With the website growing, more and more independent developers are asking us to review their projects. Among those we received this week, I decided to go with Legends of Ellaria. The idea of game offering both first person and RTS elements tickled my imagination. Add its promise to delve deep into the arcane with an high-tech combat system and the deal was sealed.
On paper, this title has all it needs to be the next instant classic. After 4 years of development and a successful Kickstarter campaign, the team opted for an early-access business model. At a glance, it all looked pretty enticing! Sadly, though, I was in for a bitter surprise!
An Obviously Incomplete Game…
When I first booted Legends of Ellaria, the loading screen wouldn’t even adapt to my monitor’s native resolution. I specifically play most of my games on a standard 1080p display just to avoid something like that. Additionally, the game’s logo kept spinning for a solid two minutes before I could access the main menu.
At the time, though, I really didn’t think much of it. Optimization is usually the last step in the development process, which is probably why this title is still a bit more demanding than it should. I’m not fully condoning the unstable frame-rate, but I wouldn’t worry about it either. With that in mind, I went on to start a new game.
Going through an incomplete experience means having to put up with a series of limitations. Early access products are often still far from release. This model is perfect for devs on a budget, as it allows them to rake in additional funds while they keep working on their projects. Parts go missing, mechanics get broken, and the entire thing is continuously evolving.
The community accepts these precarious conditions, but can also leave feedback which will help reshape the game. Under normal circumstances, this is a win-win situation. Players get to experience something new; devs can collect useful data.
…Lacking The Most Basic of Features
I was ready to deal with some minor inconveniences, but what I saw immediately felt like a punch in the stomach. Legends of Ellaria looked a lot worse than its promotional screenshots. Even messing around with the graphics – whose menu offered little in the way of customization – wouldn’t change much.
Normally, coarse assets don’t automatically make a game bad. I tried looking past the janky textures and the lack of detail, investing some of my time to explore the world around me. The tutorial held my hand through a few skirmishes, taught me how to open a door, and introduced me to the plot. It was exactly then that I realized just how unpolished this product actually is.
Legends of Ellaria lacks a proper auto-save system, only offers a limited amount of keyboard shortcuts, and seems to defy the basic laws of design. Spelling mistakes are clearly visible in most dialogues, NPCs can be pushed aside by simply walking into them, and the few available animations run in stop-motion. The game that promised the perfect mix of multiple genres can’t really stand on its own feet.
Aside from looking as if it were straight out of the early 2000, this title doesn’t pack enough to keep you hooked. I only managed to play for a bit more that two hours before finally I gave up. Throughout my session, I had to battle both the controls and the in-game quest engine.
Combat was also abysmal. Poor responsiveness meant that my character would often slide as if on ice. Spells looked cool but most weapons ultimately felt useless and under-powered. As a result, an early demise almost immediately forced me to start again from scratch.
Was This The Best You Could Do?
When – after loading the only available savefile – quest-givers wouldn’t acknowledge my progress, I finally knew that my time with Legends of Ellaria was up. It felt as if I’d seen enough, probably for a lifetime. More importantly, I didn’t want to go through the tutorial again!
I tried to approach this game with an open mind, but I’m still struggling to cope with it. Is what I saw really the result of multiple years of work and a fundraiser worth more than 35000 Dollars? Should anybody fork over 20 bucks to play a game that is but a husk of what its creators promised?
I believe the answer to both questions to be no. The developers may want to recycle some of their assets and mechanics, but are better off going back to the drawing board with the entire project. Since this was their first published game, I’d suggest resizing their ambitions. Cut your teeth on something smaller, then come back and try working on a more challenging idea.
From a consumer’s perspective, I’d hardly call Legends of Ellaria a title that is worth our collective attention. The next sentence or two may sound harsh, but that doesn’t make them less true. 20 Dollars can give you access to far superior experiences. If you haven’t invested in this one already, your best bet is to keep looking!
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