May 30, 2007

PC Review: 'Urban Legend'

The year is 2127 and Russia has been a colony of the US for over a century. The people are starving, Neuromancer influenced megacorporations are running amok, genetically modified food is introducing the masses to cancer, non genetically modified animals have been extinct for ages, the poor are getting poorer, the rich are getting richer and this time around there is no Lenin. There's only John Doe -strangely, one of the more interestingly named heroes in history- and it sure feels as if someone pressed the diarrhoea button for the great arsehole up there. Oh, and thankfully it's still 2007 and this, apparently, is a review of Urban Legend.

So, uh, let me introduce the game properly, shall I? Well, according to the developer (Russia based ELENS) Urban Legend is an isometric turn-based squad-based strategy game, and, shockingly, it really is. And a good one at that too. The game offers over 30 levels of sheer strategic fun that will definitely appeal to the Fallout, Jagged Alliance and X-Com (a.k.a UFO) crowds, providing a very elegant action points based combat mechanic and an intuitive interface, that's as simple as left-clicking to move and right-clicking to fire. Then again, moving and firing, admittedly with the added hassle of picking the right weapons and selecting/equipping a modestly sized squad, can be tactically challenging enough to test years of accumulated turn-based combat experience and even lead to frustration and/or insomnia. Thankfully genre beginners and tired middle-agers can always go for the easy setting.

Us young and lively gnomes, on the other hand, always go for the harder difficulty setting such as hard and nightmare... It's a masochist thing, really.

The enemy AI feels brilliant, and -what's more- getting progressively smarter, the level design is varied and lethal enough to have your clumsily positioned sniper killed in no time, whereas the simple RPG-like progression of your squad gives the game a depth that can easily turn it into an addictive marathon. I for one have spent over 30 hours with the beast and have yet to beat it or at least get bored. You see, Urban Legend might not be the most innovative indy game ever developed, but it's a brilliantly polished, immensely playable and very fair experience, that does make sure you'll only loose when you make an obvious -even if tiny- mistake. It's a fully satisfying example of an almost extinct, but still popular (ah, gotta love them contradictions) genre.

The only rough bits are some awkward translations from Russian to English, that are easily forgiven, as they almost enhance the (cyberpunk; did I mention that?) atmosphere. Besides, when you get tons of beautiful pixel-artist created graphics -some the best I've actually ever seen- and smart splashes of sarcastic humor, you can definitely ignore the odd misspelling.

Visit the Urban Legend website and grab a demo.

That's an (eight) out of (ten).

Related @ Gnome's Lair: Resident Evil 4 PC review, Sensi 2006, Ron Gilbert & Penny Arcade, reviews archive


  1. The game's language is Runglish - year 2100 version of English, influenced by Russian. ;)

  2. Thankfully tomorrow is an holiday in SG so there's lots of time 2 test this one out ... thanks gnome ;)

  3. Hopefully you'll enjoy it dearest munkey... It is a download after all...



    Can you sneak up to enemies and plant explosives near them in this game?

    Tell me there are at least two different shotguns though???

    Can you hack computers?

  5. No, I'm afraid not... Actually it's not an RPG. More like Fallout tactics really... Lots of guns though...

  6. Speaking of Fallout, I can't wait to see what the new one will hold..? Plus Liam Neeson is doing all the voice acting in it...

  7. Liam Neeson and Bethesda sound good and frankly the teaser artwork over at the official is quite inspiring, but something tells me they 're going to change the way the game plays, and the way I see it a Fallout without turn based combat is a whole different game.

  8. Impressive review for an impressive looking game.... isometric makes me feel right at home... nothing too unfamiliar.... hell even the game setting is plausible...

  9. Jesus! no wonder you've got no time for RE DS! 30 hours???
    WOW! Credit where credit is due!

    The timescale of gameplay is an endorsement in itself!

    The premise of the game is fantastic.

    Right I'm off to study computer programming to the point that I can release a patch for this game so you can play AS Lenin...

    Somehow genetically and cryogenically revived and ready to kick ass!

    Anarcho/Syndicalist Lefties forever! ;)

  10. Hey Gnome, it's been a while since I visited this hallowed place...glad to see it's still as awesome as ever

  11. Ah, dear Elderly, I would go as far as characterizing it an impressively plausible thingy... And very very Amiga.

    Father, that's the greatest thing I've heard his last 15 years: playing as a revived -possibly cyborg- Lenin. Can you imagine the capture the flag/czar mods?

    Tomleece, great having you here again and even greater enjoying your newer DCJY posts. You're staying, aren't you? Oh, and thanks mate :)

  12. Gnome, did the developer contact you with a full copy of this game?

    I got an e-mail from them and I happily agreed to review the game. Now I'm about to kill myself because you got one up first :p

    Heh, that's my fault for being slow.

  13. Well, besides my lightning fast reflexes, yes, the deveoper did contact me and I too happily agreed... Oh, and cheers Tom!

  14. I bet it ends up not being turned-based.... but I've been wrong before... many times the wife would say.

  15. No worries here you can tell the missus. It's been thoroughly tested.

  16. Ooooooo! The isometric viewpoint is giving me flashbacks of Theme Hospital. *sits and thinks* Yes! That's what I'll do! Play Theme hospital! *Closes browser and begins to install it*

  17. What an absolutely brilliant idea, oh J! Yes, theme hospital! And curing invisible people of their invisibility! Classic one...

  18. I was excited to hear of a turn-based squad strategy game, and downloaded this one right away.

    I found it pretty disappointing though. There's no tactical depth. I can't search enemy bodies. You can't crouch, drop prone, run or anything but the same walk. You can't aim or otherwise improve your shot. There's no interrupts.

    Outfitting the squad was strange. Unless I'm missing something, I was unable to move weapons between my squad. I wanted to strip Bob of his much nicer gear, and put it on John Doe, but I couldn't do it.

    Back to play XCOM again, I guess.

  19. OK, it was my mistake on the squad outfitting. If you drag something down to the cache, you must exactly get it inside the square. Otherwise the UI just returns the item to the inventory when you release.

    Still not finding the tactical depth I want. There is no reloading action; you just fire and fire, and your gun magically reloads from the inventory.