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Review by: Jim Richmond
Published: September 15, 2003
The Inquisition was a brutal time in history where the hierarchy of the Catholic Church endeavored to spread itself by prosecuting and putting to death anyone that was deemed to be a heretic. Even though stories of the brutality have survived hundreds of years, the first thing I think of when the Inquisition is mentioned is the dance number in Mel Brooks’ “History of the World, Part I.” If ever I need a laugh, one great way to start is to see a chorus line of monks with patent leather dance shoes and nylons on under their cowls singing about the auto de fe. Less comical, but no less clever, in its use of the Inquisition as a backdrop, developers Reflexive Entertainment and Black Isle Studios bring us Lionheart: Legacy of the Crusader.
Lionheart has a deep backstory rooted in a historical timeline that differs from the one common in modern school books. As King Richard the Lionheart led the crusade against the Muslims in the late eleventh century, he laid siege on the city of Acre. There, Richard was tricked by an advisor into murdering 3000 members of the opposing army, ostensibly in a show of force and ferocity. Instead, he unwittingly initiated an ancient ritual with the blood of the slain that loosed an unholy cascade of events. rending the fabric of reality and bringing legions of monsters into this world. Upon seeing the horrors that were unleashed around Acre, Richard and Saladin, the leader of the Muslim army, joined forces to drive the emerging evil back to where it was spawned. The advisor that had tricked Richard was wounded during the fierce fight and revealed himself to be a powerful demon. Even though Richard and Saladin prevailed, the Disjunction had begun, scattering monsters and introducing magic to humanity. Lionheart opens four centuries after the Disjunction, during the peak of the Inquisition’s attempt to eradicate magic and those tainted by it. You are the direct descendant of Richard the Lionheart and it has fallen to you to bring balance to a fractured world.
As with most role playing games, you begin Lionheart by choosing the role you are going to play. There are four races to choose from: Pureblood, Demokin, Feralkin, and Sylvant. Purebloods are the only race that is not tainted by magic and its members are therefore openly accepted in society while others meet with resentment and even hostility. Demokin have only small traces of a fiendish magical influence and blend in better than other races in “normal” society. Their mild taint gives them a heightened affinity for using magic over their Pureblood brethren. Feralkin are stained by a beast spirit and have obvious signs of their heritage such as fur and claws. Feralkin make up for their lack of social acceptance with brute strength and magical resistance. Sylvants are touched with an elemental spirit and are physically weaker than the rest but compensate by being highly effective magic wielders. Eight stock characters are provided, two in each race, but of course, you can customize your own avatar to suit. If you decide to go the custom route, there are a few other determinations you have to make before setting off into the world.
If you choose a race other than Pureblood, you must also select a racial trait. Racial traits are specific to the latter three groups and include such properties as Acid Blood, Forked Tongue, Chameleon, Regeneration, Fiery Ancestry, and Skin of Thorns among others. Each of these bloodline distinctions has a benefit and a detriment associated with them. For instance, Acid Blood allows you to inflict damage back on an attacker when you are hit, but it makes your character less able to pass as human and so some people will react negatively to you. In a similar vein, Fiery Ancestry gives you a large boost in the ability to use fire magic and resist fire attacks, but has a negative impact on your use and resistance to frost magic.
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