Legion Arena Preview
By Anthony R Brock

I had never even heard of this title before I was asked to preview it, and I have to say that often good things do come completely unexpectedly. In development by the tiny and unknown British team at Slitherine, this game already feels polished and ready for release. The only problem is, I can't figure out where the game itself is going. Let me explain...

The engine is great, the battles are fun with lots of enjoyable planning, stats, and useful strategy elements to involve yourself with, and the combat itself plays out a lot like Rome: Total War, albeit less deep or as realistic, but for the life of me I can't figure out what the point of it all is. There is no real “story mode” to speak of, no strategy overview, no empire to build, no 'bigger picture' at all. Just battles, and though the beta is online only, there is a single player aspect as well (which you have to be online to access, oddly enough) where you earn fame points and gather gold to make your army more famous and powerful. Now, does this cross over to the online ranking system? Do battles fought in the single player mode affect my online rank? If so, I see huge potential for future abuse, and ranking people for a single player game seems pointless. Now, to be fair, you can make your own battles using the built-in level editor, and then supposedly people can challenge you to those battles (you must set up your army you plan to fight on the map when you create it, and then when someone challenges you, you will fight using that army), but I really didn't see where, if anywhere, they were going with it. The few times I logged in I didn't see anyone online, and the top 10 spots in the ranking system are taken up by only 2 or 3 guys who have more than 1 army in the list. I'd be upbeat about how the game is going to evolve, but the last developer diary is all about new graphical effects and bells and whistles for the engine, not core gameplay features or multiplay options, and while the graphics engine is indeed nice, it's nothing we haven't seen before and better. Gameplay folks, it's all about gameplay!

I'm sure there is still plenty of time before release for this one, as I don't even think it's been picked up by any publisher yet, but from a technology and polish standpoint, it's just about ready now. Slitherine only needs to give the great ideas, engine, and battles a reason for their existence and they'll be all set. Legion Arena is definitely a title to watch.