Real time strategy doesn’t get a lot of love on consoles. In fact, other than Halo Wars 2 it’s a struggle to name an RTS on current generation consoles. Polish studio Destructive Creations are aiming to tap into that market by porting their Steam hit Ancestors Legacy to PS4 and Xbox One. The game originally launched to solid reviews and even a few awards, so has it got what it takes to make an impact on consoles?
Ancestors Legacy definitely leans into classic RTS games. Battles, base-building and resource gathering are all present, but so are some limitations compared to the classics. But the game is more reminiscent of Dawn of War and Company of Heroes than Starcraft and Command and Conquer. Buildings can only be placed at predetermined locations, and you’re limited in the number of units you can create. Resources must be captured and protected, rather than just collected. In order to succeed you’ll need a combination of planning and quick thinking.
The single-player campaigns take you on a tour of pivotal moments from the middle ages, beginning with a tutorial campaign covering the Viking raid of Lindisfarne Abbey in 793. Other campaigns put you in control of Anglo-Saxons, Holy Roman Empire, or Slavs, and there is plenty of content here, with two campaigns for each faction. Paid DLC featuring the Saracens has been released on Steam, and will presumably also come to console. The campaigns feature a good range of different mission types, from pitched battles, to sieges, to stealth. Some of them will include base-building or fortifying villages, and others will provide you with a set number of units for the duration. This variety means that the campaigns avoid becoming too repetitive, and the game keeps you guessing about what’s coming next.
Skirmish modes against the computer and online play are also available. Online battles are playable for up to six people, and take the form of a straight-forward destroy everyone mode, or a scenario where you have to capture and keep control of more villages than your opponents. Unfortunately, pre-release I was unable to gauge wait times on multiplayer match-ups, but this might be a problem given that crossplay with PC is not available on either the PS4 or Xbox One.
The moment to moment gameplay is often fast-paced, and this is both a blessing and a curse. Basic infantry units axemen, shieldbearers and spearmen have a triangular rock-paper-scissors relationship, but the speed of the game means it’s virtually impossible to manoeuvre your units, so taking advantage of this is almost always down to luck. On the other hand, cavalry and ranged units do aid a more tactical approach, and the four different factions have specialised troops that will also impact your strategies. The Teutons for example can perform a devastating charge with heavy cavalry, whereas the Slavic mounted bowmen are more adept at hit-and-run tactics. Smart usage and quick thinking with these units can definitely turn the tide of a battle, and it’s these highlights that you’ll remember after you’ve finished playing.
There is no mistaking that this is from a European developer, and the visuals are reminiscent of Kingdom Come: Deliverance and, occasionally, Witcher 3. The look of the game is definitely a big plus, providing an atmospheric backdrop to the serious business of killing people. The cutscenes establish the tone brilliantly, and the ability to zoom into the action mid-battle adds a further cinematic quality to the proceedings. The voice acting is laughably over the top in places: it’s quite amusing for you to be told you need to subtly kill some guards, only for your viking warriors to scream and cheer as they do so.
Sadly, the game does little to alleviate the main reason why RTS games don’t often appear on console: the controller. They have attempted to make things easier through a welcome array of hotkeys, but it’s just not user friendly to react in the heat of battle with a controller rather than a mouse. There is no word on whether keyboard and mouse are supported on console, but given that the control scheme is already well established on PC this seems likely. I’d definitely recommend playing with a mouse if you have the option.
Other than the control issue PS4 port generally seems to be a solid one. Graphical updates for the Pro and One X mean the game looks great, and frame rate never drops at any point. I did have a few minor issues, such as the image not fitting correctly on my screen, resulting in text being lost. There was no option to alter the image size in-game, and altering my PS4’s settings made no difference either. Fiddling with the TV settings did fix things, so I don’t know whether this was something to do with my TV rather than the game, but it’s not a problem I’ve ever had before. Another minor quibble is that the text size is pretty small, and, given that you are likely to be sitting further away than if you were playing on PC, this can make things hard to read. Text size is adjustable in the menu, but even at its largest it was quite a strain. Hopefully both these issues can be easily patched.
Ancestors Legacy is a strong addition to the RTS genre, with fun gameplay, great visuals, and plenty of content and variety. I’d not hesitate to recommend it to anyone who is an RTS fan. I do however question whether console is the right place for a game of this sort, even assuming the little teething problems are fixed. If you’re happy playing RTS games with a controller, then go for it. Otherwise I’d recommend keyboard and mouse, or playing on PC.
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*