Overview While Double Fine’s recent Kickstarter event has caused a sort of resurgence in adventure games, there have been a few game developers that have never veered from the point’n’click path. One of the biggest champions of the genre has been TellTale. Having released well-received series such as Sam & Max and Back to the Future, TellTale seems to have gotten the art of the adventure games down to a science. So with nearly a decade of quality adventure games under their belt, how does their latest game, Law & Order: Legacies, stack up?
In short: not good. Bluntly: pretty terrible. Legacies puts you in the shoes of multiple characters from both the original series and the spin-off, Special Victims Unit as you solve seven interconnected crimes over the course of many years. Legacies is less a classic point’n’click adventure and more a set of interactive episodes. When the game was released in January, it included only three episodes. Four more episodes were released as free downloads in the weeks and months that followed. This review is of the entire game, not just the first three episodes.
*Note: I had some extreme technical difficulties with this game. I was unable to launch the game repeatedly and had to reinstall every time I needed to play it. I also noticed many audio bugs during my time with the game such as the sounding popping and buzzing during dialogue. However, because I have been unable to find other documented cases of these problems I am leaving these issues out of the body of this review.
Legacies is divided into seven episodes that play out very similarly to the way episodes of the actual TV show do. Like the show, the game is separated equally into two parts: the investigation and the courtroom. The investigation is further cut into two portions: interrogations and hunting for evidence. Unlike many adventure games, you have no control over any of the characters’ movements, not even indirectly. The gameplay is strictly limited to dialogue and pixel hunting.
Interrogation, exactly as it would seem, involves you playing as a police officer while you ask witnesses questions. Like L.A. Noire, when a witness answers, you are given the option to believe them or not. Unlike L.A. Noire, the game then asks you why you made that choice. Choosing the correct option then gives you a list of four reasons why you believe or disbelieve them based on evidence found or previous statements. When you get it right, the game gives you an amazing screen:
Essentially, most of the game is a quiz determining how well you’ve paid attention. At the end of each scene, the game rates you on how well you did: if you found all the correct data and if you asked any questions that didn’t lead anywhere. The better you do in each scene, the more you raise your detective level. But your detective level has no bearing on anything except the final rating for the episode, which in turn serves no purpose. I have to say, the constant reminder of getting a grade at the end of each scene and episode really kills the sense of being a detective.
The second part of the investigation, the evidence hunt, is more along the lines of the adventure games of old. Here you circle areas with your cursor to find hidden objects. That’s it. Classic pixel hunt.
The last part of the gameplay is the courtroom. Here you play as the DA’s while either questioning witnesses on the stand or objecting to the defense's bad lawyering. Much like how you have to pick a reason why you believe or disbelieve a witness as the police, you have to decide why you are objecting, whether it is badgering, relevance, hearsay, etc. The game does tell you what each type of objection means in the first few episodes. Like with the investigation, you are scored on how well you prosecute the defendant.
In order to get the highest score, you must ask the right questions and provide the right evidence, but you must also prosecute to the fullest extent of the law. In one particular episode, I chose not prosecute the defendant to the fullest extent and for that I was given a lower score. Now, I didn’t ask that the character be given a lesser sentence because I didn’t have enough evidence or need to make a deal. I simply didn’t feel that he deserved life in prison and the game punished me for that. I made a judgment call based on my own principles and the game essentially told me I was incorrect. In many ways, this is not that big of a deal, but it did frustrate me considerably and caused me to change my opinions for the remainder of the game in order get the “best” outcome.
Legacies is one of the worst games I’ve seen released in a long time. There are definitely worse looking titles, but none released by semi-large name companies like TellTale. The art style of the characters themselves is not bad and actually covers up what might otherwise look even worse. The animation of the characters does leave a lot to be desired. In game where you spend all of your time looking at characters, you think more effort would have been put into making them move and gesticulate like actual people. The most deplorable part of the visuals, though, is the environments. Most of which look like blurry posterized photographs. On top of all this, there are virtually no post processing or ambient effects; no nice light sources or anything to curb the graphical difference between the 3D characters and 2D backgrounds.
It just looks bad. Plain and simple.
Some games are a pain to play. Some games are unenjoyable to one audience but enjoyable to another. I can’t see anyone finding entertainment in Law & Order Legacies. Not only is the gameplay simplistic, getting the best outcome on a case is incredibly easy if you game it correctly. The more I played the game, the more I found myself skipping dialogue and not paying attention. And you know what? I still got high rankings in almost every scenario.
But worse than the game being easy, it’s simply not a good Law & Order experience. It features none of the shows’ actual actors, only their likeness and sound-alikes. To top it off, each episode’s plot, the reason you watch a show like Law & Order, isn’t interesting and is completely predictable.
My issues with having to reinstall Legacies repeatedlynotwithstanding, Legacies is not particularly broken. It functions as a piece of software should. That said, it is one of the most unpleasant gaming experiences I’ve had in a long time. There’s a reason it took me three months to review it. I hate being this hard on a game; you never know what conditions a developer was under to release a game or the type of resources they had available. But none of that changes the fact that Law & Order Legacies is an awful game. From gameplay that boils down to memory quizzes to poor production values to bland stories, there is no reason you should play this game, no matter how big a fan of adventure games or Law & Order you are.
Jonathan is the host of the DarkCast, DarkCast Interviews, and Gamers Read. He loves books, video games, and superheroes. If he had to pick favorites, they would be Welcome to the Monkey House, Mass Effect, and Superman respectively.