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Fallen Legion: Sins of an Empire Review (PS4)

If you love hand-drawn card art, action RPG gameplay and a strong focus on story, then Fallen Legion: Sins of an Empire could push all the right buttons. With a sister title (Fallen Legion: Flames of Rebellion) also available on PS Vita, Fallen Legion let's you experience both sides of the story, but which one will you choose?

Fallen Legion: Sins of an Empire Review (PS4)

INTRODUCTION

Fallen Legion: Sins of an Empire and its PS Vita sister title Fallen Legion: Flames of Rebellion tell two sides of the same story. With her father recently dead, Princess Cecille is left to rule her ailing kingdom, and with only her fathers talking Grimoire and his dour advisor Maurice for guidance, she must balance what is right, with what must be done.

Players take control of Cecille, and through her power to summon living weapons into being, fight through beautifully drawn, side scrolling levels filled with renegade knights, bandits, lizard men and much, much worse. Although the look is reminiscent of a side-scrolling beat-em-up, the gameplay is a more tactical, cool down based affair, reminiscent of many popular RPG's.

The in-game action is fast paced in Fallen Legion, but the game is heavily story driven, with long, text based cut scenes and lots and lots of character development. Light RPG elements keep things interesting over the longer period, as does the introduction of more and more of the living weapon characters.

Fallen Legion: Sins of an Empire is available now, and costs $19.99 from the PlayStation Store.

Graphics remind me of classic arcade beat-em-ups like Golden Axe

STORY

The story in Fallen Legion is reminiscent of the more grand JRPG's that I've played, and it reminds me especially of games from the Fire Emblem series. This is partly because of the way in which Fire Emblem: Fates was also split across multiple games (in that case three) but also because the subject matter is quite common across both collections, and some of the artwork is similar.

The main character, Cecille, is youthful, energetic and likeable, yet her story is one of sadness, regret and difficult choices. She is surrounded by dubious allies, and the decisions she makes as a young ruler are often somewhere between a rock and a hard place. Maurice is presented as a sensible, boring individual, and his advice is often portrayed as less than optimal, yet the alternative option (which is the path Cecille follows) comes with some fairly grim sacrifices.

Whilst most of this story is delivered between missions through largely static cut scenes, there are sometimes story beats (and especially choices) to make in the middle of levels, and some of these can have lasting effects on the game that only reveal themselves later on. Although Cecille, her Grimoire and the likes of Maurice are fairly well developed and interesting to get to know, most of the living weapons (which become characters known as Exemplars) are much less appealing, due to their fairly mute nature.

It's difficult to describe Cecille's story further without spoilers, and equally without commenting on the fact that the PS Vita game, Flames of Rebellion, features essentially the same story, but told from the other side. You see, some of Cecille's actions (and certainly those of her father) might be seen as somewhat cruel by the lesser folk of the world, and the ensuing uprising is really what both Fallen Legion games are about…

Combatants and locations are reasonably varied, and fun to experiment with

GAMEPLAY

Gameplay in Fallen Legion is fairly simple, but as the game progresses, it becomes more and more challenging to manage the strengths and weaknesses of your party against those of the enemy. Each of the Exemplars has a fighting style that is based on the weapon that they represent, with large swords providing tank classes, shotguns providing a versatile mid range unit and archers offering a pure ranged style. Cecille herself also has a number of spells at her disposal, including powerful sweep attacks and healing magic.

Party selection is therefore largely about picking the right tool for the job at hand. I found that choosing a broad range of fighters worked best for most levels, whereas specialising can leave the party weak in one area or another. That's not to say that focusing on one particular strategy is a bad idea, because whilst Fallen Legion has the occasional difficulty spike, it does remain fairly balanced throughout.

Actual battlefield control is based on pushing a corresponding button for each character under your control, with each press triggering an attack. Every weapon features its own cooldown timer, and therefore more powerful attacks will often leave that character open to retaliation for longest. You can also push individual characters forwards or backwards, enabling stronger characters to block enemy damage and protect weaker allies. This mechanism also allows players to work out combo attacks with particular character pairings, and these can be quite powerful.

The action during battle sequences is quite fast paced, and despite the use of a cooldown timer, Fallen Legion rarely feels like a slow and cumbersome RPG. It certainly isn't an outright action game either, but it forms a balance between the two that works well enough and suits the light RPG elements of character progression that occur elsewhere.

On that note, and in keeping with the story themes that run throughout the game, many of the choices that Cecille must make happen on the fly mid-battle. These are usually represented as a choice between three cards, each of which might buff the team in some way. For example, you might choose to increase your vitality, but the story advises you that a village may starve as a result. Because of how the choices are presented, and the speed at which decisions must be made (due to a countdown) there is little time for sentimentality, but you may find that the consequences of your actions are revealed later… Or you may not.

The story is fast paced and interesting

GRAPHICS AND AUDIO

To my eyes, Fallen Legion looks fantastic. I love the hand-painted, card-art style, and the characters are detailed, imaginative and full of life. The background scenery is not quite as vibrant or varied, but it is equally detailed and it has several layers of depth which leads to an appealing look. Special effects are fairly average unfortunately, but even so, they do fill the screen with visual excitement as fireballs, beams, clashes of steel pop and flash.

The sounds effects are fine, delivering the kind of experience that you would expect from this kind of game, but they are nothing to get excited about. The voice acting is very good where it exists, although Cecille is a tiny bit whiny. Not all sequences have voice acting, but in actual fact that isn't really that big a down side.

Music adds real pace to the levels, and drives the relatively rapid action that I've already described. Unfortunately, the same two tracks seem to be used for both action stages and cut scenes, and both of them become quite tiring after a short amount of time. The action sequence music in particular can become quite stressful, due to the pace it pushes!

Some foes are more impressive than others!

CONCLUSION

I actually found Fallen Legion to be quite enjoyable, although I wouldn't find much fault with someone who didn't enjoy it. The reason is, the semi-strategic, cooldown-centric combat can feel a little bit artificially restrictive, and whilst it is part RPG, part strategy and part action, it doesn't do anything to an exceptional standard. It looks good, sounds OK and delivers a fairly interesting story that does at least try to have a meaning, but again it falls short of similar games that have a more singular vision.

The inclusion of a PS Vita sister title in the base price of the PS4 game is welcome, because whilst this would be cross-buy on another occasion, it is actually a linked, yet different game to play in this case. As a result, Fallen Legion is quite good value, and at the very least, I found it quite good fun. If it appeals to you, then I would suggest it's worth trying the demo before you buy, but you may find yourself pleasantly surprised.

PROSCONS
+ Looks great
– Turn based system isn't the most exciting ever
+ Decent story
– Choice system feels a bit rushed
+ Vita version included for free
– More character development would be welcome
+ Quite enjoyable
6.9
Fair

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