Ancestors Legacy is one of those games it might be relatively easy to pick apart. It’s an RTS on a console, which always means you’re up against the sheer flexibility of a mouse and keyboard. It’s a modern RTS squashed onto Switch, which means the visuals take a hit and the multiplayer heart of most RTS games is absent. It can be a bit tricky to make out what’s going on in handheld mode at times and the screen furniture is very busy. Fine. Rough edges and missing features. But a few hours in and I am really enjoying it.
Partly this is because the first of four factions – there are eight campaigns, two for each faction – is the vikings, which means that I’ve spent a slightly overcast morning with people who have glorious beards and memorably prog names and who like to run screaming into dangerous situations. Storm the defences, flank the archers? These are mission objectives from any medieval RTS. But then you get to burning the houses and torching the church and you’re like: oh yes, I have read that vikings like to do this stuff.
Crucially, though, it’s not just about the pleasure of bullying the AI. Certainly, vikings are made for that RTS-on-easy-mode-with-an-unskilled-player moment where you group all of your units and fling them in one direction. Good thing too. I love that! But then the first mission ends with a retreat and the second mission sees you controlling a tiny group of soldiers and working your way around the dark rainy woods of a foreign kingdom pillaging food, scavenging to get by and grow your forces. Enemy patrols have you hiding in hedges. The better option is often to skip a fight rather than engage. Vikings did this too? It’s a nice reminder of the range of strategy game missions, even simplified as it is.
In other words, I think I am hooked. I’m ready to engage with a streamlined resource game, and I’m starting to get my head around the way that the triggers and face buttons are used to move between units and group-select, dragging a box and then painting desired units with a quick stab of the thumb. I want to know what the different factions have in store for me, and I want to dig into single-player skirmishes that still look filled with details to tweak and fiddle with even if there’s nobody else out there to play with.
Weirdly, though I’m playing on the TV, there’s something sort of magical about all of this being squashed down onto the Switch. An RTS for Switch, an RTS on-the-go, which hasn’t been reduced to the absolute barest of bones. I love the idea of vikings on the backfoot, scavenging for resources and picking their way between patrols. I suspect a few months from now I’m going to love it even more playing it all on the bus, with a better handle on my strategies and the real sea and shoreline rushing past outside.