Telltale Games is known for working on some of the most revered point and click games in PC gaming, with many of its key contributors coming from the famed LucasArts team that created Tales of Monkey Island. Since splitting off from LucasArts, the team at Telltale was able to take their credentials and acquire more well known mass market properties like CSI, Jurassic Park and Back to the Future. Though this is the fifth Law & Order game to be released, Law & Order: Legacies it is the first to come from the team at Telltale.
When talking about a point and click adventure game, many people recall instances of being left in a world where they must click on or pick up objects in a certain order to achieve a specific goal. Instead, the aspect of the point and click adventure that carries over to Law & Order: Legacies is that of a cerebral experience which players are carefully lead through, almost too carefully at times.
The focus of Law & Order: Legacies’ gameplay is on remembering the facts presented at crime scenes, interviews with witnesses and cutting off the tactics of defense attorneys.
When conducting interviews, players are asked various questions about what is being told to them. Should they believe what this person is saying. Do they think this person is being cooperative. Has this individual said anything that contradicts what has already been said. Instead of just being able to blindly guess even if the player hasn’t been paying attention, they must then back up their decision. Too many incorrect decisions or failing to provide the correct reasoning behind their reaction brings the player back to before that segment of the episode took place.
The game also includes a crime scene investigation portion where players must identify key items needed for the case. These are the most reminiscent to the standard point and click adventure method as it lies solely on the player to correctly identify the specific objects required. At times, this becomes simple trial and error with trying to identify hidden objects in or underneath other objects though it never gets very challenging.
Later in each episode when the case gets taken in front of a jury, players are given the opportunity to object to defense tactics. This is where the gameplay starts to falter as it becomes very easy to identify the obvious hints the game is giving a player for when to object and what method of objection is appropriate.
Interestingly enough, Law & Order: Legacies takes on the same approach to storytelling as the television show does. It begins with a cold open where the player finds out the crime before going in to the opening credits sequence. Players then go through various interviews before being able to issue an arrest warrant. Then the latter part of the game becomes the court room drama from the prosecution’s perspective. This format works great as it personifies what people look for from an episodic experience as players feel as though they are experiencing an episode of the television show.
The negative to this format is that the episodes are fairly short, only about the length of one episode of the show each. In total, that leaves the players with only about a 7 to 8 hour total experience. And once a player has gone through an episode, there leaves very little reason to go back and play through again. The plot twists from the story, like those in the show, lose their impact once you know what is coming.
The major draw for the story comes from a virtual who’s who of the Law & Order cast. The classic Lennie Briscoe returns to the screen, though the actor who portrayed him passed on back in the 90s, along with Rey Curtis, Olivia Benson, Jack McCoy and others. Because of the creative freedom given to the developers, they were able to pick whatever cast they felt best accomplished the story they wanted to tell. The main crux behind the season is an unsolved case from years ago which prompts Rey Curtis to rejoin the team. How this will play out remains to be seen as only the first three episodes of the season are currently out.
Law & Order: Legacies isn’t a pretty game. Though the characters do a good job of resembling the actors they are portraying, the game already looks very dated. Especially after seeing how crime drama investigation gaming can look with the likes of L.A. Noire, this game feels even older. Textures, lighting and animations come across as either stilted or bland. Though one wouldn’t expect the most impressive visual experience from a Law & Order game, it still disappoints.
The sound design of the game matches that of the show. There isn’t ambient music present just for the same of building tension. The scenes feel like one would expect them to in real life without unnecessary background noise. Also consistent to the show is the signature “dint dint” noise during transitions. The voice acting of the game is alright, though one can tell it is filled with sound-a-likes instead of the real cast from the show. It brings up a red flag to the player the first time they sit through the opening credits sequence and the cast is called out by character names instead of the actors playing them.
Law & Order: Legacies lends itself to many of the pratfalls expected from a licensed game. The story doesn’t take any creative chances and feels like it could be just another episode of the show. While staying true to the original vision, it also has a blandness to it for following the format of a show that had been on the air for almost two decades. The handholding gameplay doesn’t help the situation much either.
Law & Order: Legacies is primarily fan service. Seeing a classic ensemble cast working together in the format that matches the show perfectly is most likely what anyone who is searching out this game is looking for from it. There are just some times the game feels too much like an interactive television program as opposed to a game in and of itself.
PC (Also available on Mac and iOS)
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games