The tremendous success of Plants vs Zombies has led to an almost inevitable flood of copycat titles, but as is often the case, none of these games has truly managed to oust the classic undead-slaying romp.
Legendary Wars fares better than most with sweeping scope and scale, but its ambitious nature ends up being its undoing.
Set in the uncommonly peaceful Sun Kingdom – a region so tranquil that the resident knights have forgotten how to fight - the game charts the ominous rise of evil following the unexpected eruption of a malevolent volcano.
The normally docile denizens are forced to take up arms to defend against all manner of beastly foes, providing an ideal excuse for several levels of real-time strategy and resource management gameplay.
Fog of war
The battlefield is divided into three lanes. You can place your units on one of these lanes and when an opponent draws near your units automatically attack. It’s possible to select individual soldiers and reposition them to ensure you’re fully covered. You can even highlight a particular monster for them to engage.
Your range of troops consists of close-combat units and ranged troops. Naturally, using a mixture is essential. For example, your physically weak archers should always be defended by a row of burly, sword-wielding knights.
This supporting tactic allows you to sink a few projectiles into oncoming opponents to wear them down before your heroic knights finish them off.
Of course, recruiting soldiers requires currency, which can be generated by dwarf miners. They gleefully bound off into a cave that lies off the screen, periodically reappearing with shiny gems. Tapping this adds funds to your coffers, which can then be used to hire new units.
Between battles you can use the spoils of war to upgrade your unit types, bolstering their attack power, resilience to enemy blows, and other abilities. It’s also possible to improve the strength of your castle and obtain special items which further enhance the combat potential of your plucky warriors.
The upgrade paths available keep the game fresh and the addition of new units on later levels also adds longevity.
Combined with some seriously attractive visuals and a lighthearted storyline that amuses and engages in equal measure, you’d assume that Legendary Wars has got what it takes to successfully de-throne Plants vs Zombies. Unfortunately, it’s not an experience bereft of disappointment and frustration.
The biggest annoyance is the constant need to micro-manage your troop activities. Although you can issue basic commands – such as advance, fall back or stand your ground – to all of your soldiers, a truly effective strategy revolves around assigning individual instructions.
This takes time – something you often don’t have when the enemy is relentlessly bearing down on you. Unlike Plants vs Zombies, you can't just allow your units to remain stationary.
The objective is to destroy the enemy's castle, which means you have to tell them to advance at some point. When units start getting picked off, holes appear and that's when you notice enemies slipping through and bearing down on your fortress.
Troll and error
It’s up to you to select the soldier in question and transfer him to another of the three lanes – something that is a task in itself when the screen is clogged with friend and foe alike.
This causes frustration because lanes aren't clearly marked. The only time you see a line denoting the lane’s existence is when you tap it with your finger. Therefore, picking where to send your units is often an exercise in trial and error, as you can never be entirely sure you’ve tapped the right part of the battlefield.
The unnecessarily awkward manner in which you are expected to marshal your army is what prevents Legendary Wars from fulfilling its potential. The key ingredients are all there, but the execution isn't.