Knights in shining armor, damsels in distress - who doesn't love a good medieval setting, right? Legends of Eisenwald takes place in a mythical, low magic medieval setting where you play a Legend, a main character who progresses through the storyline, picking up followers and mercenaries to assist them on their various quests and missions.
Almost as soon as starting the game I found an issue: When playing Legends, I found that your choice in Legend impacted your game in a devastating fashion, much more than I would have thought. Each character goes through the exact same story missions and has the opportunity to pick up the same followers and mercenaries to assist them, but because you have different abilities, it impacts your game in a profound fashion. For example, when playing as the archer, there were multiple fights in which I had to restart them four or five times in order to defeat my enemies. When I played with the fighter, I got through those previously difficult fights on the first try, no problem. It was almost like playing a completely different game, even though I had it set to the exact same difficulty. I couldn't believe how much of a difference it made for my party having swapped a fighter for an archer, and seeing how much of a struggle other players might have based on their initial choice when starting the game.
Combat itself wasn't too difficult to manage, fortunately. The turn based system was fairly easy to manage. You can see which character is going to have their turn next based on their initiative score and they can either attack or use a special ability which varies based on character type. When attacking, you can see the health of the enemies as well as how much damage your own attack will do, giving you a tactical advantage when planning each individual move in combat. And if you don't want to manage the entire fight yourself, there's one button you can press to do an auto fight and watch it play out or a quick fight that will automatically finish the fight and just show you the outcome. When you siege castles, you can even see how much damage will be done to your force and the defending force before deciding if you want to go forward with the siege. To top it off if you lose the fight you can actually choose whether to replay battle or reload a previous save which is a very nice feature. So the actual combat system in the game was actually handled pretty well and I liked it quite a bit.
However, once combat was over and done with, things got a little tricky. Characters that took damage needed to be healed, of course. You could do that by using healing potions, which could either be bought or given - rarely - as rewards for having completed quests. Or you could go to a location and pay for healing. This takes us to the money system in the game. You gain money by completing quests or by taking castles and locations and collecting money from them or by selling items you've picked up. You spend money every day by paying the mercenaries you've hired, buying better equipment and healing people after fights. As your troops and mercenaries level up, they start costing more money to keep day by day.
There's a finite amount of quests and locations to take over. In addition, when you take over a location, it can be retaken from you once you're gone by a marauding force. Sure, you can station people there to protect it but that's only if the location is big enough to support a force, such as in a castle. If it's a smaller location, like a village, you won't be able to station people there. I found that even when I tried to spend money to hire people to fortify my castles, they were still occasionally taken over. Not often, but it still tended to happen. Even if you manage to hold all of your locations, you have to physically travel to each of them on the map to collect your funds from them. That takes time away from you completing whatever other missions you're in the middle of doing, which also means that you're ticking away at the time until your mercenaries next pay day.
All of this wouldn't be quite so bad if traveling around the world of Eisenwald wasn't so prohibitive. Granted, it is a beautiful world to be in. The map is quite detailed: The trees blow in the breeze, you can see birds and their shadows flying around and the water is lovely. I even liked watching the little figures that represented the troops walking around on the world map. It was cool to watch my enemies walking around and to have to go run to them to start fights, or to have to go walk over to an ally to speak to them. A lot of effort was put into the design of the world itself, which made it very immersive.
However, traveling around this world couldn't be more obnoxious. You click your mouse where you want your character to go and they move. Sometimes they don't respond because you haven't found quite the right spot on the map. Or sometimes, if you're trying to make them go into a building and you don't quite click on the building the character will walk in front of it and you'll have to click on the building again in order to make them go inside. I've had my character want to talk to another person on the map and had to chase them down because I couldn't quite click on the icon for the person properly. In one quest, there's a rock slide and you have to click on the rocks to clear the obstruction. I can't tell you how long I clicked on the screen because I couldn't find the 'sweet' spot of the actual obstruction. It was incredibly obnoxious. And of course, you can't proceed until you find the right place to click on to maneuver yourself around the map.
Some of the quests were equally obnoxious. There was one quest that told me I had to find a way to proceed into a building safely, and the solution was to click on an empty space on the map. I thought I either had to click on the building itself or find an object to get into the building safely, which would have seemed like a logical way to proceed. Not to randomly approach the building and hope for the best. There are other quests in the game that give you the objective on how to proceed and then give very little information on how to find said objective. Many of the quests seem like they expect you to simply flail around until you figure it out somehow. And at least one quest in the game is timed and if you don't proceed forward almost perfectly, you will fail very early on. I had to restart and proceed in the exact correct order because the enemy AI wasn't cooperating and was making it literally impossibly for me to succeed.
Sometimes the information you need for the quest you're given is in a wall of text that another character tells you in a conversation, which is fine. Or would be fine if the game utilized the in game note system a little better. Because it's there, you would assume that it would actually give you a running commentary on what was said and the relevant comments. It gives you less than the bare minimum in a lot of cases. I found myself taking notes just so I could make sure to remember relevant conversation threads and so I could reference things that had been said about individuals. I didn't want to make a misstep on a quest based on not being able to access the notes or based on not having full notes to work off of. A conversation log would make all the difference here.
The story itself for the game was interesting. There was intrigue, backstabbing and a murder mystery to solve. All very good stuff that would make for a great game if it had supportive mechanics to back it up with. Unfortunately, Legends of Eisenwald burdened itself with some very clunky mission and gameplay mechanics that make the game very aggravating to play. It just stops being fun after a while. And as interested as I was in solving what was going on with the main character, there isn't a story in the world that's interesting enough to make me spend another five minutes clicking around on my screen trying to find the right spot to make a pixilated character walk forward because a developer couldn't be bothered to design the terrain and path finding in a more accessible manner - nor spend more time rushing around trying to come up with the cash to convince my mercs to stick around long enough to keep a viable army on my side long enough to survive through solving the mystery.