Liv Games' new iOS release "Legendary Wars" does not get off to a promising start. Generic fantasy setting, cartoon-y visuals, races and character class names all saddled with an adorable "y" -- "knights" are "knightys," "elves" are "elfys," etc. -- and more besides; you've either seen this before or you're afraid the cute factor will render it boring and stupid.
Just know: if you walk away right there, you'll be missing out on one of the strongest remixes of the "Plants Vs. Zombies" formula that the App Store has seen.
As Lucas the knight, you embark on a quest to rid Legendaria of its evil by gathering together the four lost pieces of the Sunstone. Along the way, you'll build up armies, outfit them and your castle both with upgrades and engage in a variety of tasks that twist the basic formula of what is essentially a side-scrolling real-time strategy game: you've got three "lanes" to direct your forces, miners pulling out tappable gems as your resources and all soldiers issuing forth from your home castle, on the far left side of the play area.
Every one of the unit types you unlock can be upgraded in a range categories, such as attack power, hit points or critical %, using gems earned from completed missions (which can be also be replayed for a fraction of the original reward). A fully upgraded unit can then be transformed using a rare Moonstone into a more powerful unit type, bringing a whole new set of stats to improve. Your castle's defenses, mines and miners can all be upgraded as well. Customizing to suit your play style is key, especially as you advance through the game's kingdoms.
Familiar, But Better
The three-lane strategy play should be familiar to "Plants Vs. Zombies" fans. The twist here is that you're typically pushing your units forward to meet the oncoming horde, and as such there's a need to manage group placement and positioning to maximize your effectiveness.
The campaign mode serves up a lot of missions, and some of them are pretty wildly different. Sometimes you're attacking, sometimes defending and sometimes you are literally controlling one character in an arcade-style side-scrolling minigame. Players can also unlock Endless Defense, Side-Scrolling and Survival modes, for added replayability.
As your armies grow larger, it becomes more difficult to tap a specific unit type in the midst of a slowly advancing horde. You're directing unit types, not individuals, but even still, micromanagement can be a hassle in the later stages.
No Quick Save
C'mon, iPhone devs. You're making games for an on-the-go crowd. A mid-mission quick-save option is a no-brainer.
"Legendary Wars" is at this moment on sale for $0.99 on the App Store. Even at its normal going rate of $2.99, this game is a steal. There are hours of play in a single playthrough, and many more if you decide to mess around with the bonus modes or try upgrading your forces a bit differently. Like the best iOS apps, don't think, just tap buy. You won't regret it.