Lionheart: Legacy of the Crusader
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|Lionheart: Legacy of the Crusader|
|Publisher(s)||Black Isle Studios|
|Programmer(s)||James C. Smith|
Lionheart: Legacy of the Crusader, also known as simply Lionheart, is an action role-playing game, developed for the PC by Reflexive Entertainment, and released in August 2003. The game is viewed from a 3/4 isometric camera angle. It focuses on a protagonist, controlled by the player, as he travels on a quest that constitutes the central focus of the game. The plot stipulates a rift in reality that drastically altered medieval history by allowing demons and other similar beings to enter the mortal realm. During the game, the protagonist encounters and interacts with numerous historical figures such as Joan of Arc, Leonardo da Vinci and Galileo Galilei who are represented as non-player characters.
Lionheart utilizes the SPECIAL role-playing system, which was first used in the Fallout series, and in this game functions primarily in adding points to specific skills in separate trees to strengthen a character's "Spiritkind", which has a personality and nature chosen by the player at the start of the game.
As Lionheart implements the SPECIAL system, the character creation is inherently similar to the Fallout series. A player begins by setting the values of his or her character's strength, perception, endurance, charisma, intelligence, agility and luck, and selecting "traits," which alter a character's inherent abilities for either better or worse, for the duration of the game. In addition, the player must distribute points to "skills" – abilities which a character uses to achieve various effects. One skill, "diplomacy," allows the player to talk their way out of situations gone awry, while another, "sneak," allows the player to move undetected by enemies. Unlike the Fallout series, Lionheart also allows the player to select magical skills – an example being "discord," which turns hostile enemies against one another.
A player also selects "perks" during the course of the game – abilities similar to traits, which affect a character's abilities in some form; for example, the ability "Superior Senses" grants the player character a +1 bonus to his or her perception and +15 skill points in the "find traps/secret doors" skill.
Another element newly introduced by Lionheart is the player's selection of a "Spiritkind" for their character, which is done during the "character generation" at the game's start. A "Spiritkind" is a spirit, which is either demonic, elemental or bestial, that resides in the player character and occasionally rouses to explain happenings or gameplay mechanics, or advance the plot.
Notably, the character generated by the player is the only character a player has direct control over, and though characters will occasionally join a player's adventuring party, they are AI-controlled without exception.
Lionheart's historical chronology puts forth that Richard the Lionheart's massacre of 3000 prisoners at the Siege of Acre, during the Third Crusade, was used by a villainous character as fuel for a ritual which tore the fabric of reality. This resulted in magic invading the game's world from other dimensions. The game itself takes place during the 16th century, which, due to the alternate reality setting, has been ravaged by uncontrolled magic and demonic creatures.
During the course of the game, a villain seeks to fully and permanently open the dimensional rift which was only temporarily cracked during the Third Crusade, while the player character, who is a descendant of Richard the Lionheart, attempts to stop it.
Several famous historical personas appear during the course of the game, most of them residing or imprisoned in Barcelona: Miguel de Cervantes, William Shakespeare, Galileo Galilei, Niccolò Machiavelli, and Leonardo da Vinci. This is impossible in the real-world history, but it is implied that they are being kept alive by the spirits inhabiting their bodies or other magical means.
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The player character is introduced as a slave who has been suspected of possessing magic. To prove this to the slave master, the slaver captain has thrown the player character unarmed and alone into an arena to face a firing squad of archers, with the intent of forcing the player character's magic powers to publicly manifest through a near-death experience. As the arrows strike and the player character falls wounded, their resident spirit shows itself and rebukes the slavers. The slave master, convinced, declares that he will hand the player character over to the religious authorities per an arrangement with a mysterious "benefactor".
