There is something engrossing about the concept of humanity’s last stand against an alien threat; it boils away all else to put us face-to-face with our own indomitable mortality. Legions of Steel takes this concept, of humans fighting an overwhelming alien force called the Machines, and squanders it in an attempt to revive an aging strategy board game. Utilizing a solid foundation, Legions of Steel aspires to do absolutely nothing with it; instead showcasing a translation of turn-based strategy that, amid the backdrop of excellent strategy games released in the past decade, does nothing new or unique. At best, Legions of Steel presents you with a moderate challenge as you work your way through its handful of levels. At worst, it is an exhausting and unimaginative journey through a galaxy devoid of personality.
Legions of Steel makes a terrible first impression. Though the user interface and menu systems betray its mobile-focused development, the tutorial campaign is the true culprit. Intended as a series of missions that both introduce you to the intricate depth of Legions of Steel‘s combat, and act as a primer into the nature of the conflict between humans and the imposing Machine threat, the tutorial squanders both opportunities. The is that each tutorial mission is a contrived puzzle meant to showcase the diverse skillset of your squad and familiarize you with Legions of Steel‘s cumbersome and unintuitive controls, but it does nothing beyond that. Like a rookie thrust into combat, Legions of Steel fails to equip you for how the game actually plays.
Concepts like initiative rolls (which decide who takes a turn first), are never communicated. Furthermore, tutorial exercises often scrap the element of random chance from missions, leading you to trust in your shots and grenade tosses much more than you otherwise should. It even fails to instruct you that, contrary to what you might be led to believe from playing it, not every enemy dies in a single hit. The result is that, upon stepping into the true campaign missions for the first time, you are woefully ill-equipped. The campaign missions will prove a better instructor than the tutorial anyway, if you’re persistent. The tragedy is that there is an appreciable depth to Legions of Steel, but your first hours are wasted learning how to play a game that could have been easily summarized to you in 15 minutes.
The other issue is that, despite its mechanical depth, Legions of Steel is entirely devoid of anything worthy of engaging with on an emotional level. Contrasted with popular squad-based strategy games, which often stress the humanity behind war, Legions of Steel appears lacking. Beyond the tutorial mission, the campaign’s story is so cold and detached, lacking any element of a narrative to get behind, that you’re always aware that this is merely a digital board game. Feeling any sense of satisfaction or investment in your mission is nearly impossible because of how dull Legions of Steel comes across.
The tutorial attempts to add a bit of flair by breaking up the missions with the odd cutscene aiming to give you context to the war between man and Machine. All it really accomplishes, however, is displaying just what a rushed product Legions of Steel really is. Inspired by comic books, each scene has some decently drawn art, but any potential is wasted because of how poorly put-together each scene tends to be. Art frequently extends beyond its frame, or doesn’t fit it properly, and spelling mistakes are so common it really betrays a sense of carelessness that I found irritating.
It’s a shame too, because Legions of Steel is built upon solid ground. The combat can lead to moments that touch the surface of true tension, and working to solve the campaign missions can be a lot of fun. But the moment I felt like I began to appreciate what Legions of Steel does well, it was already over. I could play multiplayer or I could go back through the same handful of missions and play the computer again, but that’s it.
Legions of Steel is just too weighed down by how underwhelming it all is. If you’re dying for some squad-based combat, or if you’re a fan of the board game and want to play with a friend online, you might find some enjoyment here. For the rest of us, I’m afraid it’s just another solid concept rendered pointless due to a serious lack of ambition. There is no creativity or ingenuity present here; just a board game brought to life on your monitor. You might pull it out and play with it for a few hours, but you’re just as likely to put it back in that cupboard and forget it ever exists.