Flash of Steel header image 2

Legion Arena

February 2nd, 2006 by Troy Goodfellow · 1 Comment · Uncategorized

My print magazine of choice (and sometime publisher) Computer Games Magazine is now available on Zinio. You can get a free peek at this month’s issue here.

The print version of March’s CGM also has my review of Slitherine’s Legion Arena.

As the reviews of Legion Arena trickled in, I began to wonder if I was missing something. Aside from the mostly unreadable review over at Digital Entertainment News (“desari”? What the hell is that?) a great preponderance of the reviews were very positive about the game. Even the 6.9 that Gamespot’s Jason Ocampo gave it was couched in pretty affectionate terms even if the score wasn’t at that magic seven point – it still ended up being “fair”.

Fair is about right. I deemed it average. As does PCGamer’s Matt Peckham who rode to my reputational rescue with a nice 55/100 score.

Still, the critical mass of opinion seems to like Legion Arena more than I do and for the life of me I can’t see why. If you are going to give me only two armies, give me a skirmish mode. Maybe this is just a matter of taste though.

Then I found a reason to dislike Legion Arena even more.

The manual lied to me.


First, the manual promises an editor that doesn’t exist. In the description of the “Options” it says:

Design: Lets you design a scenario for another player to challenge.

Nope. Not there. No design button. Not that it would matter, because there are only two armies.

Which brings me to the introduction by Simon Scarrow. I wrote earlier about afterwords and designers’ notes. I should write something else about celebrity introductions. Scarrow is an author of historical fiction on ancient Rome, and so is good candidate for this sort of thing. But it is immediately clear that he hasn’t spent much time with Legion Arena. He writes:

Better still, we can play out some of the most intriguing ‘what-if?’ scenarios by pitching Hannibal’s veterans against the warriors of Britain. Or could a more adept handling of the Greek phalanxes have reversed the course of history by defeating the Roman legion? It’s a fascinating prospect, and one you can experiment with thanks to Legion: Arena

No. You can’t. You only encounter Hannibal’s armies in the Roman campaign and you never get to control them. The Greek phalanxes you see are just generic spearmen, and, once again, beyond your control. There is no alternate history to explore since the campaigns for both sides force you along an historical path.

You can, however, do all of this stuff in Rome: Total War. You could do it Great Battles of History. Even Encyclopedia of War: Ancient Battles. But most certainly not in Legion: Arena.

The true shame is that the game itself shows quite a bit of skill on the part of artists and designers, but it’s almost as if they stopped halfway through. Originally intended to be the debut of the engine for Slitherine’s next grand strategy game, those plans were put aside when the English wargaming company realized how expensive that would ultimately be.

Though they’ve yet to design a game that really thrills me, I always hold out hope for Slitherine. Maybe I should stop.


One Comment so far ↓

  • steve

    “Still, the critical mass of opinion seems to like Legion Arena more than I do and for the life of me I can’t see why.”