With the exception of a few rogue agents, we typically do not review DLC content at Geeks Under Grace because of its radically amorphous properties. There is too much variance in price, size, impact, and value from download to download. What I will do instead, is verify that Ancestors Legacy: Saladin’s Conquest is absolutely worth its $10.99 asking price.
Before diving in, I want to reference my review of Ancestors Legacy, specifically the Content Warning. Not even civilians are spared in this war for ethnic and religious supremacy. Indeed, there is no shortage of blood-soaked units and immolated victims bursting out of their homes while engulfed in flames, and I suppose Destructive Creations’ artists simply could not resist a brief depiction of female POW’s exposed breast. The violence is to be expected, but expanded here is the religious turmoil, and surprisingly, the language. The former is to be expected, for Saladin’s Conquest concerns Salah ad-Din’s fight against the Crusaders in the eleventh century. The developer claims neutrality in this “historical inspiration.”
Destructive Creations’ aim for a historically inspired game checks out. Salah ad-Din is depicted as a cerebral, yet vengeful and bloodthirsty general who relishes violence up until Balain of Ibelin proposes a non-violent solution. Throughout Saladin’s Conquest, there is an equal amount of derisive comments exchanged between Christians and Muslims, though the crudest of defamations come from Christians.
I have played games like Far Cry 3 and House of the Dead: Overkill, and am therefore accustomed (though not immune) to a bombardment of F-bombs. However, the cusses here are far fewer, but more disconcerting. While they are not exactly anachronistic (references to the genitals and swearing/taking oaths were more offensive in the ancient world), they are discordant in a game that was previously highly selective in its employ of crude language.
For years, I have secretly thought that the RTS and RTT genres would make suitable homes for quality video games with Christian themes (outside of FIVE: Guardians of David or The Aetherlight, which are both [A]RPGs). How ironic is it then, that the best game I have played with “Christian themes” in it would be designed from the perspective of a Muslim figure.
Notwithstanding the cutscenes depicting Salah ad-Din’s defeat and resurgence to power, Saladin’s Conquest sagaciously opens with Crusader knights on horseback waylaying a caravan of Muslim merchants, followed by giving the player control of the Saracens, who in turn intercept unarmed Christian pilgrims who are en route to Jerusalem. After Destructive Creations shows, rather than tells, the fruitlessness of the bloodshed soaking the sands of the Holy Land during the Crusades, players take control during the Battle of Hattin. Fans (like me) of Kingdom of Heaven (2005) may relish riding on horseback while raiding water supplies and picking off straggling soldiers exhausted from dehydration and sleepless nights. As with the base game Ancestors Legacy, Saladin’s Conquest should excite those who enjoy historical reenactments.
A combination of an airtight scripted campaign and specialized units make the Saracens a delightfully fun faction to play. Destructive Creations understandably has balanced the difficulty with the expectation that players will have finished some of Ancestors Legacy campaigns. I enjoy a challenge, but I also had to plan for extended sessions; the average length of a mission is about forty minutes!
Because the campaign takes place on a desert, woe be to those traveling on foot! The majority of the missions appropriately necessitate the usage of cavalry like no other faction, rushing from one side the map to the other, smashing into a troupe of shieldmen, retreating when spearmen come to their rescue, and then bullying with mounted archers until everyone is stuffed with arrows.
But those tactics are not unique to the Saracens. One campaign scenario requires the deployment of Hassassins, a smaller version of shieldmen who can stealth themselves even in broad daylight. Though not ideal for direct attacks, they can be used for harassment. The highlight unit of this DLC though, are the grenadiers. Yo, when they show up prepare for massive screen shakes, explosions, dust, and colossal collateral damage.
$10.99 is not much to ask for in exchange for what Saladin’s Conquest has to offer. With an immediately accessible pop culture reference, I can imagine how this DLC might appeal to the Deus Vult/Allahu Akbar types. With this unexpected foray into Asia (because base Ancestors Legacy is decidedly Eurocentric), I now wonder if a Genghis Khan campaign is out of the question.