A few days back I had written about whether Early Access on Steam was working or not, and today I want to give one example where it worked perfectly.
Legends of Eisenwald is a game that likely never gets made without Early Access. Its an RPG that plays somewhat like Heroes of Might and Magic, with perhaps the biggest difference being that you don’t start or even generally own a castle. The main focus is on your character and their story, rather than building a town and fighting just to clear the map.
As my friend Obmar put it, its also very German. There is a big emphasis on legends and tales, some of which are pure fluff text, while others are clues into how a quest can be completed. The writing isn’t bad (I’m very much enjoying the main story), but a lot of the names look like someone randomly smashed the keyboard until a 20+ character ‘word’ came out, and there are a lot of references to real-world folk tales that are mostly only known in Europe.
I think the biggest point of interest for me with Legends is just how different it plays from any other RPG. Again, its sorta like HoMM, but not really. Combat for example is on a grid, but movement isn’t limited by how far someone can travel, but rather restricted to the nearest target. In other words, if your infantry is standing next to an enemy, they have to attack that unit. If there are two units of equal distance from you, you can pick who to attack. On paper that sounds very simple, but once fights get larger it really creates some very tactical situations, and again feels different from other games.
Quests are another example of the game being familiar but different enough to be interesting. From talking to various NPCs around the map and in taverns or inns, you can pick up a good deal of side quests, and how to complete those side quests isn’t always obvious. Sometimes completion requires being at a certain spot at a certain time of day (the game has a nice night/day cycle), others require already having spoken to someone or having an item to open a dialog option, while sometimes you just need to discover a location on the map, and the only way to do that is to travel off the beaten path. You start knowing the major locations on a map, but the smaller ones must be discovered. There are no ‘!’ markers here, and the quest journal doesn’t hold your hand either.
I bought Legends a while ago (maybe over a year ago?), and back then it was fairly rough, with only the first few maps (chapters) available, quests that would bug out and cause you to restart, and graphics/sound/animations that, while they had potential, really weren’t great. Today, in its fully released form, Legends is solid. There are still some odd bits, like archers who shoot but no arrows come out, but I haven’t run into any bugs or broken quests, and the full campaign is in.
I think without Early Access and the funding it brought it, Legends doesn’t get finished. I certainly don’t think any major publisher would support it, so without Steam we never see it. And while I doubt it will be a major seller, I hope it sells enough to justify the effort, because it is both a unique and quality game in a sea of clones, rehashes, and titles that disappoint.
If you are a fan of RPG games, and are looking for something a bit different, pick up Legends of Eisenwald, it’s well worth your time and money.
It’s also an example of Kickstarter working well. They ran a campaign in May 2012 that pulled in $83k.