2003 – Lionheart: Legacy of the Crusader

Lionheart was the last RPG published by Black Isle Studios, and many CRPG fans also know it as the only other game to be based around Fallout’s SPECIAL ruleset, but those are just some of the unusual things about Lionheart.

The game is set in an alternate reality where the execution of 3,000 prisoners by King Richard during the Crusades caused the “Disjunction”, a dimensional rift that brought magic and demons to our world.

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The story itself begins much later, in the 16th century. After being arrested by the Inquisition for possessing magic, the player is attacked by assassins, then saved by none other than Leonardo da Vinci, here an Inventor/Wizard who shares a bond with you.

Indeed, the game used historical figures as NPCs in crazy ways long before Assassin’s Creed made it popular. Da Vinci is just one of them – Galileo, Shakespeare, Machiavelli, Cervantes, Nostradamus, Joan of Arc and many others make an appearance.

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Players are eventually taken to New Barcelona, where they’ll meet the four main factions: the Knights Templar, the Inquisition, the Knights of Saladin and the Wielders. As you decide which one to join, their unique quests will allow you to briefly interact with this rather unusual world, exploring its oddities.

It’s after the player leaves New Barcelona that the game takes a turn for the worse. Everything becomes a lot more linear, with the main quest turning into a series of dungeons and repetitive battles.

Combat is real-time, similar to Diablo, but it’s very simplistic and can be a hurdle for those who didn’t carefully create their characters. This, combined with poor level and quest design, makes the game’s second half a boring path to a rushed conclusion.

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So what is good? The soundtrack is great, and the unique and beautiful art adds a lot to the atmosphere, but it’s the game world that seals the deal for those who enjoyed at least some portions of the game. Even after the rise of Kickstarter and indie games, Lionheart remains one of the wackiest CRPGs I’ve ever played.

Regardless, Lionheart is not a great game. It’s not a good one either. It feels like a canceled title that somehow was released. Those with zero expectations may be able to find some enjoyment, as I did, but it’s not a game I’d recommend anyone. Fairfax

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