Note: This review was done using the PC version of the game. It is also available on iOS platforms.
Adventure games, once thought of as a relic of days gone by have been rejuvenated over the past several years by Telltale Games. Their success in the genre is no accident as they combine a volatile formula of great writing, easy to understand gameplay, and strong iconic characters set in beloved franchises. This makes their games stand out from the standard fare the rest of the industry releases.
Telltale’s approach to adventure games lends itself perfectly to the long running franchise, as such Law & Order: Legacies makes perfect sense. For fans of the series, Legacies will follow the movements of Detective Rey Curtis. Curtis retired from the NYPD in 1999 to take care of his terminally ill wife but has now returned to his old job working new cases. Legacies is about more than just the new cases, there is a deeper story underneath it all involving Curtis and his ex-partner, Lenny Briscoe, and a case that the two of them were never able to close out.
As someone that never really watched the show outside of a couple episodes here and there, it all seems pretty convoluted but I expect longtime fans of the show will appreciate the references to past cases and nostalgic touches that are sprinkled throughout. However, as great as the overarching story may or may not be for people, when it all comes down to it, Law & Order: Legacies is a game and it has to succeed on its gameplay merits.
The structure of Law & Order: Legacies is that of its television counterpart. Each case is an individual episode, complete with a cold opening revealing the nature of the case, and a television styled opening credits sequence. The first half of each episode focuses on the police investigation while the second half focuses on prosecution of the suspect and the courtroom drama that accompanies it. The two different approaches juxtapose each other quite nicely.
Police investigations task the player with interviewing suspects and witnesses while also investigating crime scenes. The interviews generally consist of Curtis and his partner asking questions and trying to discern the truth from the answers. While there is no set direction the interviews are forced to go down, the game certainly seems to want you to go in a particular order and sometimes this order does not make logical sense which can break the flow of the conversations. While this may seem like a big deal, it honestly did not detract from my enjoyment at all.
Interviewing suspects and witnesses delivers the sense that you are truly the lead detective on this investigation. Unfortunately, investigating crime scenes does not give you that same feeling. Crime scene investigations are nothing more than elaborate photo hunts complete with a counter of how many turns you have left to find what you are looking for. It is not particularly awful, in fact as a photo hunt it works, but when a game like L.A. Noire has blown the doors off of simplistic investigation, I can only feel somewhat disappointed that Legacies does not do more with its investigations.
Once the police investigation is concluded and the detectives have fingered a suspect, it is up to the District Attorney’s office to do their magic. In a lot of respects, the courtroom drama plays out like the detective interviews but with some added twists that makes this section of Legacies the most enjoyable aspect of the game. That twist of course is the ability to object to the defense team’s line of questioning.
Being able to object is not, in itself, a big deal but needing to know when to do it and why you are doing it is. There is a great feeling of tension that comes from making those decisions and it benefits the game greatly. If your case is going well, the defense may ask to come to the table and present you with a plea deal. Depending upon how strong your case is you can push for a stiffer sentence or roll the dice and let the jury decide. Even more interesting is that sometimes there are strategic reasons to accept a plea deal, such as when I accepted a plea deal from one defendant in return for his testimony against another. Simply put, it is highly satisfying.
Aside from the gameplay being strong, the one thing Law & Order: Legacies had to get right was the look and feel of the show. Each episode lasts about an hour and each case is unique offering something new to the player. From a graphical standpoint, Legacies is highly stylized but I think it works quite well. However, the voice acting is top notch and sounds authentic making the experience that much more engaging. And one certainly cannot forget about the iconic theme song and sounds that are worked to full effect in the game.
As engaging and fun as a lot of the game can be, there are some things that just fall flat and sadly take you out of the experience. Once such issue is that during both the police interviews and the courtroom examinations the game will ask the player trivia questions in relation to the previous line of questioning that have no impact on the investigation as a whole. It just feels like fluff. Another issue is the scoring system, which seemingly seeks to remind you that you did not do that case as perfectly as you could have. It is a problem many people had with L.A. Noire and I feel Law & Order: Legacies suffers even more for it because there is a score sheet for every segment of the game.
Fortunately the problems with the game do not overly detract from the experience and Law & Order: Legacies delivers a solid gaming experience at a budget price.
- Looks and feels like Law & Order
- Cases are unique and interesting
- Courtroom drama is finely crafted
- Crime scene investigations are simple photo hunts
- Weird trivia questions that have no bearing on the outcome of the case
- Scoring system consistently reminds you that this is a game
3 / 5