience.

Legion is based on a series of books by William C. Dietz about a world far off into the future. By the way, you can find his books in the iTunes store, and they’re worth a read. The Legion is a ragtag bunch of misfits, criminals and cyborgs that are the last line of defense for humanity against the Hudathans. The primary character is Angel Perez, a criminal sentenced to death who agrees to be resuscitated to fight as part of the Legion of the Damned.

If the story doesn’t get you interested in Legion, then the game itself should. With 3 difficulty levels to choose from (easy, normal and hard), Legion is a tactical game of warfare offering 2 primary modes: Campaign and Skirmish. Campaign is a 16-mission career mode that takes you through various challenging pre-built maps. Skirmish offers 10 prebuilt maps to choose from. In addition, there is an Online mode that allows for asynchronous play with up to 4 players.

The objective of Legion is fairly typical—capture more flags than your enemy within a certain number turns. Of course, the fun comes in dealing with dangerous snipers, stealthy soldiers and less than ideal field conditions. In Legion, you’ll face and also utilize a number of tactics from mine sweeping and shooting to spotting and indirect fire. You’ll be forced to learn and use any and all of these skills to successfully complete campaigns. And there’s plenty to learn. Of course, the devs provide a 10-stage tutorial covering Movement, Mine Sweeping, Shooting, Indirect Fire, Spotting, Cautious Move, and Guerilla Attacks. Also, an extensive Help section that covers:
• discusses rules of engagement
• battle units
• alliances
• field conditions such as fog of war
• offensive and defensive fire
• spot targets and stealth
• repair and health

The tutorial and help sections are among the best, and I wish other games would include this level of content to help newcomers get started.

One of the big selling points of Legion is the Map Builder where you can choose from different terrains to design your own battlefield. The straightforward interface allows you to choose from a variety of different terrains and environments. Through a few taps, you can build a custom map that can then be used in a multiplayer online game. Once created, a code is automatically generated that allows maps to be shared with others, which can then be used in Skirmish mode. I found the Map Builder extremely easy to use, simple enough for newbies and more than adequate for more experienced players. I do hope that the devs add other environments in future updates. Besides the online play, Legion has plenty of replay value that comes with the random map generator. You see a variety of randomly generated maps that should keep you busy.

Each campaign begins with a story overview, playing and most importantly, the objective. You’ll notice right away that the devs put a good deal of effort into the details that can be found from the hauntingly intense soundtrack and game music to the hand-drawn cut scenes that tell the story of the Legion. I know many like to play their own music, but you’ll want to leave the music on during gameplay. Combine this with the voiceovers and narration, and Legion really does a great gaming experience creating the right mood and ambience.

The AI in Legion is well balanced, and I would suggest playing in Normal or Hard mode to get the right level of challenge especially if you’re a familiar to turn-based strategy games. Enemies tend to be very proactive and in some cases overly aggressive which makes Legion worth its weight in gold. It’s always a balancing act when it comes to AI, but the devs seem to have gotten this one right.

Often, the HUD in a game can give the screen a cluttered feeling which hampers the gameplay. Not so in Legion. While nothing knew, the HUD in Legion is elegant in its utility. Action buttons appear in the bottom left corner while a flag scoreboard resides in the bottom middle of the screen. Moving around the screen is as simple as using your finger to scroll around the map.

One odd element is the devs incorporated a magnifying glass slider down the right side of the screen which is used to zoom in and out. Out of habit, I tend to use my fingers to pinch in order to resize the screen so the magnifier glass feels a little unnatural at first. Once you complete maneuvering your forces, the Done button in the upper right corner will flash. You have the option of watching the enemy move its forces or you can tap the skip function to bypass.

Another nice feature is the Replay function. After a mission ends, you can watch a replay of the entire mission which works well. What would be helpful is the inclusion of a fast forward button because as of right now, you either watch the replay at a slightly amped up normal speed or skip entirely.

One of the shortcomings is that Legion isn’t a universal app which means you’ll need to 2x your iPad screen. Even so, the graphics and animation look more than adequate on my iPad with no signs of stutter or lag. The devs have promised universal iPad support and retina display in a future update which will only make Legion that much better.

Overall, Legion of the Damned is a well-designed, well thought out turn-based game. With a compelling storyline and soundtrack, the game provides an entertaining yet mentally challenging game with plenty of replay value.

Albie Meter: 4.5 Stars (solid TBS with an engaging storyline; easy to use Map Builder along with the ability to share with others; replay value with random map generator; elegant interface and great soundtrack)

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