Over the years there seems to have been an exponential and unstoppable increase in the number of crowdsourced video game projects; some resulting in big hitters, like the acclaimed (albeit controversial) Pillars of Eternity and Divinity: Original Sin 2, while others have seen less success, either falling by the wayside, never to be heard from again, or resulting in steaming piles of crap with AAA price tags (*ahem* Friday the 13th: The Game, *ahem*.
Enter Legrand Legacy, developer Semisoft's homage to "all time favourite JRPGs", which claims to be the "most promising" game of the year- I wasn't able to find a citation to validate that espousal, but I'm sure nobody would ever exaggerate the brilliance of their lovingly crafted projects, right? Either way, it's already seen a lot of praise amongst gaming sites; is it time to add one more sarcastic and meaningless British source to the river of compliments, or is a stream of criticism about to follow?
Legrand Legacy: Tale of the Fatebounds is available on Steam from the 24th January.
The game follows Finn, a man who begins the game as a slave, forced to fight against a highly popular and accomplished arena champion, who in a truly remarkable FMV sequence is unbelievably defeated, without Finn apparently understanding what had happened himself. Either way, this unexpected result irks the slaver and fight master, which suggests that match-fixing is not common practice in Legrand's arena scene.
Enter Geddo, which sounds like a pet name for the end of days, but in truth is the exact opposite; Finn's saviour, who politely asks if he can have the victor, and incredibly, sees his wish granted. Personally, if I was a slave owner, I'd want to keep the ones who happen to take down brutes with innate superhuman abilities and milk them for all they're worth; if I lived in ancient Rome, I'd Coliseum making me a tidy profit in the near future. Alas, those times are behind us; as is that terrible joke (thank heavens).
Finn is amazed to find himself free, but promises to serve as Geddo's bodyguard as he escorts him to Shapur, where his daughter Eris lies ill and in desperate need of medicine. Geddo is a Norn, which means he communicates non-audibly and projects his speech into the minds of others; something which alarms many, but personally I'd welcome another addition to the many voices I hear in my mind; Geddo is a Pure Norn, so he wouldn't tell me to do all the nasty things that the others do.
Sadly, our non-verbal agreement comes sharply to an end when the Norn is murdered by Ram Pok, which sounds like a lamb-based noodle dish but is actually the name of a group of merciless bandits who knock out Finn, steal an amulet from the corpse and swiftly Geddo-n out of there, leaving Finn and his former "master" to the mercy of the wildlife, namely birds of prey with the heads of humanoid females; they're called "Clowthers" in the game, but personally, I prefer "Sheryl Crows".
The journey, of course, does not end there though; Finn decides his new found purpose in life is to complete Geddo's goal, and so despite knowing literally nothing but his first name aims to find and cure Geddo's daughter. Naturally, this proves a somewhat difficult task, having the common sense and knowledge of a sub-par reality star. And so, Finn finds himself assisting a noblewoman named Aria, who delves into a ruined tomb and in a video game first, doesn't steal anything- except perhaps an hour of my life trying to find a secret passage (perhaps naively, I wasn't expecting to find a Scooby-Doo villain's lair in a JRPG). Here we find an ancient figure named Lazarus, and discover that she is a fatebound, and that the world is under threat of a bigger war than the one the north is currently embroiled in (Finn of course, knew nothing), Lazarus, perhaps unfairly, shirks his responsibilities of saving the world onto her, and promptly buggers off into the afterlife, presumably to spend the rest of eternity watching soap opera omnibuses while Aria fulfils her destiny, and all that nonsense.
Despite the world apparently being under imminent threat from the Demons of the old world, Aria does of course find the time to act as tour guide and pest catcher until Finn finally meets Geddo's daughter Eris; she's less than happy that her father has shuffled (or rather, been carried away) from this mortal coil, and demands to see where the body isn't, in order to set Geddo's soul at peace. Of course, we reencounter those pesky Ram Poks, who attempt to kill Finn- why they didn't in the first place is a mystery; you wonder why no bad guy in literary history ever seems to take precautions and just kill the protagonist on the off-chance they might become powerful, often superhuman, adventurers hellbent on exacting revenge.
