A War Fought By Dead Men
Frankenstein’s Legions is an action-strategy game set in a gothic environment of moors, mountains and deserted villages. The style is a raw, modern take on Mary Shelley’s classic science fiction. Jittery Se7en style scratched-negative titles and icons, bleak war-torn landscapes, desaturated colors, haunting sounds of wind and rain, the howls and shrieks of reanimated men – all combine to evoke an eerie and highly original game experience.
The player takes the role of Tom Clerval, Victor Frankenstein’s godson. The game, presented throughout in third-person 3D, follows Clerval from army surgeon to high rank as officer in charge of a platoon of resurrected monsters.
Many levels consist of battles and sieges. During the action, the player controls only Clerval and his “dirty dozen” of monsters. Other characters are autonomous. However, Clerval’s orders will influence other soldiers on his side. His actions will affect their morale.
Other levels involve stealth or undercover missions, requiring the player to locate an item or person, perform an assassination, or gain information. Usually Clerval undertakes these missions alone or with just one or two of his monsters. The essential elements of stealth missions are always clearly defined – you locate the secret plans and the mission is complete. Incidental information that you discover along the way (in the form of rumors overheard from civilians, etc) can help in subsequent levels or add depth to the story, but will not be vital for completing the level.
Between levels, the player can repair and modify his monsters using body parts and new technology won during the level. He can also learn the monsters’ individual life stories – which will sometimes give a clue to special skills they can use.
Inter-level movies are not only used to give the player mission briefings, but principally as in a movie to fill out Clerval’s backstory in flashback and to show scenes that are happening to other characters.
There is additional story material in the form of each monster’s life story. The player can piece these together or ignore them as he or she chooses. After completing the game, it will be possible to go back and access all the monsters’ life stories, rather like unlocking extras on a movie DVD.
The built-in awareness of the brand will give Frankenstein’s Legions an appeal to a wide market beyond the gaming hardcore. The emphasis on story, atmosphere, a small core group of characters and simple gameplay mechanics will increase the appeal to this market.
“I don’t know what effect these men will have upon the enemy, but by God they terrify me.” – the Duke of Wellington
All characters react to the player’s presence. Monsters cringe and howl as you issue them with orders. Friendly soldiers salute when you are near. Enemies glare and spit and shake their fists. Civilians avert their eyes and make the sign of the cross.
Monsters are hulking creatures with ill-proportioned limbs. They howl in anguish at the heavens and rip each other to pieces in gory battles. When at full strength, monsters are the most powerful characters in the game. They have devastating special attacks and can hurl ordinary men around and tear them limb from limb. Each side in a battle will usually field only a half-dozen monsters.
Heroes are stronger than ordinary men and may have special abilities. Senior officers on both sides are usually heroes. Tom Clerval himself is a hero. Others in the game include Sir Percy Blakeney (the Scarlet Pimpernel), Isabel Blakeney and Citizen Auguste Blanqui. The reanimated Emperor Napoleon and Marshal Ney are also classed as heroes, although possessing many attributes of monsters also.
Types of soldier include: hussars, dragoons, light and heavy infantry, sappers, and artillerymen. A unit of soldiers consists of around twenty men, and there should be up to twenty units per side in large battles. Over the course of the game, soldiers become more accustomed to monsters and will not automatically panic when facing them. However, a full-force special attack by a monster is usually enough to cause a wavering band of soldiers to rout.
Civilians are encountered both in stealth missions and (less frequently) on the battlefield. Civilians are frightened of monsters and will usually flee from them in panic, although sometimes they will band together, arm themselves with pitchforks and burning torches, and riot instead. Famous civilians in the story include Charles Babbage, Ada Lovelace, Samuel Coleridge and George Stevenson.