In the mobile market, there are many games that put in just enough effort to be a decent distraction while you wait for the bus. There’s nothing wrong with that, and some gamers might even think this approach is ideal. However, it’s always refreshing to see a developer put in some extra care and deliver a full-fledged gaming experience on the go. That’s what Legions of Steel is. Despite being a port, it rises above the average Android strategy fare as a game that fans of Space Hulk and XCOM will especially enjoy. In fact, you might be surprised at how well it stacks up against its competitors’ more recent titles.
Brought to you by the developers at Slitherine, Legions of Steel is an Android strategy game that aims to please fans of turn-based, grid-traversing gameplay. Let’s get this out of the way right now because there’s really no avoiding it: Yes, this game is essentially a slightly streamlined version of Space Hulk and XCOM, complete with the tactical gameplay and alien genocide that fans of the aforementioned games love. This is definitely not a bad thing, as gaming is a medium where similarities between titles do not necessarily diminish quality. Watching two movies with similar stories will likely make one of them less interesting than the other, as cinema is essentially a passive medium. On the other hand, video games are interactive; two of them having similar mechanics just means that they will both be fun to play. Luckily, Legions of Steel is, indeed, fun to play.
The thin story is one of planetary annihilation, genocidal conquest, and other galactic circumstances that really only serve to justify the mass killings of aliens called Nightmares. The comic book-style cutscenes look great, but the meat of the game is in its combat. Taking cues from Space Hulk, the beginning of each phase is determined by luck and decides which faction makes the first move. When you control several troopers on a grid, your positioning becomes extremely important, as rotating your trooper takes up some of your movement points. That’s why Legions of Steel gives you an option to lock your troopers’ position, making them strafe, which prevents them from automatically using up any movement points to rotate or turn. Couple that with the choice of either unlocking or flat-out destroying a door, and you have plenty of options with how you choose to tackle a room or hallway full of enemies.
When you take into account all the different ways that you can move and angle your troopers, you realize that positioning is just as important as your weaponry. The game’s robust battle system gives you various options each turn: shoot them, put up a force wall, throw an explosive, shoot twice in one turn, and unleash a rain of bullets down several grids. The most interesting strategy you can take is saving your shot for the enemy’s turn and ambushing them when they cross your line of fire. It’s incredibly satisfying to watch a Nightmare enter a room and immediately get decimated due to a risk you took last turn.
Coming from XCOM: Enemy Unknown, I was a bit surprised at how hardcore Legions of Steel is. Whether it’s you or the enemy, everyone dies after a single hit. One-hit kills make combat extremely challenging and tense. Depending on how you feel about difficulty levels, Legions of Steel‘s unforgiving nature could be a bane or a boon. Getting each of your troopers taken down by a group of lucky Nightmares can be incredibly frustrating, but surviving their onslaught makes you feel tough as nails. One aspect of XCOM that I missed while laying Legions of Steel is the ability to customize your troopers. It would have added some much-needed personality to the game. The music could use some variation, as well. A short, looping track for each battle gets old fairly quickly. In short, the Legions of Steel has incredibly solid and engaging gameplay, but the lacking story, music, and customization are glaring flaws that begin to wear on you after extended play sessions. Fans of strategy games should definitely check this out, but I would strongly recommend taking a break every two matches or so.
Is it Hardcore?
Legions of Steel suffers from a poor story and a boring soundtrack, but its solid gameplay makes up for its lack of bells and whistles.