Ancestors Legacy (PS4) Review

Ancestors Legacy was launched on PC back in May 2018, a Real-Time-Strategy game from Destructive Creations which focuses on its narrative-driven campaigns spanning four different civilisations. Originally, the game was planned to come to PC and then only the Xbox One this year – thankfully things change! With the help of Slipgate Ironworks, the team behind titles such as Rad Rodgers, Rise of the Triad and Bombshell, today marks the launch of the game on both the Xbox One AND the PS4.

With a brand new control scheme for controllers, a few visual choices for owners of the PS4 Pro, and the single most frustrating mission I’ve played in my entire life, let’s see how well the RTS performs on Sony’s console…

Full disclosure, I’ve only completed two scenarios so far (the entire Viking campaign), but that’s around 15 hours of the game and I feel I’ve seen enough for the review.

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Lots of stories to experience!

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When you first begin playing Ancestors Legacy, you’re only given one choice in terms of the scenario. You have access to the Viking campaign as you reenact the raid of Lindisfarne’s Monastery – the beginning of the Viking Age. This basically acts as the tutorial which slowly teaches you everything you’ll need to survive; from the stealth single-unit segments to the massive battles requiring you to expand your camps and invade others. Once you’ve played through these five chapters, which will take you around five to six hours, the other seven scenarios unlock, allowing you to play them in whichever order you choose.

The four civilisations are the Vikings, Anglo-Saxon, Teutons and Slavs, each with two narrative-based scenarios which will take you around six hours or more each, depending upon your skill level. As someone who is completely ignorant of historical events, I couldn’t tell you if the stories being told are factually correct or contain technology which wasn’t around at the time the narrative is implying. However, whilst playing through the Viking scenarios, seeing invasions, people getting hung and burnt at the stake, war breaking out between brothers, and mindless murder of innocent citizens, nothing felt obviously wrong or inaccurate for the time period.

 Despite my lack of knowledge, the narrative was gripping and had me hooked, even throughout the worst mission I’ve ever played (which I’ll get to later). 

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‘Tis but a flesh wound! (Cinematic camera mode ftw!)

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Gameplay
Is Ancestors Legacy a full RTS game? I would say, yes and no. The game is identical to the PC version which came out last year, which is great, with the only difference being that the control scheme has been updated so you can use a controller (having the option to still use a mouse and keyboard would have been nice – I’ve tried, it doesn’t work). Although, the actual gameplay mechanics, specifically in the town building and expanding, seems rather simplistic and almost like an introduction to the genre more than a full-on strategic RTS game. However, don’t take that the wrong way – this game requires a lot of strategic planning if you wish to survive long enough to see the credits roll.

The game itself, from what I’ve played so far, appears to consist of two gameplay styles – base management and expansion, and stealthy exploration missions. There are a few missions which will utilise both methods by having you on your own and hiding at first, but then you’ll find a camp and move over to the second playstyle. As a person who hates stealth games and segments (because I suck at them), there were some moments which I didn’t like within Ancestors Legacy, but the majority of the game is much more forgiving and combat-focused instead. 

The parts where you don’t have your own camp, although you may have a few squads, felt much slower than your usual RTS game. As you’re not restricted to a timer or the threat of the enemy invading your base, it’s all about taking your time. You have to hide in tall grass, find alternative ways around the enemy squads, and then launch a surprise attack by stabbing them in the back or jabbing your sword in their face before they even realise you’re stood behind them! It’s an interesting take on the genre and not one I’ve seen for a while as when I think of RTS games, I instantly think of games which operate like…

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Burn it down in order to claim for yourself – makes perfect sense…

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Base Management
The base building and expanding aspect within Ancestors Legacy is one of the most simplistic and restrictive I’ve ever seen within this type of game. First of all, you have no say as to where the various buildings or facilities will go, you pick the construction from the build menu and then the remaining civilians (that you haven’t slaughtered) will begin to construct it. This is also the way with the tents and houses, buildings which are required in order to increase the number of squads you may have at a time – with the maximum being ten… That’s right, the maximum number of active combat squads you can have is a measly ten – thankfully, the CPU also has this limit imposed upon them as well. 

You can upgrade the ‘level’ of your main camp building which unlocks stronger squads, new facilities and extra buffs you can summon. It’s all very simple but it works as intended and almost takes away the stress of having to both manage your squads and base whilst also looking out for enemy advances and countering them accordingly. However, in order to create and summon new squads and buildings, you need to have enough food, wood and stone yet you can’t create a farm, woodcutter or quarry in your base, so what do you do? Simple, invade and conquer other towns.

You have to invest your limited resources into recruiting a number of offensive squads and then send them out to destroy key buildings in order to claim the small towns ala king of the hill style. Once you have control, you can create defensive towers, send people out to gather various resources, and upgrade the strength of the main building. This is important as thanks to your criminally small number of combat squads allowed, you need to ensure the enemy doesn’t swoop in and take over your resource obtaining towns whilst you’re either fighting them or taking over another town. Not going to lie here, a few of the levels do play a little like a cat and mouse game where you’ll be in one place taking over a town whilst the enemy takes over one of yours, then you goto the other and he’ll take over the one you were just at.

