Who knew Merlin was such a badass?
In pop culture, he’s always been portrayed as a humble and gentle old man, patiently guiding King Arthur toward his destiny.
In Merlin’s Legacy, we see the other side of Merlin, training his disciple to become a one-man wrecking crew of magical awesomeness. Presented as a 2D fighting game, this title features unexpected depth to its gameplay through an impressive variety of spells.
The trouble with imps.
The initial playthrough can be a bit overwhelming. Immediately at the start of the first battle, the screen is flooded with instructional bubbles explaining what does what on the screen. Honestly, it’s overkill, as the interface is familiar and intuitive.
Presented in a tournament format, Merlin’s Legacy guides Merlin’s student through a succession of wizards in a duel format, one opponent at a time, as he tries to avenge his master’s death. Tournament and Endless War modes are unlockable.
Gameplay boils down to firing spells in real time back and forth between your wizard and an opposing bad guy across the screen. Both wizards are on pedestals, unable to move, so it very much has elements of RPG card games. A spell loadout provides five spell options, which are cast through a simple tap of an icon. Health and mana points are presented in standard bar format at the top of the screen, with mana perpetually recharging.
The foundation of the game is very much in its spell selection, which break down into basic three types: Creatures, Missiles and Walls. Spell genres are broken down into Druidism (nature), Elementalism and Necromancy.
Missiles are pure offense, being lobbed across the screen through a somewhat clumsy aiming mechanism. A trajectory must first be set before the spell is cast. That extra step, instead of a simple tap-to-shoot, is quite irritating in some of the hairier battles. Each missile has varying effects, such as creating a wall of fire or recharging mana.
Walls are pure defense and pretty self-explanatory.
Creatures are the wild card, and what truly dictate the course of a match. With varying strengths, speed and casting costs, trying to juggle the summoning against the opportunity to strike directly across the board with missiles is often the key to success. There are also creature bonuses in play, such as enhanced speed or toughness.
Hate to be the other guy right now…
For example, one strategy involves sending a horde of imps toward the opponent. In the time it takes the imps to make their way across the board, recharge mana and unleash a barrage of missiles while your opponent deals with his imp problem.
Another strategy involves putting up a wall near your opponent, blocking the path of his monsters. Mow them down with your missiles, and then resurrect them as skeletons to overwhelm him when the time comes to finish him off. Having that element of timing your attacks just adds to the layers of the gameplay.
The game makes it very clear that there is no right or wrong strategy. The possibilities are only limited to the player’s imagination, and that’s really the best part. As spells get unlocked every other duel, sometimes getting that new spell will cause you to reevaluate your current strategy and try something entirely new. The experimentation aspect of each duel really is a treat.
There are some frustrating moments, to be fair. Often times, duels can stretch into entrenched battles of attrition, both sides tossing wave after wave of creature at each other with no end in sight. Usually, the remedy is a restart with a change in spell selection, but it does force you to think creatively, which certainly isn’t a bad thing. And again, the disconnect between aiming and firing does hamper the sometimes frenetic pace of the duel.
At first glance, this game might seem easy to overlook due to its relatively pedestrian graphics and retread concept. But the intense and surprisingly strategic gameplay are a pleasant surprise, making Merlin’s Legacy a game that shouldn’t slip through the cracks.