Later, the player character awakes back in their cell and gets a chance to converse with their spirit, who, depending on the player's choice, can be either the Elemental Spirit (which favors Divine magic and has a compassionate personality), the Demonic Spirit (which favors Thought magic and has an impish personality), or the Bestial Spirit (which favors Tribal magic and has a gruff personality). Shortly after introductions are made, however, the slave pens come under attack by mysterious, powerful warriors known as Assassins, seeking "the one with the spirit of Lionheart". In the chaos, the player character, guided by their spirit, has to make good an escape through stealth, outright bloodshed, or diplomacy with a drunk guard.
Outside the pens, the PC is rescued by Signor Leo, an elderly wizard, who casts a transport spell to teleport them both to the gates of the city of Nueva Barcelona (New Barcelona). Here, safe at last, the PC will be able to get some answers out of both his/her spirit as well as Signor Leo, who is actually the great inventor Leonardo da Vinci. Among other things, it is revealed that the PC is in fact a distant descendant of the legendary King Richard the Lionheart himself, and it was none other than him/her the attackers were seeking. DaVinci has taken an interest in the PC thanks to a bond shared by both the spirits that dwell within them, and advises him/her to secure allies within Barcelona against the dark forces that are in pursuit. The PC will have to seek out and join one of the factions in the city to accomplish this.
The factions present in Barcelona are the Inquisition, the Knights Templar, the Wielders, and the Knights of Saladin. The Inquisition, much like in real-world history, is a holy order of priests zealously dedicated to rooting out heresy and unsanctioned magic. The Knights Templar were not destroyed in this alternate history and are now an army of noble, disciplined warriors who defend Europe and protect the sacred relics that were responsible for the Disjunction. The Wielders are a congregation of renegade wizards, on the run from the Inquisition's persecution, who maintain a secret lair within Barcelona itself. The Knights of Saladin are the Middle Eastern equivalent of the Knights Templar, come to Barcelona to speak with their ancient allies of the West, but are forced to camp outside the city gates as the local authorities do not trust their tolerance of desert magic. With the exception of the Knights of Saladin, who do not accept Westerners as full members but only as recognized associates called "Favored Ones", all the factions are open to the PC to join. (The PC may also opt to join the Dark Wielders, an evil splinter faction of the Wielders, but in gameplay terms there is little difference between it and the latter.)
The PC may only join one faction, and the process of attaining membership will take him/her all over Barcelona and the nearby lands. Along the way, the PC will encounter several characters from real-world history who may be represented somewhat differently in this world: William Shakespeare is a struggling playwright in need of assistance to clear his crushing debts, Niccolò Machiavelli is a deposed Italian politician looking for a bodyguard to prevent attempts on his life while he schemes against the Spanish government to free his homeland, Grand Inquisitor Tomas de Torquemada is the aged, fanatic supremo of the Inquisition, Hernán Cortés is a penniless, crippled conquistador seeking funding for another expedition to the New World, Guy Fawkes is a spy for England who is trying to sabotage the Spanish Armada, Miguel de Cervantes is a writer gone mad who thinks he is being hounded by a strange illusory "beast", Galileo Galilei is a suspected heretic and prisoner of the Inquisition who is secretly a friend of DaVinci and the Wielders, Grace O'Malley is a former captain of the navy of the now-sunken Ireland who has joined the Armada in disguise to fight England, and so on.
The factions each have their own sideplots. The Inquisition will have the PC rid Barcelona of lingering spirits and its sewers of beggars who have been afflicted with the disease of wererat lycanthropy, before rescuing a fellow Inquisitor from goblin clutches and then finally seeking out (and possibly exposing) the hidden sanctuary of the Wielders. The Knights Templar will have the PC deal with a notorious brigand, help to police the outskirts of Barcelona, and rescue a fellow Templar from the thieves who are warring with the beggars/wererats in the sewers, before finally eliminating the slaver presence in the wilderness (the very same slavers the PC escaped from in the beginning). The Wielders will have the PC hunt for special materials to craft his/her own magic wand and then bring to justice an outcast Arch Necromancer who is plotting revenge against them for his exile; the PC may opt to betray them instead and help him take over their hidden sanctuary in order to join the Dark Wielders. The Knights of Saladin will have the PC track down one of their disguised informants in Barcelona, recover a priceless gem stolen from them by the slavers outside the city, and then brave a "dream trial" of his/her combat prowess or intellect.