So, the management side is rather simplistic, the expansion is even more basic, obtaining more resources can get frustrating and time-consuming, and the very small limit on the number of squads you can have is very restrictive. However, once you nail it and you get everything working in sync and you’ve managed to keep the enemy at bay by crippling a few of their houses or resource towns, it’s very satisfying!

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Bloody good fun!

What’s it like to play?
So, after playing a lot of RTS games on PC and consoles, how did Ancestors Legacy actually feel to play with the controller (considering the mouse and keyboard aren’t an option)? I thought the developer did a good job at adapting the controller to the various commands. I can’t remember if the PC version already had controller support (as it was a long time ago when I played it on there) but it felt like everything was mapped as you’d expect. There is a LOT of controls in the options menu which I think I should have looked at first – you aren’t taught most of them in-game and there are so many combinations and shortcuts!

The game itself was a nice mix of stealth, resource management, strategy and an interesting narrative. Although I keep saying you only have X amount of squads (based on the number of houses/tents you have), you actually get a number of units per squad – so one berserker squad may actually be five or six units. As such, there are a few ways to maintain your teams when they get injured, which I also found quite strategic and fun to manage. If an individual is hurt, their health block will go from green to red – at this stage, you can all sit down and heal yourself with the push of a button anywhere (providing the enemies aren’t around). Should an individual die, you obviously can’t ‘heal’ them, you need to go to a town you own (or your base camp) and you can re-summon a brand new team of replacement units in exchange for a few seconds of your time. 

I think the biggest annoyance I had, which may or may not be a result of playing on a console with a controller and the UI being simplified for easy use, is how you use the various abilities of each squad. Let’s say you have a bunch of squads selected and they are all the same unit type – so a bunch of archers. You’ll be able to pick various special moves via the dial menu on R2 like boosting your stats for a few seconds and increasing the rate of fire. However, if you have a mixture of squads, you won’t notice the berserkers have a few of their own special moves, the infantry can pull out torches at night and the hero has their own unique attacks. Flicking between squads with L1 and R1 lets you see and use these moves, but if you’re mid-battle, messing about doing this can cause you to lose control of the group and thus open you up for defeat if you’re not careful. 

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So, overall I like the adaptation to the controller and the game is perfectly playable using it, but there are a few aspects which feel a little clumsy and not very user-friendly if you’re caught in a jam and are trying to adapt on the fly with short notice. 

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Truvor saying he’s about to ‘claim’ more of my men – Bastard!

The worst mission I’ve ever played
Whilst playing the Viking’s second scenario, there’s a level which had me swear at the TV on more than about a hundred occasions. Certain missions place you on the same team as an NPC-ran clan which you can’t control or interact with – you don’t even gain the resources should they beat you in taking over a town, thus limiting the number of resources you can get as you can’t fight them or take over the venues. This particular mission presented me with a clan limit of five, so I could only have five combat squads at a time including my Hero character. I was also ‘given’ a mental NPC hero who kept running into battle with the various enemy squads then retreating when he got injured.

So far it doesn’t sound too bad – ignore the crazy fellow and do my own thing… Well, every now and again when you train a new squad for yourself, such as a spear or a berserker team, he’ll state “you don’t need him, so I’m taking him” and turn the squad into an NPC team! Also, this particular mission is very tight on the resources thanks to only having five squads at a time and this thieving bastard stealing all your men. He’ll also take the squads that are mid-combat with you, leaving you with no alternative than to retreat and wait another 15-20 minutes until you can make more squads and pray he doesn’t steal them again. 

What makes this even worse is that the autosave didn’t seem to work on this mission so when my hero died, thanks to this annoying git stealing my backup, my latest autosave was the previous mission! It must have taken me about three or four hours to get past that one mission thanks to two retries and countless times having to re-create squads because he took them off me. Thankfully, the next mission let me say “thanks” to this sonuvabitch in a rather satisfying way!

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Lots of options and sliders.

Other modes
If you’ve completed all the scenarios, or you want to try something a little different, you can opt to play one of the other modes on offer at any time. First up is:

Skirmish Mode:
This mode lets you define a number of options in order to create your perfect ‘quick game’ against the CPU. There are fourteen maps which vary from two players all the way up to six. You can also toggle between Domination or Annihilation, with the main difference between the two being that Domination also has a scoring aspect to it (you can win by obtaining a set amount of points via owning more towns than your opposition). Other various options can be set such as the amount of starting resources, the level your camp starts at, the time limit (if you wish to have one), what the weather is like, how many squads you can have, if you can have a hero, and whether the game paces slowly or at the normal speed.

Once the above has been created and locked in, you can place yourself within the town you wish to start at and populate the other locations with CPU AIs at various difficulty levels – you can also close the slot should you wish to play a six-man map with only a few opponents and not all five. My biggest disappointment with the skirmish mode is the lack of a save function within the setup process. I know it may only take a few minutes to set up a match and jump in, but it would have been great if we could tweak and save our choices so we can restart it with the click of a button the next time we wanted to play. Instead, all the settings reset to their default position upon the match ending or reloading the game. 

