STAFF REVIEW of Black Legend (Xbox One)

Wednesday, March 24, 2021.
by Adam Dileva

Black Legend Box art For me to get hooked onto a game it generally either needs a really intriguing narrative or some addictive gameplay. Developers Warcave have attempted to do both with Black Legend, and while the overall plot is an interesting mystery to unravel, I quickly became hooked with its addictive turn based combat and unique class blending mechanics. I wasn’t really sure what to make of Black Legend from its initial trailers, but glad to have put the time into it that I have.

Set in the 17th century, the city of Grant is believed to have been cursed, as a thick and dangerous fog suddenly envelops as far as you can see within its walls. As it turns out, this deadly fog has actually been created by a mad alchemist and leader of a cult, Mephisto. This cult is killing anyone in their way and taking over the city, so you and a few mercenaries are tasked with doing everything possible to stop them and find a way to rid Grant of the deadly fog that enshrouds its streets. This fog not only hides cultist enemies in every corner but beasts as well. Few refugees remain within Grant’s walls but will give a helping hand, for something in return of course. The focus will be the main story, but there are a handful of sidequests to take on as well for those looking to experience more of Black Legend's lore.

Exploration is one half of Black Legend’s core gameplay. Here you’ll be wandering the streets of Grant in search of loot, survivors, enemies and other secrets. Exploration is slow paced, so you get to take in the brooding atmosphere within Grant’s walls. Even though the fog sets a grim and bland grey overall tone, the atmosphere of a desolate and dangerous city is conveyed with corpses being hung in the streets, streaks of blood and enemies roaming around nearly every corner.

Speaking of roaming, expect to get lost quite often. There’s no minimap, or map of any kind actually. This means you’re going to have to find the street signs placed at intersections and read the directions to each place to find the way to go. These sign posts will point you in the right general direction, but many gates and doors will be locked until you open it from the other side, which means a slight detour usually. There are a handful of districts, and within each one you explore there are a number of different named areas. While this isn’t too much of an issue, where it gets confusing is if you need to backtrack two or more districts, as none of the signs tell you how each district is connected or in what direction, so expect to be lost if you don’t have a great memory. I understand the lack of a map is intentional, but it’s also the source of almost of all my frustration with Black Legend as well.

A feature I really didn’t expect but appreciated was being able to customize the difficulty to cater however you want. Not only can you choose from Easy to Hard difficulty, but there’s a bunch of sliders as well, allowing for auto healing and resurrections after battles, experience point amounts and more. While I enjoyed the easier difficulty options, Normal seems to be that sweet spot of risk versus reward while also keeping a decent challenge. You can of course make it much more challenging if you want to be punished for every mistake you make as well.

The class system is what I really enjoyed playing with once I was able to put some time into it and really understand how it works. With 15 playable classes, you’re able to freely choose and swap any character to any class outside of battle. Better yet, mastering classes allows you to unlock certain skills, abilities and passives that can be used to cross-class. Since classes are weapon based, you can learn skills from a class then use them as secondary abilities when you change classes again. While you could simply stick with one class, there’s no reason to, as I focused on learning as many abilities as I could from all classes for each character, able to create some really unique class combinations and cater to my playstyle or situation at hand. This also plays into how to properly synergize your team for the combat in battles you’ll face.

When you aren’t exploring the streets and alleys of Grant you’ll most likely be in combat all of the other time. Enemies wander and patrol in the city, each with their own cone of vision you can see on the ground. Enter their sight and you’ll be instantly placed into turn based combat, somewhat reminiscent of an XCOM. This means you can completely bypass and ignore combat should you wish most of the time, but you’re going to want all the experience you can get to level up those class abilities.

Once you’re in combat you’ll notice a bar at the top that shows everyone’s turn in order. This is based on many factors relating to class and stats. During your turn you’re given a set amount of movement and action based points. While not explained very well in the beginning tutorial, once you start to learn its intricacies, combat becomes quite interesting and strategic. You’re not restricted to set move and action turns in order either, as you can move, use an ability then move again if you wish, provided you have the resources to do so. Played on a grid-like system, you’ll need be able to see your travel distance and which squares your abilities will hit within.

While this basic combat would have been sufficient, the alchemical system is really what makes Black Legend’s combat stand out. Many skills when utilized will apply a ‘humour’ on its target, ranging from four different types indicated by their corresponding color. You can pile stacks of humours on a target, displayed by arrows above the enemies’ head, though this is a bit confusing and could use some refinement to be easier to quickly understand. Stacked humours can then be ‘exploded’ so to speak with a Catalyzing Attack. This is basically using all the humour stacks on the target as bonus damage. Once you get a good portion of the way through Black Legend, this is really going to be the best way to dish out serious damage, especially against the unique and very difficult bosses. Something to keep in mind is that enemies can use this humour stacking system on your team as well, so you’ll need to always be mindful of when it might be best to use one of your turns to cleanse yourself instead of attacking.

Combat itself is quite interesting and challenging, but it does take quite a bit of time to learn all of its intricacies. I do wish this was taught better in the beginning, but with enough time invested you’ll eventually start to figure out the small details that will make combat much easier overall. My biggest complaint in this regard is that the bar at the top shows the class icon of the turn order, but if you’re using multiple people with the same class there’s no way to know which one is going to be next. Thankfully though is there is a 1X, 2X or 3X speed multiplier for combat, so you don’t have to spend as much time simply waiting for actions to play out.

Overall, Warcave has done a great job with the fundamentals for Black Legend, I just wish there were a few smaller improvements that would make for a better experience overall, the lack of a map being the most obvious and frustrating one. The camera during battle is top-down, but it can be impossible at times to see what’s going on without zooming in quite far, as if the camera gets set behind an object or a tree for example, it doesn’t make that item invisible so you can see through it, so your view becomes obstructed quite often. Lastly, the UI is serviceable but could have more information, especially when buying and selling from the NPC stores.

The aesthetic is very fitting for the 17th century time setting, being very dark, grey and gloomy, varying in each district, but the visuals are quite dated overall. The voice acting all around wasn’t all that great, but the music and soundtrack fit the dangerous and deadly streets of Grant quite well, setting the atmosphere. While the audio or visuals won’t blow you away in either respect, it still comes together to create an interesting setting that drew me in each time I played.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from Black Legend after watching its trailer, but came away with an addictive combat and class system that made me want to fight every battle I came across in the streets of Grant to create even more unique class combinations. With an interesting narrative I wanted to find out what caused the deadly fog that had engulfed the city and enjoyed doing so, even if there were bumps in the bloodied road along the way as I became lost after every turn without a map.

**Black Legend was reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

A map... please.

Overall: 7.0 / 10
Gameplay: 8.0 / 10
Visuals: 7.0 / 10
Sound: 6.0 / 10


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