Upon joining one of the three major factions, the PC will be tasked with the protection (or theft if he/she became a Dark Wielder) of one of the sacred relics, the Crown of Thorns, which is kept at Montserrat Abbey. The PC arrives at Montserrat only to find it under attack by creatures known as "snakebreeds", and the relic already stolen. A dying guardian of the relic known as Brother Montgomerie instructs the PC to pursue the thieves north and seek out a Brother Michel on the other side of the Pyrenees Mountains. Traveling north, the PC has to fight his/her way through the Duero Plains and the Pyrenees before arriving in France, in the southern Cathar town of Montaillou.
Da Vinci, who has ridden to Montaillou in a flying machine, advises the PC to seek out the seer Nostradamus, who can predict the future. He doesn't know where to find him, but a strange witch living on the outskirts of town does: Na Roqua, who turns out to be the Daeva Druj in human form. (The PC will earlier have encountered and fought several Daevas, demons of great evil power who serve the dark master behind the Assassins, such as Aesma, Aka Manah, Tawrich, and Nanghaithya.) Druj has tired of the endless war between good and evil, and will assist the PC in finding Nostradamus. At the same time, Brother Michel, a retired Knight Templar who has a house in Montaillou, will tell the PC of another sacred relic, the Bleeding Lance, and how it is kept in a nearby crypt. The PC's main objective in France is thus twofold: to locate and consult Nostradamus, and to secure the Lance before it can be stolen. A sideplot here involves dealing with the intelligent but bestial rock titans of the Pyrenees who have razed the nearby town of Toulouse.
The Crypt of the Lance is filled with undead guardians and traps. In the lower levels the PC encounters undead Knights Templar, protectors of the relic in death as they were in life, led by an undead Jehanne D'Arc who denies the PC access to the Lance on pain of death. Light is shed on this unnatural state of affairs when the PC encounters the Spirit Council, spirits of light who once guided Jehanne. According to the spirits, during the crusade against the necromancers centuries ago, Jehanne had led a Templar army to this crypt to relieve an undead siege, and become trapped inside as the undead horde poured in. To prevent the undead from leaving with the Lance, she allowed a Knight of Saladin who was with the army to invoke desert sorcery to seal the crypt forever. However, the source of the Eastern warrior's magic was none other than a malevolent efreet, who twisted the literal words of his plea and cursed the whole army into undeath so that they could guard the relic for all eternity. With Jehanne's transition into undeath, she lost the guidance of the Spirit Council, and they now plead the PC to help by making the efreet, who is still in the crypt, end its curse. The PC will later come across the efreet and has the option of doing so, thereby releasing Jehanne and her knights into true death, or risking the wicked being's whims by demanding other, more selfish favors. Either way, the PC will gain access to the Lance and take it into his/her care.
The Caverns of Nostradamus, pointed out by Na Roqua, is under attack by snakebreeds and fierce semi-human warriors called "hujarks"; the seer's followers, consisting of monks, ogres and Wielders, are rapidly being overrun. The PC must fight his/her way through to Nostradamus's sanctum, where it is revealed that the seer, slowly becoming one with the unique spirit that dwells within him, is undergoing a bizarre transformation into a giant tree-like being. Nostradamus will impart to the PC valuable information on the impending war between Spain and England and, more importantly, the truth behind the Assassins' theft of the sacred relics; their dark master is in fact Druj's twin Asha, a great spirit of light who has fallen to the dark side and become a mighty Daeva, who intends to use the relics to awaken a monstrous ancient evil: the serpent Ahriman.
