Wait... you can make good RTS games on consoles?
Before I get to Ancestors Legacy, a quick note on real-time-strategy, or RTS games on consoles. I’m a big Age of Empires II fan. I grew up with it on PC and my love for it was reinvigorated with the release of the Definitive Edition. It is by a fairly large margin my most played game in my Steam library; I even played a ton of the weird DS version that was actually a pretty good Advance Wars style game. While on some level I know that the core RTS experience may just not be possible on a traditional console, it hasn’t kept me from keeping an eye out for games promising to allow me to bring that experience with me on Switch. All this to preface that while Ancestors Legacy certainly has some issues, it is probably the most I’ve enjoyed a console RTS in a long time.
Ancestors Legacy is a historical RTS game featuring four different factions, each with their own units and tech. Eight campaigns are included, two for each faction, that lead you through historically inspired missions. The first of these campaigns teaches you the basics of gameplay, allowing you to proceed to the others or switch into a fully customizable skirmish mode. There are no multiplayer options available in the Switch version of Ancestors Legacy, which does limit the skirmish mode somewhat. However, the variety of maps, factions, AI difficulties, and team configurations are enough to keep things interesting.
A good RTS game needs to find a solid balance between strategic warfare, city building, and managing an economy. Ancestors Legacy takes an interesting approach to city building, in that in the grand scheme of a match, very little of it comes from building your town. Growth is all about taking pre-existing settlements spread across the map. These settlements will have access to various resources and will feed back into your starting town. However your ability to construct on these settlements is extremely limited. Up to three defensive towers can be built to help defend them but that's about it. These settlements cannot produce units. Military production buildings can only be built in your main town. This also means that all of your units will have to travel from that starting point to the edge of your territory to effectively defend it. This means that the farther your territory expands, the harder it is to reinforce it. Most late games will wind up being a fairly evenly matched power struggle with each player controlling half of the map. It is incredibly difficult to gain a foothold in enemy territory to do the limitations of unit production. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and does factor into balance, it also limits strategies.
Given the inherent limitations of controlling an RTS game with a controller, Ancestors Legacy is one of the better implementations I’ve seen. Some of this is inherent to the core design while others are built on intelligent menu choices. For example, when constructing buildings in your town, you don’t choose their specific location. Rather your villagers will automatically build it in an appropriate spot. Select any building and you can call up a radial menu that allows you to train units or buy upgrades. Units on the field can be quickly toggled between using the L and R buttons. Individual units can be selected with Y or every unit on screen can be selected at once. This removes the drag and select functionality that is inherent to PC RTS games that has never worked well on consoles. The downside is that selecting a subgroup of units can be very difficult during battle. Realistically you’ll need to select and order them one by one if you want to split your forces. That being said it's not an unreasonable price to pay for an RTS on a console that actually controls fairly well.
Visually, Ancestors Legacy is serviceable. It pales in comparison to its PC counterpart but units are easy to make out, even if your character models look a little goofy when you zoom in. Environments have a nice amount of variety which is heightened by dynamic time of day and weather systems. Interestingly these also factor into gameplay, with visibility being reduced at night and unit efficiency being lowered in bad weather conditions.
Ancestors Legacy is a title I’d love to see a follow up of on Switch. It places the groundwork for a legitimately great RTS implementation on consoles while lacking in a few key areas. The removal of multiplayer certainly hurts it’s long term appeal but the variety of single player options help to make up for it. The controls are excellently adapted to a controller, and bring up relatively few issues in terms of unit control. I do wish the core design allowed for more diversity in terms of unit production and strategy, but that hasn’t kept me from having some great matches. While some of these issues are inherent to the game while others are exclusive to the Switch version, none of them kept me from enjoying my time with it. Ancestors Legacy isn’t perfect, but it just might be the best RTS experience on Switch.