Fallen Legion+ PC Review
Fallen Legion+ is an amalgamation of the two Fallen Legion games (Fallen Legion: Flames of Rebellion and Fallen Legion: Sins of an Empire) previously released on the PS4 and PS4/Vita, respectively. They are 2D side-on action-RPGs and are nearly identical with regards to gameplay and progression. However, depending on the title, the story goes one of two ways – following the path of either Laendur or Princess Cecille, the top two generals of a powerful army, as they risk everything for the Fenumian empire. After the death of the kingdom’s monarch, they each race to seize control of the state through either birthright or a coup but in doing so uncover their country’s sordid past. Sadly though, even in this united version, the two games are still separated so the alternate story can’t be played in New Game+. This means that the player must start the game from scratch after already mastering the mechanics, almost entirely removing any challenge from the second playthrough. However, even with that in mind and the simple combat systems, I never got bored of Fallen Legion. The unique gameplay, incredible music, and intertwining stories were compelling enough for me to see both sides through to the end, totalling about 17 hours.
The combat works like this – there are four characters to control at once, consisting of the protagonist who stands at the back of the party and summons three exemplars to fight for them. The summoner’s magic is built up through combat, whereas the exemplars’ three attack charges replenish over time, like in a turn-based RPG. Controlling the summoner to heal, revive exemplars, and chip into the battle, whilst also chaining together each of the exemplar attacks to create combos and links can look and feel a lot like button-mashing and that’s probably how every player starts out – I know I did. That’s not enough come mid-game, though. Learning when to attack and what combos are best for the current situation and present group of enemies is imperative. Especially if the enemy causing all the trouble is hiding behind their teammates and needs to be pulled to the front of the group, via particular combo-finishers called ‘deathblows’, to be taken out.
On the other hand, it’s even more important to learn when to parry enemy attacks to prevent damage and recover attack charges or rotate the exemplars so that the front party member doesn’t die from tanking all the hits. After all, parrying everything would be near impossible with so much going on. And whilst the combat is a flashy spectacle made up of non-stop back-and-forth activity, what I find most interesting is how it’s all controlled in such simple, intuitive ways. Each exemplar’s attack is queued up in the combo bar using just a single button – no fighting game-esque inputs necessary. Instead, it’s all about the sequence and timing of the orders that execute different abilities, depending on which exemplars are equipped; from a cast of seven and one bonus secret unlock per story, as well as gemstones; stage rewards that buff characters and alter abilities, and ‘deathblows’.
Of course, finding all the best synergies requires playing around with the loadouts, which is a whole lot of fun – varying playstyles much more than it may seem like from just watching gameplay. There’s also some serious strategy to be applied to the building of the team and their abilities when things get more difficult. There’s one level in each story that kept crushing me, even though I hardly had any trouble for the rest of the game. Beating them challenged the knowledge I had acquired thus far and tested my skills in precision timing and combo creation – the kind of difficulty that rewards mastery of the available mechanics. Unfortunately, they were outliers and not even the final bosses pushed anywhere near that hard; nevermind any of the other normal stages, which made some levels feel like random padding instead of the next step up.
Each battle stage (as opposed to the story progression stages) consists of little chunks of news relating to the story, battle sections against different selections of enemies (sometimes culminating in a boss), and decisions. The decisions are an important part of both the individual stage and the game at whole. Basically, the player is presented with a situation such as ‘several public fountains appear to have been poisoned’ and is given three options to choose from – all of which have a temporary buff/character change attached as well as a hidden ethical grading that can positively or negatively affect the army’s overall morale. Greatly affecting the morale either way seems to unlock upgraded version of each exemplar (a good and bad version of each) but honestly the changes in morale often seemed random to me. I went out of my way to always be good in one playthrough and evil in the other but even after sabotaging, killing, and torturing countless folk I still seemed to sometimes get morale boosts and kind of just gave up caring much about the whole system, which is a shame considering its potential as a storytelling device.
That’s pretty much Fallen Legion in a nutshell – it has its fair share of ups and downs but I still really enjoyed my time with it. The fast-paced reading of the battlefield and designing of the right combos for the situation is a great mechanic that allows the player to continually improve, even though there is a bit of a lack of challenge by the end – right when I wanted a little more. The simplified, artsy graphics complement the fleeting action and it’s all wrapped in an incredible soundtrack that merges insane guitar riffs and classical music together in a whirlwind of pure excitement. Even just unfolding the story from two perspectives sheds light on the characters in a way that’s quite remarkable and forces the player to consider both points of view. In all, it’s a nice package that contains a good amount of gameplay and some fresh ideas but with it coming out on the Switch in the near future, it’s probably worth the wait if just for the flexibility and portability of everyone’s new favourite console.