With the Lance secured and Nostradamus's prophecies in mind, the PC returns to Montaillou only to find that war has started: the town is being laid waste by English soldiers who are battling the local Inquisitors and Knights Templar defenders. The PC must fight his/her way through the attackers to the landing site of DaVinci's flying machine, where DaVinci opens a portal for the PC to return to Barcelona. In a reversal of real-world events, England has invaded Spain and the great city is now a war-torn battleground; the PC's main objective is now to carry the fight to England, using the same magical routes the invaders are using, and stop the English (by now it is revealed that the English are assisting the Assassins with their dark schemes).
Battling his/her way through the English army, the PC arrives in England outside a great Druidic temple, where it is revealed that the Knights Templar of England have remained true to their code and are now fighting their own countrymen to stop the Druids' sinister plan to awaken the country's ley lines. Joined by English Templar commander Sir Roger Templeton, the PC descends to the temple's lowest chambers and kills the leader of the Druids, but is unable to prevent the Assassins from spiriting away an incapacitated Galileo and yet another sacred relic, the True Cross. Here the PC has the opportunity to visit the burial place of his/her ancestor, King Richard the Lionheart. Afterward, the PC must once again traverse the ether to take the fight to the Assassins once and for all, in the Middle East.
Upon arrival in the sprawling deserts of Persia, the PC heads for the Assassin stronghold of Alamut, which is guarded by one of the most powerful Daevas, Azi Dahaka, in the form of a mighty Sand Dragon. Slaying or bypassing the great beast, the PC battles his/her way through the dark hallways of the Assassins' fortress to confront their leader, the mysterious "Old Man of the Mountain" who is the Daeva Asha in human form. Things take a dire turn when the PC is incapacitated and relieved of the Lance, thereby completing the stolen collection of relics and allowing the Assassin leader to perform his dark ritual to summon Ahriman; the timely arrival of one of DaVinci's experimental new siege engines, however, frees the PC. From here, the game can end in two ways; with a high enough skill in diplomacy and all the knowledge gleaned from Nostradamus, the PC can convince Asha to turn back to the light and depart peacefully, otherwise the matter must be settled through battle with Asha in the form of the game's final boss, a monstrous Chaos Dragon. The PC must then slay the terrible beast while attempting to keep DaVinci and Galileo, both prisoners in nearby cages, alive.
Upon the dragon's death, it transforms back into the Old Man, who states that he will return to continue the struggle against the light before making good his escape. If DaVinci and Galileo survived the battle, they will comment on the victory, as will the PC's spirit if the diplomatic resolution with Asha was chosen. The game ends with a cutscene featuring a voiceover by Nostradamus witnessing the fulfillment of his own prophecy, before shifting to a rebuilt Barcelona where a Knight Templar (who may or may not be the Templar leader, Lord Javier Fernandez, as both their voices sound the same) addresses a crowd in a church, giving a short motivational speech. If the PC fought and defeated the Chaos Dragon instead of talking his/her way out of the battle, the knight also proclaims that he has received "divine visions from an eastern desert far away" from a "benefactor of great power" by the name of... Ahriman.
Lionheart received "mixed" reviews according to the review aggregation website Metacritic. GameSpot's Greg Kasavin noted that although Lionheart seems to promote diverse character creation, the significant focus on monster-infested areas "all but forces you to play as some sort of combat-oriented character." The game was also criticised for its attempts at promoting "Diablo-style," hack-and-slash gameplay after a more dialogue-driven approach in the earlier stages of the game. IGN's Barry Brenesal wrote, "the problem of deciding what kind of game it really wants to be, RPG or Diablo clone, is probably the most serious problem it's got." He continued, Lionheart "feels like a good game got lost somewhere en route, and ended up being pushed out the door with some basic features missing." RPGamer's Steven Bellotti assessed that the game "starts out so promising," but "once you get out of Barcelona and into the wider world, [it] falls flat on its face."
Conversely the game was praised for both its musical score, which was described as "excellent," and voice-acting, which was exclaimed to be "top-notch." The SPECIAL system-fueled character creation was called "great."
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