King of the Battlefield
Developed by South Korean studio Come2uS, Eternal Saga: Region Tactics puts players into the shoes of a legendary mercenary commander. Players lead their fellow mercenaries in real-time strategy battles across a medieval fantasy realm. Its pixel-art sprites and anime-style characters give it a certain level of charm. However, it’s not going to be anyone’s contender for the best strategy game of all time.
Come2uS’ game opens with protagonist Allus, the Mercenary King leading his Mercenary League into battle. The battle goes poorly, and he wakes up sometime later with amnesia. Allus fends off some goblin scavengers with the aid of a young mercenary named Lena, who soon discovers his identity. Immediately starstruck by the suspiciously young warlord, she quickly pledges herself to Allus’ service. Together, they set out to rebuild Allus’ Mercenary League.
Characters appear as pixel-art sprites, giving Eternal Saga a charmingly retro feel. Named Heroes like Allus and Lena also have anime-style portraits used on their stat screens and during cutscenes. They’re reasonably well drawn but at times distractingly unoriginal. When I met protagonist Allus, my first thought was how he looked like Kirito from Sword Art Online. Some characters were direct 1 to 1 copies of those from other properties, and even the “original” designs were quite generic. Again, the character art isn’t necessarily bad. It’s well-drawn and there were definitely a few standout designs. However, I could never shake the feeling I’d seen most of them somewhere else.
Building an Army
The player recruits new mercenaries at random through Eternal Saga’s gacha mechanics. Soldiers and Heroes come in six classes from seven Factions. Factions share a graphical theme, such as the Imperials resembling Romans, though Classes have a much more significant impact on gameplay. For example, spearmen are generally more defense-oriented and good at countering Cavalry. Cavalry, meanwhile, can use their speed to close in with Archers and Mages, who use their long-range to counter Spearmen and other infantry. Healers live up to their name, while Swordsmen are effectively two classes.
Swordsmen with shields tend to be a bit tankier, while unshielded Swordsmen deal more damage but can’t take hits nearly as well. There is also a difference between Archers with bows and other ranged weapons. Soldiers with crossbows, javelins and chakrams trade the bow’s longer range for not being defenseless in melee combat. Each combination of Faction and Class also has a unique ability. For example, the Empire Legionary is a Swordsman who throws a spear before charging into melee. Meanwhile, the Amazon Glam is a spear unit that can stun her enemies with a lightning attack every few seconds.
Heroes are named characters who belong to the same Classes and Factions as regular Soldiers. However, they generally have higher stats and more abilities. Players must appoint one Hero to lead each Army and can appoint up to three more as Officers. Doing so unlocks their Ultimate Skill, which players can trigger manually or delegate to the AI. Allus, for example, can perform a spinning attack to break the enemy’s formation. Each Hero also has an unlockable Faction Skill that buffs all members of their Faction. Players can still add Heroes to Armies without appointing them as Officers. However, the game treats them as regular Soldiers with better stats.
Commanding and Conquering
Players can further modify their Army’s performance by organizing their soldiers into unlockable Formations. In addition to changing the layout of your battle lines, Formations also confer passive bonuses to the entire Army. Some are general-purpose offensive or defensive stances. Others grant more niche benefits whose usefulness varies depending on your Army’s composition.
Strangely for an RTS, Eternal Saga offers players relatively few ways to direct the battles themselves. Players can order their mercenaries to move or switch between offensive or defensive stances. However, you can’t single out a specific target or change your Army’s formation in the middle of combat. Eight times out of ten the outcome of a battle is decided before you even deploy on the battlefield. Plus, most levels are too small and linear for any fancy maneuvers.
Eternal Saga isn’t so much an RTS as an RPG with strategy elements. Keeping your Soldiers leveled-up is at least as important as the actual RTS mechanics. That’s not inherently a criticism, and I had a lot of fun with the game. Players just shouldn’t go into Eternal Saga: Region Tactics expecting it to fit the traditional mold of a real-time strategy game.
Is It Hardcore?
Eternal Saga: Region Tactics is a fun but clunky real-time strategy game with a copy-pasted cast but a few interesting systems.