The tactical battles are pleasantly challenging, and the maps have been significantly improved, providing many different paths to success. You get a small damage bonus the more friendly units are adjacent to an enemy, so it makes much more sense to form battle lines to swarm the foe. There's also a lot more decisions you have to make in equipping and training units. Units and heroes gain an ability based on what weapon they are wielding, such as maces letting you bash enemies for more damage at the cost of your next turn. Each faction also has a special ability only they can use, and this ability applies to every hero with that nationality, so it's yet another thing to consider when choosing your champions.
The A.I. takes as much advantage of the tactical situation as possible, focusing fire on your weakest units while attempting to protect ranged units like archers. There's still a few broken ways to ensure a victory - I found catapults were a bit too useful in every battle as they can lay down splash damage every turn. But conversely, the huge dragons and demons which populate the strategic map can feel just as broken and require well-considered tactics and not a small amount of luck to defeat.
Several strategic-level balance changes in Legendary Heroes might fly under the radar to the casual player, but they were much appreciated for veterans. Unrest is very important now, for example. If your empire starts taking over massive amount of another's territory or expanding too quickly, you have to spend a lot of resources towards keeping unrest down, which balances the sprawling empire against the smaller ones. Cities can also be set to "build" specific resources like mana or gold, and that helps make each settlement useful once you get farther in the tech trees.
The story of the world of Elemental still holds the game back from true greatness. You could argue the narrative isn't really important in a strategy game, but the blandness of the cliché fantasy world in Legendary Heroes doesn't improve your experience one bit. Some bits of humor or interesting character development beyond meaningless binary choices in the simple quests would have made the game much more memorable.
Legendary Heroes is definitely an improvement over the original War of Magic release, and even last year's Fallen Enchantress, and Stardock is making good with its fans by offering this standalone expansion free to anyone who purchased War of Magic in a rare show of goodwill to consumers. But even though Legendary Heroes is a very well-designed turn-based strategy game, it lacks a certain magical something to make you want to play it over and over again. The replayability should be very high - with so much customization available - yet once you've played through a few times, you feel like you've seen everything Legendary Heroes has to offer.
Bottom Line: This standalone expansion is a wonderful fantasy strategy game in its own right, but it doesn't quite have enough to place it in the pantheon of classics.
Recommendation: Pick up Legendary Heroes if you're looking for a pleasant strategy challenge with a fantasy bent, but don't expect it to be the next Alpha Centauri.
Game: Fallen Enchantress: Legendary Heroes
Genre: Turn-Based Strategy
Available from: GameStop(US)