Fallen Legion: Sins of an Empire from YummyYummyTummy and Mintsphere is a beautifully dark look at the intricacies of running of an empire, the atrocities we’re willing to accept in search of power and a book that wants to eat your soul.
Blending together elements of classic JRPGs with a brand-new action based battle system, Fallen Legion tasks you with guiding Princess Cecille to her rightful place upon the throne of Fenumia. Unfortunately this isn’t going to be a simple task: the empire is plunged into a period of instability after the sudden death of Cecille’s father, the Emperor. A vacuum of power has been created in the council of Princes and with the potential for being ruler of the entire kingdom being such an tantalising prospect, factions have risen and attempts to take the throne have sent the land into chaos. Fortunately for Cecille, the secret to her father’s power lay inside the pages of an ancient tome called the ‘Grimoire’ – a sentient book containing the secret to ultimate power, the ability to bring peace and prosperity to the land and raise Exemplars, legendary guardians, to your side. Having received the tome and the news of her father’s death on the same day, it’s your job to guide Cecille back to the capital, restore stability to the realm and learn the secrets contained within the Grimoire.
Fallen Legion is set across a series of short levels that meander through the various regions of Fenumia. The story is told through encounters smattered throughout the levels, short animatics and reports of dramatic events that are breaking out across the realm. With levels comprising of mini battles – pitting you and your Exemplars against a small band of enemies, chance encounters and Boss fights – the stage bombards you with intense battles and complex narratives that immerse you in the intrigue and politics of Fenumia. Every level is able to be completed in a couple of minutes, perfect for the hand-held market and allowing the game to move on at a blistering pace – so much so, that the pressures of balancing the needs of an Empire and the struggles of your own adventure can easily overwhelm you. As you complete each section, you receive classic arcade rankings that grade your abilities in offence, defence and your overall technique. Though these encourage replay-ability, it is the various effects your decisions can have on the political landscape that will truly draw you back in.
Between frenetic battles with dragons, orcs and enemy soldiers, your journey will be interrupted by split second decisions on how to rule the Kingdom. News of uprisings, betrayals, raids, tax disputes and so much more will be presented to you, followed by three possible choices. The decisions you make not only affect the morale of your kingdom but also influences your standing with different factions of the court as well as giving you bonuses that can increase the power of your Exemplars during the level. It is truly a wonderful mechanic: balancing your need for bonuses that can be decisive in upcoming battles with a desire to run a fair, prosperous and stable Empire is gloriously intense. Add into this that you have just seconds to make your decision – you barely have enough time to recall who your allies are, what areas of the Empire are weakened by previous choices and what response will give you the best chance to increase morale across the kingdom. It’s akin to an episode of Game of Thrones, as you traverse the landscape, learning more about the council of princes, building allegiances, spying on governments, desperately trying to figure out who you can trust and thwarting devious conspirators as they slowly build influence in an attempt to overthrow your fragile rule.
Combat mixes classic JRPG elements with a more action based fighting system, combining the intricacies of a turn based battle mechanic with the micro management of character traits, Exemplar rotation, Link attacks and a combat bar that grants special powers dependent on the positioning of the team members upon it. With each guardian’s ability to attack based upon a gauge that refills over time, floating above their heads, managing their actions offers a nice dynamic to the battle. Over-extend and you can end up watching as your team are bombarded with attacks while you wait for their meters to refill – but if you manage the team effectively, you can unleash astonishing combos that devastate your opponents. Add into this Cecille’s ability to cast spells, heal allies and bring fallen Exemplars back from the dead and you’ve got an incredibly tactical fighting system.
Unfortunately the combat is let down by the often infuriating defence system. During battles, enemies will charge at you with a variety of different attacks and special moves. Learning their weaknesses, timings and attack animations are vital if you want to proceed as blocking is based upon raising your shield at the precise moment the attack hits. However there are occasions that this is nigh on impossible. Enemies overlap, making it impossible to see their attack animations; numerous attack animations are identical, leading you to block, expecting one attack and having another occur a millisecond later, leaving you open to a bludgeoning you can do nothing about. The entire system is built upon successfully pressing block during an incredibly precise window so the chance to accurately defend an incoming strike is minuscule. Add into this that pressing block doesn’t interrupt an Exemplar’s action and you’ll find points in the game where you are just getting smashed to pieces thanks to your inability to defend.
But don’t despair – as you go through the levels you will gain new Exemplars, powerful gems and tributes that can be combined to create the optimum fighting force. Managing the composition of your team so they compliment each other with gems that buff different Exemplar’s skills enables you to make link attacks and deathblows so powerful you can smash your way through most opposition.
There is no escaping that Fallen Legion’s animation and sound has been designed with the PS Vita in mind but I’m glad I got to play it on the PS4. Its beautifully hand-drawn, 2D graphics and anime sensibilities perfectly suit the fantasy world they’ve created. Having Fenumia’s intrigue and plight play out on a larger screen, in the comfort of my gaming chair, was a wonderful experience. It may have been let down slightly by the defence system but the epic story and the ability for your choices to have a real impact on the kingdom alone make it worth buying this game. So whether you carry your empire in your pocket or rule from the comfort of your own home, it’s time to claim what is rightfully yours in Fallen Legion:Sins of an Empire.