Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Fallen Legion: Sins of an Empire (PS4)

YYT, or YummyYummyTummy as they are known is a development studio who is trying to break the mold of action RPGs by setting the stage for "Fallen Legion: Sins of the Empire" with a sort of reactionary 'dial-a-combo' system. Something that kind of takes in account a turn-based strategy, but not entirely so. At the heart of this story, choice, and action driven game you follow, and play as a fallen emperor's daughter who goes by the name Cecille, and/or Octavia. It seems the reluctant successor Octavia finds herself in a bit of a mess as her father's kingdom is facing economic ruin, and all out warfare, because of the state of things. Greedy for her father's position as the next rightful ruler is one of Octavia's acquaintances, Legatus. Legatus wants the throne, and power for all the wrong reasons while Octavia wants to get in power long enough to set things right. At least in her own point of view. Thus is the struggle, or rather the fight focus of the protagonist, and antagonist of the plot. Through the inheritance of a talking Grimoire Octavia discovers how to cast spells via soulmancy as well as how to summon exemplars from Elysia, or souls of long lost warriors who can fight alongside her in battle. She uses this newfound power to fight her way to her father's throne while facing the army of Legatus. Along the way she makes choices for the kingdom that will either boost morale, or cripple said morale while effectively changing the ending of her tale once she succeeds in doing what she does.

When it comes to gameplay, 'Fallen Legion: Sins of the Empire' drops the gamer into the fray abruptly with a short, out of sync tutorial that is quite late in getting you informed enough on the mechanics to properly clear the first stage. As far as mechanics go you'll find that Octavia has three base spells she can cast. This includes a resurrection spell for summoning back fallen exemplars, an attack spell that deals damage, and a healing spell which heals her and her troupe. All of which can be changed as you progress, and unlock new spells. To be able to use the spells you either have to tap 'TRIANGLE' to build up mana while Octavia is in her trance state (Alone), or use the exemplars to build up her mana via attacks, link attacks, deathblows, and chained combos. This combo system is a freedom of choice mechanic allowing you to adjust as you see fit, but is only rewarding as long as you fight efficiently. Using Octavia, and the exemplars in a reserved manner rather than hammering out buttons like a madman will usually result in a higher alphabetical grade at the end of a stage's playthrough, and will in turn grant you possible gemstone rewards that can be equipped to enhance your legion of exemplars. Keep in mind that both Octavia, and up to 3 other exemplars are assigned to the four controller face buttons (SQUARE, CIRCLE, X, TRIANGLE), respectively. By pressing the coinciding button the assigned exemplar, or the statically positioned Octavia will perform an action. In Octavia's case she can select one of her three spells by using the Dpad, and following up with a pressing of 'TRIANGLE'.

Olivia, and her legion of exemplars each have a life bar that depletes when hit, and that must be maintained if the fight is not to reach Octavia's trance state (her last ditch effort to regain control). To counter the damage from enemies you can parry attacks by pressing 'L1 (Block)' in a timely fashion, and in doing so stun the enemy/s long enough to dish out some free damage. You can also hold the block button to lessen the damage taken. As far as party order goes Octavia is always at the back of the line as she is more of a support character. The other three exemplars which can be switched via (L2/R2) on the battlefield can, in some cases be organized before entering a stage via the map's TRIANGLE menu, and can be tweaked to include a desired deathblow. The deathblow is a special attack that comes into play only when you land a certain combo number without getting hit. It deals more damage thus making the battle at hand go by more quickly. Link attacks also help with the damage, and can be activated by attacking with two or more characters. A colored after-shadow will follow the character when you've landed a linked attack.

The combo system, which I briefly spoke of earlier shows a link of bubbles at the bottom of the screen which includes a series of empty spaces, and enemy portraits. By dishing out attacks without getting hit the bubbles will fill up with attacking character portraits in order, and at a certain point/bubble which harbors a glowing flame the landed combo will enhance your exemplars with a trait. The trait is basically a buff that either adds to the defense or offense of the exemplars. Things like berserk, and fury are included in that long list of traits. You can think of them as status effects to some extent. Along the way, and between the sequential battle against groups of enemies, and enemy bosses you'll be faced with a choice mechanic which features buffs, relics, and other rewards that are based on moral choices regarding kingdom (Fenumia) goings on. There is a critical choice, a neutral choice, and a morally sound choice each of which will gift a stage long buff, a single use relic (something that adds a bonus status effect), or sometimes a gemstone. The gemstones in particular are also random drops that have a better chance of dropping if you make a final grade that reflects the expert use of actions, and defenses. Combos definitely count when trying to get the better gemstones. As with the exemplar management via the map menu you can also tweak which gemstones you want with you in the next battle, but only up to three.

From map point to stage you will basically be traveling from right to left in automated side-scrolling fashion as you face off against foes of varying difficulties while making choices between said fights to boost kingdom morale which will in turn help your exemplar troupe to heal more fully when summoned, among other things. At the end you will earn an alphabetical grade based on three standards with the "E" grade being the worst, and "S" grade the best. Not only that, but you'll also sometimes advance the plot through character inclusive cutscenes that will forward the story ultimately bringing your made choices to fruition in a final conclusion once you've completed the game.

For those of you interested in plot presence the developer does good to flesh out the characters, and their plight through textual, and well spoken dialogue. A lot of which is detailed between stage playthroughs, and within cutscenes. For further back story you can reference deeper details within the main menu 'Collection' section. This houses event info, terminology, and character references. In the main map menu you can also access a 'Guide' which breaks down all of the mechanics, and game features in an organized manner. For those of you glutton for punishment, 'Fallen Legion: Sins of the Empire' also features a main menu "One Hit Mode" in which the gameplay lives up to it's name.

The Verdict ...

Though graphically impressive, and mechanically unique "Fallen Legion: Sins of the Empire" fails to be a smooth presentation. While things are kept controller simple the mob battles you face, as intended, are so stacked against you that you'll find by mashing out attacks you'll make it further than if you had tried to play as the mechanics suggest. The main reason behind this lies with the fact that grouped enemies do not abide by any organized attack pattern, and that blocking when against a group of multiple enemies you'll not have time to both parry, and follow up with an attack of your own, properly. I personally feel this game would have benefited more from turn base focus than leaving it to the gamer to try, and counter an equally flexible flurry of enemy attacks/actions. Not only that, but the ill-placed tutorial, and scattered mechanics explanations was, in itself poorly orchestrated. It feels like you got dropped in the middle of an epic RPG saga, and that you are playing catch up. With all that having been said I think with a mechanics restructuring the game could be salvaged. Turn based with the basic functions, and character mechanics still in place would be ideal. It would take a proper overhaul though. In it's current state I can't readily recommend it as a purchase worthy game. I think it could be great, but it isn't. 

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