Review – Ancestors Legacy (Switch)

I really did want to enjoy this game. When it originally released for PC, I was less than impressed with how this greatly hyped RTS turned out. Still, PC has a lot of competition in this genre, and it’s hard for newcomers to go up against established titles like Total WarThe Switch has no such issue however, so I really wanted to give the first proper RTS on the console a real chance. If Baldur’s Gate could end up one of the best console ports I’ve ever seen, there was no reason this couldn’t succeed too. As it turns out, I was half right. Ancestors Legacy for Switch is quite a phenomenal port job, but those core issues I had with the PC version are just as irritating here.

Sacrifices had to be made. It looks better in motion sure, but not by much.

RTS’ have three core mechanics: combat, base construction, and resource management. Ancestors Legacy is no different, even if it’s implementation of said mechanics is. For instance, base construction is automatically done. While you choose the buildings you want constructed, the game automatically finds a location for you. On PC this was just annoying, but it actually works well on the Switch. You might lose that strategic element of base construction, but it would be more trouble then it’s worth with a controller. Auto-construction is faster, more stable, and keeps you in the game. In fact, this is the game’s best implemented core mechanic in my opinion.

You choose a building in the wheel, and then construction starts. Simple.

However, resource management did not fair quite as well. It feels like a background element to the whole game, and is very MOBAesque in the way it generates over time. You increase how much you gain over time by constructing buildings and capturing villages, but it’s always as an aside. There was never a point where I felt like I was running out or inconvenienced by my resource generation. There was always just enough, or it was generating fast enough that I didn’t have to wait long. In all fairness, there’s a lot of people who probably prefer this. However, I think that if you’re going to have a system, you need to make it worthwhile. This game would have worked fine with just timers and building unit limits, much like Total War does.

Blasphemer Punishing Simulator 2020

Combat is the game’s biggest failure, in my opinion. From the outside, it looks like standard RTS combat, and for the most part it is. There’s one major change here though, and it’s called forced engagement. Basically, whenever a unit engages another unit they are locked together until only one remains. And much like Pillars of Eternity, which featured the same mechanic, it slows combat down to a crawl. There are few occasions where a game removing control from the player is a good idea, and almost none in an RTS. Imagine if in Total War, after you lined up and executed the perfect cavalry charge, the game then locked those units with their targets. It would make those unit types useless, as they’re basically just soft infantry with a one-use charge attack. Welcome to Ancestors Legacy’s unit meta.

Buildings are slowly destroyed visually rather then simply vanishing when their HP is gone. It’s ugly, but also kinda cool in action.

That’s not even the most egregious use of this mechanic though. Imagine, setting up the perfect line of archers to rain down hell on approaching infantry. Then when their front line engages with yours, you tell your archers to stop firing in order to avoid friendly fire. Or at least, change targets to focus on unengaged units. Except you can’t. Instead you have two choices: either take the friendly fire deaths or hit the Retreat button. Every unit has this option, but while it says retreat it’s really a self-rout button. You hit it and the chosen unit will be removed from your control for a short time (notice a pattern?) and run back to your base taking up precious time. Thus, it’s often better for them to just mince your own infantry in order to take out theirs. Or, just don’t use archers. Really, it’s such a varied meta.

The menu designs are really cool and each faction has their own distinctly different design.

There’s four factions, although differences are relatively minor. There’s the Vikings, the Germans, the Anglo-Saxons, and the Slavs. Each has their own set of units and tech upgrades, but they are all very similar. Especially since you’re going to be focusing on infantry units, which puts the calvalry focused Germans at a distinct disadvantage. None of this is really a problem though, as historical RTS’ have always had this kind of issue. Still in the age of Total War: Warhammer and Age of Wonders: Planetfall, it really makes you wonder if something more could be done. Each faction also has two campaigns each focused on a different commander, and it’s the game’s strongest point.

This game even supports the Switch’s touch-screen, and has the full PC UI. You’ll never use it, but it’s nice that it’s there.

Again, I really wanted to enjoy the game this time. I love my Switch, and games like Civilization VI have adapted so well for the portable console. Strategy games are among my favorite genres, and a portable RTS done well is the dream. Ancestors Legacy even comes close, and proves that it is possible for a console RTS to be playable. What holds it back are core gameplay decisions. Pre-determined base construction may no longer be an issue here, but the irrelevant resources and control removing combat is. Now, this will definitely bother some people more then others for sure. For some, the resource system is exactly what they’ve been looking for. Combat though, and especially the way it hamstrings the entire game’s meta, is just a death sentence. Even if you admire its novelty, long term there’s just more positives then negatives sadly. It could have been more.

Graphics: 5.0

It is not a pretty game, but the consistent FPS no matter how busy the game gets is worth the trade-off in my opinion.

Gameplay: 4.0

Forced engagement kills all the momentum of an RTS in my opinion. Barebones base-building and resource management can be worked with, but core combat choices can’t.

Sound: 9.0

Voice-acting is solid and the soundtrack gets you in the appropriate mood.

Fun Factor: 5.0

There’s a variety of campaigns split amongst the four overly similar factions, but mission variety is an issue. Skirmish can be fun, but it’s solo only. There’s fun to be had here for some, but only in short bursts.

Final Verdict: 5.0

Ancestors Legacy is available now on PC, Xbox One, PS4, and Nintendo Switch.

A copy of Ancestors Legacy was provided by the publisher.