In Fallen Legion: Sins of an Empire, the King of Fenumia has fallen. And upon his death the responsibilities of a crumbling country are passed down to Princess Cecille. Among the King’s possessions is a Grimoire, essentially a soul eating talking book, that offers Cecille a chance to restore her dying nation. And from here the story begins to take shape around the choices you make.
Before I begin I wanted to mention that on the PS Vita, you’ll actually play as Legatus Laendur, who is Cecille’s rival and has an army trying to overthrow the royal family. In Fallen Legion: Flames of Rebellion the story will be different as well as the levels, boss battles and story paths. For the purposes of this review however, we’ll be covering Cecille’s side.
Offense and Defense
Fallen Legion is divided up into certain sections. First you have the map screen where your party members move from node to node, progressing the story. And second, in which you’ll be spending the most time, is the battle screen where you’ll be fighting a gauntlet of enemies inside each area. When you enter a node, you’ll pick your party members, known as exemplars. From here you’re pretty much riding on rails all the way, neutralizing enemies, until the level is over.
At first I thought the game was like Dragon’s Crown, where you can move your character around beating up foes, but it’s not like that at all. Instead each of the exemplars you call forth, up to three, are assigned to a face button, square, x, or circle. So let’s say I put the bow user on square. Whenever I press square, the bow user will attack as many times as it will allow before the attacks have to recharge. From here, pressing these buttons in combination, the exemplars will slash, pierce and shoot at your behest.
It gets more interesting with the combo bar on the bottom. The circles on the bar will fill up with the exemplar’s faces as they continue to hit uninterrupted. Certain circles on the bar can be given a buff and if an exemplar attacks in that circle, they’ll receive that buff. Circles with a blue aura on it are known as deathblows and when an exemplar attacks here, they’ll unleash a powerful move. Honestly though, I tend to end up mashing the buttons most of the time when I’m on the offensive.
Now defensively, in my experience, perfect blocking is key to gaining an advantage on enemies. While you can block normally, just by holding down L1, you’ll still take some damage. With perfect blocking, meaning you press block right before any enemy is about to attack, you can stagger an opponent giving them a debuff, say defenseless, that can lower their defense as you capitalize on a counter attack, plus usually you can also gain one action point, used for normal attacks. The sound of a perfect block and the feedback the game gives is really satisfying when you can pull it off and makes you want to do it again and again until you get the hang of it.
But as cool as the flow of combat can get, it can feel like a slog as repetition can rear its ugly head from time to time, but new enemies do appear to lessen that feeling. I will say the highlight are most of the boss battles. They’re fiercely intimidating and they do pose a challenge, even if one of them did feel a little cheap, personally speaking, which I’ll get to later.
Now you might be wondering what Cecille’s role is in all this. She’s a mage of sorts in battle. Her initial set of moves are heal, Cassandra’s Coil, which is like an energy beam, and a resurrect spell for when the exemplars lose all their health. These spells are charged for use as the exemplars deal damage. Spells can be switched out using certain gems that provide buffs and sometimes negative effects to balance things out. The gems in general, that are not slotted to Cecille’s spell choices, can have different abilities depending on how powerful the gem is.
A Changing Nation
As you’re heading to each successive battle, Fallen Legion gives you choices based on what’s going on in the country of Fenumia. For example with the first choice you’re given, the game states that, “One of your father’s inner circle has offered to help you…for a price”. Above, you see three cards. Each choice will give you something in return. In this case I chose refuse, so I got a 2x combo added to the combo bar.
These choices, of which there are many, are scattered around battle zones, and are timed, so you must choose what you think is best because, apparently, they change the world around you. Royalty, which are hard to keep track of by name sometimes, vie for power and you must act accordingly, which makes it feel a bit like Game of Thrones. I’m still not exactly sure how much of the world changes, I’ll have to play again to see if I can mold it, but there are moments after you’re given a choice where a representative of the people, or person affected, acknowledges your decision and rewards you. This can happen during the battle zones, but for this example it takes place in town. Earlier I made a decision to help with a fatal disease. When strolling through town I found a woman grateful for the assistance and gave me tributes for my exemplars. There are even side missions that pop up based on your choices, though I had no clue they were side missions.
Let’s talk about these exemplars shall we? They definitely remind me a lot of the pawns from Dragon’s Dogma. Each has their own defined class, but are made a bit more personal since they have names attached to them. Zulfiqar is a tank, wearing shiny intimidating armor with a huge shield and sharp sword. Longinus is a spear user and she can do a ton of damage with her flurry of attacks. And Apollon is the bow user that can debilitate foes from a distance. These are the first three exemplars that you’ll be familiar with, but throughout your journey you can also acquire others. For example there’s Winchester who snipes with a, you guessed it, a Winchester rifle as well as Mjolnir, a dwarf who carries a gigantic hammer and uses a whirlwind attack. It’s cool switching up the party just to see what kind of damage each combination can do.
Eventually your exemplars can evolve into stronger versions granting more abilities when doing actions. For instance Order Zulfiqar can heal allies after a successful block, which is really handy. Having upgraded exemplars helps a ton, but I wasn’t exactly sure what activated their inherent power.
Let’s also talk about that Menrva boss battle. That one had a crazy difficulty spike for me regarding the dagger wielding lady ninja. It took me at least ten tries to defeat her and even then I think I got lucky. I had to be so spot on with my blocks to get her to fall down so I could do any sort of significant damage to her. If I missed, she did extraordinary amounts of damage than can kill exemplars in just a few hits. She was very tough to block even after getting her patterns down. It was a really frustrating fight.
I will note that if you die at any time during a stage, you’ll have to start from the beginning, even if you get close to finishing. However, if you die at a boss encounter, you can continue from the boss encounter, which will save you from tearing some of your hair out.
Graphically speaking, Fallen Legion reminds me a bit of Vanillaware’s games, namely Dragon’s Crown, but just not as intricate. It has a painterly art style that’s easy on the eyes and the characters are fairly detailed. Individual armor pieces are visible, wrinkles in Apollon’s scarf is noticeable, and the animations do a good job of conveying the chaotic nature of combat. The backdrops where you’ll be hacking enemies, range from forests, to snowy meadows, castle ramparts, windy deserts and more. I find that the designs are serviceable, but lack a bit of pop to make them stand out. They’re bland in comparison to the character fidelity, but there is a wide variety of environments.
The first half of the game, for me, just kept dragging, even with the enjoyable combat and boss encounters. The story didn’t seem to go anywhere and the choices I made didn’t really feel like they were making an impact. After fighting that dagger ninja lady, however, Fallen Legion: Sins of an Empire began to turn the gears somewhat. My exemplars became more powerful with an array of useful skills, the moving political pieces started giving me tougher decisions as morale went up or down, and the personal drama between Cecille and the Grimoire heightened, though not by much. I wish it had done this from the beginning with all the intrigue, but I suppose there had to be some build up.
Overall, Fallen Legion: Sins of an Empire is a surprisingly enjoyable game with excellent combat that at times, feels like a strategic fighting game. There’s a back and forth to it that flows nicely with counter attacks and shield blocks. It just feels good and is the highlight of the game, even if at times it feels like a slog. While the story takes a back seat to all the bludgeoning, I was okay with that because I just wanted to beat some monsters up.
The copies of Fallen Legion used for this Review were supplied to us by it’s publisher, YummyYummyTummy.