Black Legend is a turn-based strategy roleplaying game (SRPG) from Belgian developer Warcave, where the systems are the highlight and offer enough to overcome a lot of design shortcomings.
There’s not much to the story but, in a nutshell, you’re looking to overcome an alchemist named Mephisto who has taken over the city of Grant along with his army of henchmen and enough dogs to give ‘101 Dalmations’ a run for its money, all made evil by the alchemist’s poisonous fog. You’re not doing this by choice, as you’ve transgressed against the Crown and have been pressed into service – an interesting enough start to the story, but that’s about as far as it goes.
You’ll run the somewhat bland-looking streets of Grant, slaying groups of enemies and unlocking doors to open shortcuts for the next time you’re coming through the area, as you undertake quests for the people in the Merchant section of town while working towards your goal of clearing the town of evil. There’s no in-game map, so expect to be lost more than a few times even with the multitude of signposts on the streets. My early annoyance at the vagueness of the city layout faded as I explored more and opened more shortcuts, and there’s a late-game transportation change that eliminates almost all the ‘I have to go WHERE?’ concerns.
For as much time as you’ll spend trying to find your way from the Harbour District to the Slums, you’ll spend far more time engrossed in the character class system. Starting with access to only the Mercenary class, players gain access to more of the game’s 15 classes – and the unlockable skills they can bring to the battlefield – by finding or purchasing new equipment. Each weapon offers different attacks, and using them fills an experience bar to unlock the attack permanently, provided you have a weapon in the relevant category equipped.
In most games a player will find the class they like and stick with it, but in Black Legend you’re far better off to swap through all the classes and gather up as many skills as you can because, in addition to a class’ normal array of skills, you can also bring in a handful from other classes. This allows you to create amalgamations that ramp up your power, essential if you want to beat the game’s harder difficulty levels.
Having that array of attacks available is key because of the game’s other combat mechanic, which applies a debuff in one of four colours: red, yellow, black, and white, to the enemy based on the attack. Enemies can have up to three of each debuff on them at a time, which can be ‘catalyzed’ by a melee or ranged attack to do extra damage – particularly useful in boss fights or higher difficulty playthroughs.
With a group of four characters in your party, there’s really no end to the combination of skills you can bring to the battlefield – plus the benefits offered by equippable trinkets and usable items. I leaned towards having a duo of heavily armoured warriors able to dish out multi-hit attacks while also able to counter enemy attacks, supported by a ranged user who was my go-to for catalyzing attacks, and a mixed healing/assassin class who jumped in as needed.
What I Loved:
- Great character class depth
- Unlocking skills to create a merged super class
- Strategic combat
What I Liked:
- Interesting city design, after the initial ‘where do I go’ frustration
- Tons of weapons and armour to find
What I Disliked:
- Some bugs, though mostly squashed by pre-release patches
- Bland graphics
- Story doesn’t really go anywhere
What I Hated
The Final Word: Black Legend isn’t an SRPG that I’ll be talking about the graphics, the story, or the enemies in years to come, but the class and combat systems are something I’ll remember forever.
Black Legend is available March 25th on PC, Playstation 4, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox One. Xbox version reviewed on Xbox Series X using code provided by the publisher.