Lornsword Winter Chronicle Review – Xbox One

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When creating an RTS-type title for consoles, developers often have to strike a fine balance between what makes the genre popular on PC, and what would make a game successful on a console. There needs to be as little of the menu-based minutiae as possible, in order to make controller navigation viable, but there also needs to be care taken that there isn’t so much of the finer detail taken out that the game starts to feel soulless.

For Lornsword Winter Chronicle, French developer Tower Five has attempted to manage this balance by removing the management of large armies and putting the player in the role of a single character, but one who is discouraged from fighting himself, and instead directs his troops on the battlefield from a safe distance. It starts to feel a little like a cross between League of Legends and Pikmin, as you balance elemental powers with base-building and resource management, and the structure of each level means that you’re often running back and forth across the map, issuing commands and checking on various different fronts to ensure that your troops are fighting successfully, both on the own battlefields and as part of a larger strategy.

You play as Corun Lan Ka, initially an ordinary soldier, but a man who is soon thrust into positions of power. He approaches these positions with a certain degree of naivety, which means that nefarious influences soon begin to influence his rise, and your strategies on the battlefield are required to be matched by Corun’s political strategies. Unfortunately, Corun isn’t the brightest of protagonists, and it can be frustrating to view the inter-level cutscenes, fully aware as the player that Corun is being manipulated but not able to do anything about it, and knowing that the upcoming level will likely have you either rectifying his actions, or performing tasks which will have ramifications later down the line.

That’s not to say that making these obvious mistakes is unenjoyable, as the moment-to-moment gameplay of Lornsword is quite enjoyable. Like many games in the RTS genre, most levels begin in a similar manner, with the player identifying areas for resource gathering, building a base and training an army to either attack or defend assigned objectives. Lornsword plays a little loosely with the genre staples, though, with fewer building varieties and an increased focus on controlling Corun and his direction of the troops under his command. Once you have troop production up and running, you can grab them and guide them to where on the map they are most needed, and at that point they will attack whichever enemy stronghold is nearest to them. Aside from Corun himself there is little sense of individuality in Lornsword, and a lot of the combat that I was involved in felt like throwing anonymous troops at a wall until they broke through it, with little thought as to how many troops that I was using, unless I started to notice a limit on my resources.

Alongside your regular mortal troops, Corun is able to call on various elemental forces to attack his enemies as well. These are managed from a central hub, and are called on by using energy, which replenishes over time in the form of crystals. Your elemental troops work on a timer, but in terms of how long they will stay in the battlefield and how often they can be called upon, but they serve as an incredibly useful form of crisis management. As long as they are available to be called upon, these mystical forces will spawn wherever Corun currently is, meaning that they can often get you out of a tight spot, or help with any unexpected surprises. They don’t feel particularly like they’re a vital aspect of the gameplay, but they’re an interesting mechanic that adds something different to the experience.

Lornsword packs a fair few levels into its runtime, and though many of them follow the same basic strategy of overwhelming your enemies with sheer force of numbers, there’s enough variety in the environment and enough of a narrative drive to encourage players to work their way through the main campaign, and the fact that you can play through a number of the levels with a co-op partner means that it’s well worth revisiting some of the levels with a partner to see how they play out differently. It’s also important to note that playing by yourself doesn’t lessen the experience at all, as some games of a similar ilk can definitely feel like you’re missing out or more likely to struggle if you don’t have someone to offer a helping hand.

All in all, Lornsword Winter Chronicle offers up an interesting attempt at the RTS genre that can be played while sitting on the couch. In fact, while playing through the game I couldn’t shake the feeling that Lornsword reminded me of one of the early Xbox Live Arcade titles, where experimentation was encouraged and programs like the Summer of Arcade would place games though you wouldn’t normally be aware of into your hands. You’re not going to get the same sort of depth from Lornsword Winter Chronicle that you might do from a PC-based equivalent, but there’s more than enough here to allow an enjoyable experience while sitting on the sofa, and fans of the genre will likely find a lot to enjoy.