Needless to say, these particular Ram Poks are killed, forever consigned to the annals of history (or possibly cookbooks), and Eris is able to retrieve her father's amulet and send her father peacefully into the afterlife- perhaps to join Lazarus in his binge-watching. His mini-quest to complete Geddo's mission over, Finn decides to set off with Eris and Aria to the North, where more adventures, friends and foes await, as he seeks to help save the world and recover his memories. Y'know, standard videogame stuff.
The game is split into distinct areas, rather than one interconnected or open world map. You move as Finn through the area, interacting with people, objects and enemies- or if you're me, continually slide into sinkholes and have to navigate the area all over again when you escape. It strongly reminds me of a The Secret of Monkey Island, with its static camera and semi-isometric view.
Each part of the world (Tel Harran, the Rahas desert, Shapur and so on) is divided into set maps; in some places, you move freely between one and the next, while in others you must select which part of the area you want to visit. It often makes the game feel rather small and linear, which is mildly disappointing; it would be nice to witness a supposedly bustling city by moving through it in its entirety, rather than clicking on the name of where you want to visit and only seeing that area.
The primary feature of the game, however, and one which Semisoft boasts is a fresh take on the classic formula, is combat. It's still turn-based, and you still need to micro-manage each member of your party; that much is common amongst JRPGs. You also order your members into rows and columns, which has its perks and its detriments. For instance, placing Finn on the front row and Eris and Aria on the back shields them somewhat from physical attacks, which will largely be directed at characters in the front row. Magic and certain abilities bypass this, however; an Earth Spike will hit all members, regardless of if they're cowering- ahem, positioned, behind a wall of brute strength and (literally) ignorance.
The thing that makes combat the most fun is that you don't simply select an attack, watch an overly-elaborate animation and hear grunts of exertion; you have to perform a quick-time event, which will determine how effective your attack will be. The sense of accomplishment comes from hitting the sweet spot and landing a perfect hit. Seeing green has never felt so good. Also, I can't believe I just called quick time events "fun".
To be honest, this isn't radically different in my mind; strategic placement and quick-time events have been staples of video games for decades now- perhaps I'm missing something (other than all my hits, because I have terrible timing).
Graphics and sound
There is no voice artistry in Legrand Legacy, so if you don't like reading, this probably isn't the game for you. Honestly, it didn't bother me- I didn't expect there to be a fully-voiced cast, and it loses nothing from its absence- if anything, it's probably been saved by an absence of poor acting which can often be heard in indie games- or even from mainstream studios (Two Worlds, anyone?)
What the game does have is a decent soundtrack. It's varied and thematic, if a little repetitive, particularly if you spend a long time in the same area- but I suppose this is true for many titles. While not remarkable, Legrand Legacy does have a soundtrack that's pleasant and immersive; something crucial in wont of any other audio.
Nothing Legrand Legacy: Tale of the Fatebounds does is particularly revolutionary, and I'm not sure quite what merited it "Most promising game"- perhaps simply because it's a Kickstarter title that isn't complete garbage. However, the thing that kept me playing was not the combat, soundtrack or the exploration elements; it was the story. I wanted to know what will happen next, to Finn, Aria and every other character you meet; through the dialogue alone you get a certain impression of each unique personality; Finn the newly-released, albeit blindingly subservient and confused, slave, partnering with a rather snobbish noblewoman and a studious and reserved Norn; each significant personality is quite memorable, and that alone is what has kept this game on my "things to play" list. Eventually- the list is already rather long.
|+ Compelling storyline||– Feels quite small|
|+ Nice visuals||– Gameplay gets a little repetitive|
|+ Fun combat||– Nothing radically different|