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Multiplayer
The online multiplayer is rather confusing and I’ve not really explored it that much. From the looks of it, it’s a bunch of servers in both Texas and Amsterdam which have been set up on each map – some have CPU opponents already set and some are awaiting all slots to be filled. There doesn’t appear to be a way to set up a private game or tweak the gameplay options, you simply pick a game you wish to play and make yourself ready. You can opt to play a ‘quick match’, which will slot you into any game which is awaiting another human player. I’m not sure what happens if all the servers are full, I imagine you may have to just wait for the players to stop playing? This setup reminds me of old-school PC online gaming where you had a server list and had to hope one had room for you to squeeze in to!

Comparison image (May have to ‘touch’ on mobile for it to appear):

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Technical
I mentioned in my opening statement that Ancestors Legacy has full support for the PS4 Pro, just what does that mean? Basically, we’re presented with three options when it comes to how you wish to visually play the game. You can opt for a standard 1080p image, which I imagine will be on-par with the base PS4 version. Alternative you can play it at a full native 4k (2160p) with the same visual quality and options as the 1080p mode. Finally, you can opt to play the game at 1080p but with enhanced visuals such as better lighting, more realistic shadows, more environmental objects such as trees, and a better draw distance.

The downside is, all of these modes are locked to 30fps. Personally, I would have thought the standard 1080p mode would have been at 60fps and the enhanced visuals at either 60fps or at least have an option to unlock the framerate should we choose. The game isn’t that demanding from the looks of it, so it does seem a little odd that it’s all locked to 30. I can’t confirm or deny this, but in an interview, before Ancestors Legacy came out, it was quoted that the Xbox One X edition would have a 1080p mode at 60fps. I’m not sure if that still happened or if it was planned but never implimented. Either way, 30fps isn’t the end of a world in a slow-paced RTS, especially when it’s as solid as it is in Ancestors Legacy.

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The music and voice acting were all great, I didn’t cringe at any accents or feel like they hired cheap voice actors throughout the Viking campaigns. Although, I’m sure the big test will be when it gets to the Anglo-Saxons as the British are usually voiced by people speaking RP or ‘the Queens English’, rather than common pronunciation – however, I’ve not started that campaign yet…

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This is how the popular YouTubers do it, right?!

Photo Mode?!?
I found a ‘hidden’ photo/cinematic mode which I thought was a bloody great addition to Ancestors Legacy. If you push in the Left Thumbstick at any point (not in cutscenes), the whole UI vanishes and the camera gets in close to the character you have selected, allowing you to rotate the camera and zoom in and out whilst they carry on doing whatever they were doing such as travelling or fighting. Sure, it doesn’t pause the action, so you can’t always get great shots, but it lets you become part of the action as you watch as if your a bystander or watching a movie. At one point I found one of our allies hung from a nearby tree, so I did a ‘Logan Paul’ and took a selfie – something I didn’t think I’d be doing in an RTS about historical battles. 

Official Trailer:

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Final Conclusion:
Despite a few minor issues and annoyances I had with the controls, Ancestors Legacy is one of the best RTS games I’ve played on any console with its interesting narratives, satisfying combat and accessible nature. Working your way through all eight campaigns should take you at least fifty hours if you play on the correct difficulty for your skill level; with the skirmish and multiplayer boosting your playtime even more, should you wish to play solo or with friends. Although some aspects of the game may not be historically accurate, the developers have done a great job at transporting you to the various time periods with visually stunning locations. 

Combining two types of missions, full-on RTS and stealth-based ones, Ancestors Legacy always keeps you on the edge of your seat as you constantly try to tip the balance of war in your favour, despite the ‘helpful’ NPCs sometimes getting in the way and causing more trouble than the enemy. Although much simpler than other games in the genre, in terms of its mechanics and overall management side, this makes the game much more accessible and approachable for gamers who haven’t really explored this type of game before, whilst also providing a challenge to those who have via cranking the difficulty up accordingly!

A copy of the game was kindly provided for review purposes

Ancestors Legacy

0.00
8.5

Final Score

8.5/10

The Good:

  • - Eight campaigns over four civilisations, each one lasting around six hours or longer
  • - Three visual options on the PS4 Pro to favour resolution, performance or visual quality
  • - Each of the stories are interesting with their own intriguing plots and good voice acting
  • - Simplified mechanics, in terms of resources and base building, makes it more accessible to new gamers to the genre
  • - Despite a few control issues, the game has been well adapted for use with a controller

The Bad:

  • - The friendly NPC characters in certain levels can screw you over if they take over towns before you
  • - The autosave doesn't always occur (save regularly yourself)
  • - No option for using mouse and keyboard as an alternative method in single player
  • - Truvor is a thieving git. If he doesn't stop stealing my troops then I'll slap him myself!
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