Legion: Legend of Excalibur - Review

Blasphemy of Arthurian Proportions

By: Paul Koehler

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 6
   Interface 4
   Music/Sound 5
   Originality 5
   Plot 4
   Replay Value 3
   Visuals 5
   Difficulty Easy
   Time to Complete

8-12 hours


Legion: Legend of Excalibur

   When all else fails, stick with the basics. If there is any famous saga or legend that could easily be adapted into an RPG title, it's the stories of Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. In an attempt to break into the fledgling PlayStation 2 RPG market, Midway teamed up with Seven Studios to develop a game based on the Arthurian legends It's unfortunate that Legion: Legend of Excalibur turned out to be mediocre - at best. What's worse is that the designers took liberties in toying with the general story of the legends, making this average title doomed to bargain-bin status.

   Most who are familiar with the Arthurian legends will see almost immediately that Legion strays far from the familiar storyline after the first quest. After pulling Excalibur out of the stone, Arthur transforms immediately into a fully-armored battle machine. He finds it his duty to unite the Kingdom of Camelot and lead an army against his sister, the sorceress Morgan le Fay (who is credited with slaying their father, Uther Pendragon). Along the way, he will run into such familiar characters as Percival, Galahad, Merlin, Lancelot, and Gwenivere. All of the playable characters in the party are backed up by a cast of voice-actors.

   In Legion's case, over-the-top voice acting isn't necessarily a bad thing. All characters are annoying when necessary, and help each of the characters fit into their profiles. Arthur is the regal, overbearing, and sarcastic king - and he will get on your nerves. Gwenivere is of special note because she comes across not as Arthur's consort but as a rebellious archer, providing occasional backup and a few snide jokes for the party. Fortunately, there are some amusing scenes - particularly while Galahad is being tempted in his trials for the Holy Grail.

It doesn't get much more linear than this...
It doesn't get much more linear than this...  

   Many of these trials form the basis of the quests that Arthur and his party undertake, and they are presented in a linear fashion. One of the quests is an optional one, although the benefits for completing that quest are considerable. After re-taking Camelot, the party has an opportunity to buy new equipment and select specific party members for the upcoming quest. In the later stages of the game, the party size is capped at a maximum of four members, but they will be more than enough to help in the battles.

   The difficulty of battles in Legion is only due to two factors - controlling the party and getting used to "rhythm attacks". All of the characters can use a light or heavy attack that drains their stamina bar, and pressing the Square and X buttons simultaneously produces a character's special attack (e.g. Arthur's 'Dragon Summoning'). Although light attacks can be dodged easily, RPGamers can time their light attacks correctly to produce a "rhythm attack", which is considerably stronger than a heavy attack and does large amounts of damage. This becomes incredibly useful in dealing with some of the stronger bosses, who often deflect light attacks and can occasionally heal themselves as well.

   With that in mind, Legion's battle system is best described as 'hack-and-slash'. RPGamers control one of the characters, while the other party members can be controlled by pressing one of the 4 L and R buttons. In addition, the other characters can be given AI commands to protect a specific character, or attack a particular type of enemy. While the AI commands are useful, they can be a nuisance at times - especially when the CPU-controlled characters are stuck behind physical obstacles in the maps.

   Finding the obstacles isn't too much of a problem, as the select key brings up a map of the surrounding area, as well as the objectives of the quest. In addition, the playing field is shown in a top-down view, which helps control the actions and movements of the party. Slowdowns are rare as well - even when a mob of thirty zombies rushes the party, the game's engine handles such rushes well. Like just about any modern-day RPG, a few FMV's are thrown into the game during major scenes, but they are just there for window-dressing.

Arthur and his party spar with the Fire Knight
Arthur and his party spar with the Fire Knight  

   There is one innovation that Seven Studios threw in to the Legion DVD - preview and 'behind the scenes' trailers. The move makes sense: why not have the same features of a motion-picture DVD on a PlayStation 2 title? Although it is an attempt to give Legion more credibility, the designers deserve credit for picking up on a long-standing tradition that has rarely been used with video games, but is now commonplace with movies.

Nevertheless, this development couldn't help save Legion from a mediocre status. There are better hack-and-slash titles in existence for the PlayStation 2 - Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance is one that comes to mind. In addition, replay value on this title is nil - the entire quest from claiming Excalibur to defeating Morgan le Fay is all the game has to offer, and it is not one worth repeating. While some of the boss battles (in particular, the fight with the 'Green Knight') can be difficult, it is nothing that cannot be prevented with ridiculously over-powered characters - and many of the maps provide never-ending spawn spots where this can be accomplished.

Legion's saving grace is that the North American PS2 RPG market is still tame - and there are very few major titles to fill the void. It's release this past summer made it a standout title, but as this fall approaches, it will just become one of a crowd of bargain-bin titles that fade into oblivion. Hopefully, other game designers will take note of Seven Studios' incorporation of preview trailers into the game, as the DVD format is the perfect medium with which to do that. If anything, Legion is good for picking up as a rental title - but it is definitely not worth the $49.99 US Dollar asking price.

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