Crossfire: Legion Review – Back to the Old School

Crossfire: Legion Review

With few exceptions, real-time strategy games have historically operated on some simple, basic structural principles. Most games in the genre have a rock-paper-scissors approach to unit balance. Resource gathering is a key component. There is a tech tree and optimal build order. Does Crossfire: Legion stick to the template or shake things up? (Spoiler: most definitely the former)

Crossfire comes to RTS

By now, most gamers have at least heard of the Crossfire franchise. It’s a globally popular series of competitive first-person shooters from South Korean developer Smilegate. Recently, Blackbird Interactive and publisher Prime Matter have transported the game to Western players. Now, the Crossfire setting and warring factions have been given the RTS treatment. It’s a natural fit.

Set in the near future, Crossfire’s two primary factions are Global Risk and Black List. Global Risk is a paramilitary force of peacekeepers, primarily existing to keep the world’s corporations safe for capitalism. They rely on relatively traditional military units, supplemented by some fancy high-tech weapons. Black List are the global disruptors and use guerilla tactics and fast, deadly units. Of course, both factions see themselves as the good guys. Moral ambiguity is one of Crossfire’s more compelling components. Crossfire: Legions introduces a third faction called New Horizon, which uses mechs and futuristic energy weapons.

The three factions are well-balanced and equally fun to play, if less distinctive than, say, Zerg and Terran. As with most RTS games, the choices come down to being assertive or defensive. Do you focus on big, expensive gear or a large force of cheaper units? Is it better to build a massive base with impenetrable defenses, or a far-reaching network of smaller bases? As with everything, splitting the difference is usually best. There’s a wrinkle that will frustrate players used to amassing large forces. Crossfire: Legion has a unit cap. You can build less than a dozen of any particular unit.

Tale as Old as Time

Traditional tactics reach as far back as classics like Age of Empires, Command and Conquer or Warcraft. They apply to Crossfire: Legion, too. On one hand, I enjoyed the familiar rhythm of gather/build/upgrade. On the other, the three factions play similarly, making it hard to develop a strong affinity for any one in particular. Starcraft’s Terrans, Zerg and Protoss couldn’t have been more dissimilar, either in units or playstyle. Black List and Global reach are very much alike. Happily, New Horizon shakes things up a little with impressive area-of-effect weapons and hulking mechs.

Crossfire: Legion has a short single-player campaign less than ten hours long. It’s really just an extended tutorial. It asks the player to shuttle various forces from point A to point B, escort units, destroy and defend positions and do some base building. There are side missions but they don’t exactly enhance the experience, and often make it more difficult to complete the main objectives.

The campaign is voiced by stellar pros like Ashly Burch, but that talent is largely wasted. Full of ginned-up military jargon and way too much chest-beating, the script and dialogue are pretty forgettable. The three faction commanders aren’t written to plumb the depths of drama.

Multiplayer Madness

The single player campaign is just a warm-up act. The star of the show — as with most real time strategy — is the large suite of multiplayer modes. If Crossfire: Legion has legs, it will be in the competitive and cooperative aspects of play. There are an impressive number of ways to play against and with other humans.

Of course, there are the usual skirmish modes, with up to six players vying for victory in 3v3 matches. There are some other, more unique match types as well. Payload has players both defending supplies while aggressively attacking. Battle Lines allows the player to focus on strategy, with AI commanding units on the ground once deployed. There’s a wave based cooperative mode called Operation Thunderstrike, where teams of players defending a series of checkpoints against waves of AI opponents.

What’s Not to Like?

Maybe the first thing that many players will object to is that, aside from the campaign, there is no offline play. There are no offline skirmishes with AI, for example. Aside from the annoyance of “always on,” this means that the heart of the game relies almost entirely on a robust population of human players. You can play a skirmish against AI in lieu of other players but only with a connection. Another gripe some players will have is with the unit cap. You can’t flood the map with cheap units, which is the preferred strategy for a lot of folks, Including me.

Unit pathfinding is a common issue in real time strategy games. It’s a bit of a problem in Crossfire: Legion, too, so expect to babysit your units as you guide them around obstacles. It’s not a deal breaker, but it can be frustrating when critical forces get stuck and lag behind. I’d love to celebrate the inclusion of a map editor, but it’s kind of a buggy crapshoot. It crashed or froze as often as it worked. I hope it gets patched. Making maps is one of the pleasures of the genre. I spent hundreds of hours back in the Starcraft and Age of Empires days making maps.

Overall, I liked the look of Crossfire: Legion. Units are easy to identify on the battlefield and the nicely varied, urban and wild environments have a reasonable amount of detail and destructibility. The game’s lighting, explosions and sci-fi effects are effective and impressive. Weapon and mechanical audio effects are appropriately punchy and well processed. Taken together, the game’s voice acting, audio and visual presentation are a compelling package.

A Purchase is a Tactical Decision

Crossfire: Legion is an exercise in nostalgia, bringing to mind real time strategy games back when the genre was at its most popular. Its mechanics are comfortably familiar, but that might also be a disappointment to gamers looking for innovation or depth. Skirmishes limited to online-only play, some bugs left over from early access and a forgettable campaign weigh against Crossfire: Legion’s basically engaging RTS gameplay and graphics. Diehard fans of the genre will absolutely appreciate the game’s classic feel, but will be left wanting more.

***PC code provided by the publisher for review***

The Good

  • Classic RTS feel and mechanics
  • Appealing visuals and lighting
  • Well voiced
  • Lots of multiplayer modes

The Bad

  • Dull script
  • Online-only AI skirmishes
  • Some leftover bugs
  • A bit generic