Fallen Legion: Sins of an Empire (referred to as Fallen Legion for the rest of this review) is action RPG developed by YummyYummyTummy Games for the PlayStation 4. This game tells one part of the whole story, the other being present in Fallen Legion: Flames of Rebellion (PS Vita). This review will only be for the PlayStation 4 version of Fallen Legion.
Fallen Legion stars the young Princess Cecille who is on the front lines fighting for her Empire. News of her father’s death reaches her during a battle and she must inherit both his title as Emperor and a mysterious talking book known as Grimoire. Under Grimoire’s instructions, Cecille must fight her way to the capital and track down her tactician, Legatus Laendur, who has supposedly betrayed the Empire.
The story for Fallen Legion is quite good with a few twists and turns to keep things interesting. While there aren’t a large amount of memorable characters, the two stars, Princess Cecille and the Grimoire, are well written. The back and forth between them is always a joy to watch. Outside of these two, however, there is a lack of meaningful characters. This is quite disappointing as Fallen Legion is a very story driven game so you would expect to have a colourful cast of characters.
The bulk of the game are the combat stages. During these stages Cecille summons Exemplars to fight for her, which are the spiritual embodiments of ancient and powerful weapons. While they don’t have any personality, the designs are excellent and there is even some history you can read about.
The combat is reminiscent of side-scrolling action RPGs where you control all four characters in your party like Valkyrie Profile. During the stages the characters will run forward automatically until they run into a group of enemies starting the combat sequence. The Square, Cross and Circle buttons are assigned to each of the three Exemplars. They all have their own AP bar which is limited to 3 points or attacks. The main goal of the combat system is to rack up large combos to deal the most amount of damage possible. There aren’t any special attacks, the only command available is a basic attack. At the bottom of the screen there is a combo bar which, upon landing 4-6 consecutive attacks, let’s you use a combo finisher with one of the Exemplars. Combos are broken if any character takes a hit or if too much time passes between attacks.
The combat is very basic, but it works great. At first it might be a little slow, but once your Exemplars evolve, building up large combos becomes easier and battles end quickly. The lack of variety in options does hurt the overall experience as the combat will get very repetitive, especially during longer play sessions.
During battles, Cecille plays the role of a mage who stands behind her Exemplars. She can be equipped with three spells during a mission and these are assigned to the Triangle button. The three spells have their own mana bar, which is built up by landing hits with your Exemplars. Once you get accustomed to building up large combos, the mana bar fills up very quickly. The three starting spells are: a basic single target healing spell, a damaging spell that attacks the front line enemy and a revive spell. While you can get other spells, the three starters are so useful that I found myself not needing to change them until the very end of the game.
Aside from trying to create large combos, you can also block enemy attacks. The Exemplars’ formation has a front, middle and back row. Generally the front Exemplar will get hit, but some enemies can hit anyone on your party. Using the L1 button you can block incoming attacks and, yes, this can be held down to remain in a defensive stance. However you still take a fair amount of damage so Perfect Blocks are the way to go. By timing your blocks perfectly, you can prevent all damage and stagger an enemy. You can also use the Perfect Block to reflect projectiles but these often have little warning and are harder to time. During the late game the difficulty spikes quite a bit so mastering the Perfect Block becomes essential. In fact some battles are near possible without using this technique.
The boss battles follow mostly the same pattern as regular enemies however there are some key differences. The most obvious is that bosses are much harder to take out and require quick reflexes and careful planning. All enemies have a second life bar which decreases at a faster rate. During boss fights this will stagger the boss and grant your Exemplars unlimited AP for a short while. This makes it very easy to deal a ton of damage at once and speeds up the flow of combat.
One of the best features of Fallen Legion is the decision and morale system. During the combat stages between battles, you will be presented with a scenario occurring somewhere in the empire. As the Emperor you must then make a decision out of three options. These decisions have three main effects. The most important effect of these decisions is the impact they have on story events. You have to be careful with what decision you make because you won’t know beforehand which decision could alter the fate of the Empire. The story alterations aren’t extremely dramatic but they are definitely noticeable.
Making good decisions will raise your empire’s morale, displayed on the world map screen. This is helpful during combat stages as it increases the amount of health Exemplars recover between battles. The last effect of the choices are buffs for your Exemplars which only last during the stage. While a lot of them are useful, they might require selecting a poor decision, like refusing to assist a nearby village. Generally I found that going for the good decision was better in the long run, despite missing out on some useful buffs.
Even though this is one of the highlights of Fallen Legion, the decision system does have its flaws. For one, there is no way of keeping track of what choices you’ve made and how the Empire was affected. You have no choice but to keep playing through stages to see if there’s any reference to your choices. Sometimes you get updates from your messenger about how people have reacted to your leadership. The decision system would have a lot more meaning if it was more profound throughout the campaign, rather than during random intervals.
Outside of combat there isn’t much to do. You have a World Map which lets you travel along a set path between stages. Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be an option to select a level from the menu. Since you can replay stages to get a better grade this makes it arduous to go back and search for a level that you might have found enjoyable and want to replay.
The menu screen has a few customisation options, namely equipping gemstones. At the end of a stage there is a chance you might pick up a gemstone with special qualities. You can equip up to three of these gems to your party, some of which can change the spells used by Cecille. These are nice to have but they honestly feel very restrictive. Customisation in general is very limited. It would have been nice to be able to buy weapons and armour for your Exemplars but there is nothing of the sort. In fact, the only aspect of the Exemplars which can be customised are the combo finishers or “deathblows” as they are called. The lack of more options for the playable characters is very disappointing.
Gameplay aside, the presentation of Fallen Legion is excellent. The art style designs are all gorgeous. Combat animations are exciting and don’t take up too much time. I love that a wide variety of colours are used for the many different environments ranging from towns to snowy mountains. All of the main characters look great and have a distinct feel to them.
The same can’t be said of enemies as there is little variety and they are generally what you would expect from a fantasy game such as feral wolves, goblins, wyverns and barbarians. There are a lot of re-skins and I would have liked to see some unique enemy types that don’t exist in other games. The bosses do make up for it a little, but you do get bored fighting the same enemies over and over again.
The musical composition for Fallen Legion has a very fantastical feel to it. The songs evoke a sense of adventure in a new world. Battle music is energetic and is a nice blend of rock and orchestra, a favourite combination of mine. The voice acting is good, but hearing your characters yell out the name of their deathblow can get grating. Thankfully, you can turn off the voices in the options menu, so no issues here. Overall, I don’t have any serious problems with the graphical and audio presentation for Fallen Legion.
Fallen Legion is a nice little game that will keep you invested from anywhere between 10-20 hours. There are a lot of good points here and the game itself is very polished with very little frame-rate drops and almost no glitches. However there are a few flaws which hold the game back from being truly great. Lack of customization, repetitive combat, and an inability to track decisions can dampen the experience. I’m sure these can be resolved in a future sequel but for now, Fallen Legion is a good game to play if you’re looking for a smaller RPG to play between bigger releases.
· Combat system is simple, but takes some practice to master
· Characters have great dialogue
· Decisions can alter story events
· Beautiful art and fantastic music
· Combat can get repetitive during longer sessions
· No way of tracking effect of decisions
· Barebones customisation options
· Boring enemy designs
Final Score: 7/10
Review copy of Fallen Legion: Sins of an Empire provided by YummyYummyTummy Games.