It wasn’t supposed to be like this. A long line of enemies lay at my feet, none having put up much of a fight until this point. My heart was pounding, sweat was dripping down my forehead and my fingers hurting to the point that I was sure they must have been bleeding. But it’s finally done. Multiple revivals, endless calculations of his tactics, but finally one last blow to the BoneSmasher (or whatever his name is) has put an end to the misery inflicted upon me by this behemoth. The jump in difficulty a few hours into a game that hadn’t really afforded a challenge yet felt like taking an on ramp to the Autobahn from a school zone. Getting wrecked by a few of the different boss battles is certainly one of my most vivid impressions of Fallen Legion Revenants, the latest title in a long running franchise from a developer whose name is proof enough that they have a unique sense of humour.
Intense boss battles are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to unravelling the mysteries of this puzzling game. Fallen Legion begins with an alliance between the two main characters, Rowena and Lucien, both of whom have an axe to grind with the warden of a prison that is central to the plot. As a miasma spreads throughout the land poisoning all who comes in contact with it, the prison warden Ivor uses his magic to levitate Welkin castle above the plague, creating the last refuge for humanity. In order to keep the peace, Ivor installs a quasi puppet democracy with a council to act on the wishes of the people, and a chancellor to act on the decisions.
As a former chancellor, Rowena suffered the fate of death due to a treasonous act that she seemingly didn’t commit. She leaves behind a young son, quickly thrown into prison after her death and punished for the supposed crimes of his mother. The love for her son is so strong, that her spirit rises from the dead in the hopes of defeating the evil warden to release her son from captivity. In order to rescue her son, Rowena makes an alliance with Lucien, a crafty politician granted a seat on the council who aims to use his influence to rally the Welkin residents around him to overthrow the cruel warden.
Gameplay is split into two phases. Inside the castle, Lucien builds relationships with other council members and the citizens of Welkin in an effort to build influence as a leader. On the ground, Rowena leads a contingent of spirits that were once fierce warriors through the miasma fighting against hordes of monsters while looking for ways to support Lucien’s gambits. The gameplay loop of each stage stays the same throughout the game; Rowena leads a group of three Exemplars into battles linearly from left to right, with pauses every so often where gameplay switches back to Lucien completing time constrained tasks inside the castle.
The combat system is cleverly designed and is certainly fun to master. WIth the heros on a four squared grid on the left, and the enemies similarly designated on the right, the goal is to wipe out the monsters using a series of combination attacks. Each of the three Exemplars is designated a face button, and turns to attack are assigned by an action based meter that refills over time. Completing combination attacks earns mana bursts that can be used on special attacks by the Exemplars or spells that Rowena can cast to either attack the enemies or heal the party. Fallen Exemplars are simply revived in battle but after each death it takes a little bit longer for revival and if all three go down at the same time, the battle is lost.
This system of combat feels very unique from most RPGs and works very well for the most part. Combat stays largely the same throughout the game so the only main source for variation is by choosing different Exemplars to take into battle. New enemies are introduced in later chapters but many are simply stronger versions of previously seen foes. The most unique fights happen at the end of many of the stages when a boss must be defeated in order to proceed. The difficulty of combat is quite low for most of the playthrough except for a handful of bosses that provide a hair pulling, controller smashing level of frustration. One or two particular boss battles are so difficult that they may be enough for some to simply turn off the game and move on, which is a shame since one of these bosses arrives only a few hours in.
While the combat experience largely stays the same, the path for Lucien to gain control from Ivor can vary depending on a number of choices made. The amount of influence gained by Lucien affects events that occur within the castle and determine the fate of many of the characters. In one particular instance, Lucien can choose to poison food supply, water supply, or both, which leads to another citizen unjustly accused of the crimes. Without the correct amount of influence, if Lucien attempts to intervene in the execution of this individual, the game is abruptly over after admitting to his hand in the crime. However, if the correct actions had been taken up until the point, Lucien can convince the council to spare the accused without exposing his own involvement. If this all sounds confusing you’re not alone. Many of the choices don’t necessarily provide an indication in how they influence the game. Only in subsequent playthroughs will you discover if there really was even a choice at all.
Fallen Legion Revenants provides enough variation in the gameplay to keep things interesting, but can feel very repetitive if you aren’t digging the combat. The majority of the time spent is going to be battling the bad guys with Rowena and the Exemplars, with the political maneuverings of Lucien feeling more like interludes between combat. Multiple paths to the ending are available through the choices made by Lucien which provides an incentive to replay, but that is entirely dependent on the enjoyment of the combat. In order to make new choices and follow a different path, many hours of similar battles lie ahead.
Thankfully, NIS America provides a demo in order to get a taste of the combat before purchase. Enjoyment of Fallen Legion largely comes down to whether fighting battle after battle continues to feel fresh and if the prospect of panic inducing boss fights elevates your heart rate in a good way. The story is interesting and learning the fate of both Rowena and Lucien provides a degree of motivation to continue but certainly isn’t enough if combat becomes to feel like a slog. A handful of times I put down the controller convinced it was my last, only to pick it up again and push forward. The mysteries of Welkin Castle and the political intrigue therein may not be enough of a reward for the determination to get past that next boss with the seemingly insurmountable battle.
- Unique battle system with a number of different ways to approach combat
- Varying paths to the story based on actions taken
- Voice acting is solid
- Loading times are noticeably annoying
- Timed story segments with Lucien are too short
- A couple nasty difficulty spikes