Law & Order: Legacies is the latest episodic game franchise from Telltale Games. In it, you control a group of all-stars from the "Law & Order" television series, and you use them to solve seven murders. The good news is that Legacies does a nice job of mimicking the show, and so it feels like you're experiencing an episode right from the comfort of your computer. The bad news is that the game gives you so little to do that you might have more fun just switchng on your TV and watching a block of "Law & Order" reruns.
In Legacies as in the television show, for each murder case you first investigate the crime and then prosecute the criminals. For the investigative part, you either control Rey Curtis and Olivia Benson (for modern cases) or Rey Curtis and Lennie Briscoe (for flashback cases). Anita Van Buren and Mike Logan also make appearances. For the prosecution part, you control Abbie Carmichael, Michael Cutter, Jack McCoy, and (barely) Adam Schiff. I'm guessing if somebody set up a poll for the public's favorite "Law & Order" characters of all time, the characters in the game would rate highly on the list.
Investigating a crime in Legacies involves doing two things. At least once in each case, you're required to search a crime scene for clues. This is handled like most hidden object games, where not only are you told exactly what you're looking for, but you're also usually shown the shape of the object. To make these sequences a little bit tougher, sometimes clues are hidden behind other items, and so you have to pick through the scene. But you can't just click on everything; you're only given a limited number of guesses, and the fewer guesses you make, the more points you receive (not that your score means anything).
But the majority of each investigation comes down to questioning suspects and witnesses. During these sequences you're given a list of topics to cover (some of which are red herrings), and then every so often you're asked a challenge question to see if you've been paying attention. For example, at one crime scene the detectives take some time to discuss the timeline of the murder, and you learn that the victim first received his wounds at 2 am before dying at 4 am. The challenge question then asks you if the victim immediately died from his wounds (which obviously he didn't). I didn't just cherry pick that example -- the challenge questions typically aren't too tough, and if you don't know how to respond, then you're allowed to check the transcripts of earlier conversations to find the answer.
For the prosecution portion of each case, you don’t have to worry about silly things like evidence and if you have an actual case. Instead, you're tasked with interviewing witnesses (which works just the same as in the investigative portion of the case) and objecting to things the defense attorney says when it's his turn to talk. During the early cases you're given descriptions for the different kinds of objections (including hearsay, speculation, and badgering) but eventually you have to remember them on your own. As long as you object at the right time and for the right reason, the jury always supports your case and eventually delivers a guilty verdict. But if you struggle as a prosecutor, then you can also accept a plea bargain and let the defendant off easy.
The major problem with Legacies -- which you might have figured out from my description -- is that 90% of the game involves negotiating dialogue, and you're not given any control over who you talk to or what you talk about. The game handles all of that for you. You never examine fingerprints or search databases or solve puzzles of any kind. The cases are just linked chains of conversations, one after another. Worse, the challenge questions you receive during the conversations are almost always ridiculously easy, to the point where I felt like I was in "Law & Order" remedial school.
Legacies has some other issues as well, mostly in the sound department. For some reason there are lots of volume shifts, as well as snaps and pops (but no crackles), that frequently make it irritating to listen to the game. Plus there's the fact that Telltale Games didn’t spring for the original voice talent, and so all of the characters sound a little bit off (especially Jack McCoy). The only "character" to appear in both the game and the show is Steve Zirnkilton, who provides the "these are their stories" narration at the beginning of each case.
In better news, the cases in the game are about the same quality as you'd see in the show, and Telltale even made an effort to link some of them together to give them more depth (they also tried for a "surprise" ending, but you don't need to be a "Law & Order" detective to see it coming a mile away). And the graphics quality, while a little cartoony for my tastes, is at least adequate to show you what you need to see. I suppose it helps that 90% of the game is conversations, and so the graphics engine mostly only needs to show faces.
Overall, I found Law & Order: Legacies to be kind of dull. The game holds your hand so much that you're not given any control over the investigations, and while you can earn points for navigating dialogue correctly and answering challenge questions, your score at the end doesn't mean anything. Unless you totally botch the court proceedings at the end of the case, you're guaranteed to put the bad guy away. Fans of the television series might find some enjoyment with the game, but for those people I'd recommend the old Legacy Interactive Law & Order games instead. Those games weren't great or anything, but at least they were games, and they made you think a little.
This review is based on a digital Season Pass of Law & Order: Legacies for the PC provided by Telltale Games.