Fallen Legion was a series initially released back in 2017, which now feels like eons ago. It showed a lot of promise, and while some aspects were a little unpolished or janky, the potential was evidently there. Now, many moons later, we get Fallen Legion: Revenant. Will this title live up to my expectations, or will it simply become a footnote in video game history? Read on to find out.
In Fallen Legion Revenant we get to see the story of Rowena and Lucien, a former chancellor for an evil prison warden, who was wrongly executed, and a new statesman looking to make a name for himself and to overthrow Ivor, the warden himself. Rowena, who was executed by Ivor, had her son kidnapped, and remains tied to the mortal plane through her worry about her son. She seeks the aid of Lucien in order to raise a revolt and dispatch Ivor, which is easier said than done, as the world outside the walls of Welkin, Ivor’s castle-turned-jail, is inundated in miasma, and people are growing sick and dying from it. Thankfully Rowena can summon the spirits tied to weapons, Exemplars, to fight with her against the mutant monstrosities that the miasma has brought about.
Those who recall the other two Fallen Legion titles (Flames of Rebellion and Sins of an Empire) will have a good grasp of how things are going to work this time around as well, albeit with some changes here and there. As weird as it my sound, let’s go straight into how combat works. In battle you may bring up to three Exemplars with Rowena into a stage. Each stage consists of a number of fights interspersed with side missions as Lucien between certain fights. Rowena won’t really be attacking directly, instead what happens is the Exemplars fight on a line composed of grid spaces, with three for you and four for the enemies.
Each Exemplar has its own health and AP, or action points. You use these action points to attack the enemies. As you attack, you build up magic orbs, which can be used to activate a Deathblow attack from an Exemplar or to use one of Rowena’s spells. Now, while this may familiar to returning players, the grid isn’t. It’s a real time battle system, so what is the grid for? Well, while in the original titles you couldn’t move, now you can. You can shift between your three tiles, or push and pull enemies on their tiles. Line them up and use a skill that hits multiple tiles, or drop a healing tile on your side of the field. But be wary though, as enemies aren’t just going to sit there and let you beat them up.
As enemies attack you can parry them with a guard, either negating damage received or countering, depending on your timing for the guard. Perfect guarding restores AP for your Exemplars, and will usually result in taking a hunk out of an enemies guard gauge. When their guard is broken, they are staggered and more susceptible to your attacks. But enemies also have magic and unblockable attacks. Here is where positioning is key, as you need to position both yourself and your enemies in order to avoid getting blasted by a strong attack. The Catoblepas is a good example of this, as it has a long range breath attack, so you need to push it backward, while having your own units move back, in order to avoid the breath. The battles are all about skill as well, since you don’t really level up or anything, you just unlock new units and the occasional skill you can attach to a unit that generally provides some sort of buff after perfect guarding an attack.
As you play through the game, you have the chance to acquire new items, equipment, and weapons. The weapons can either unlock a new unit or teach an existing unit a new deathblow attack, whereas the equipment and items will generally provide boosts or unlock passive abilities or spells for Rowena. Exemplars also have masteries, which are skills that can be learned by performing certain actions in battle, such as pushing or pulling enemies, or staggering them. These skills will help give you that extra edge needed to fend off your foes, and can be swapped out before setting off for battle. In addition, unlocking more masteries unlocks more equipment slots for the associated Examplar, meaning you can have more abilities on them.
Somewhat similar to the original titles, between fights you have a sort of intermission. This time, instead of choosing a card like in the first titles, you have to completer a task as Lucien. Sometimes this means swaying a vote in your favor, sometimes it means infiltrating an area, or perhaps just getting along with the local residents, a few of whom I may have accidentally gotten killed without knowing. Sometimes these sections are timed, and sometimes they aren’t, but they are certainly a lot different than the choice options they used to be. This is also sort of where some of the background plot comes from, as well as the short scenes at the end of battle sequences, but tend to be so far between battles in comparison, that there were a few times I couldn’t recall specifically what I was supposed to be looking for outside the castle. Add that to references to characters before they are introduced, and the story telling gets disrupted quite a bit.
For those looking at Revenants from the Flames of Rebellion and Sins of an Empire, what are some changes you might expect? Well, the masteries and equipment for Exemplars is new and interesting, that’s for sure. Having a more dynamic battlefield as well, being able to move and shoe enemies around. The guarding mechanic has been improved really well, and I like the rework they did for the magic and deathblow system. The Lucien segments are a bit of a mixed bag, as they can be a bit overwhelming before you figure out what to do, and the timer doesn’t exactly help. Overall, I have to say the combat changes are appreciated, but I’m on the fence about the choices/Lucien segments.
On the plus side, that hand drawn art style you probably loved is back, maybe a bit literally as I think there may be a few reused assets, but the new characters follow in the same beautiful art style as their predecessors. The voice acting is also quite good when you actually hear it, and the music is well done as well. It was definitely nice to listen to the BGM as you see dilapidated houses or mountain ranges going by in the background. And you will be seeing a lot of that, as battles can be a little drawn out sometimes, and it’s not like you have the ability to power level and just demolish your competition.
Now, there are a few points I’d like to make against some of the development decisions. First of all, the issue where it becomes hard to tell what’s going on in a battle is still prevalent if you have all your units attacking at once. The effects from the attacks cover up the enemy sprites, making it quite difficult to tell if the enemy is starting to attack you. The introduction of the dynamic battlefields make a very interesting concept, but with how much you need to keep track of, it can be extremely overwhelming.
I’m glad to say I didn’t see any of the weird camera issues from the first titles, and enemy movement and the entire blocking mechanic feels a lot smoother and more well fleshed out. Unfortunately, Revenants has this bad habit of letting you know a mechanic exists well before explaining to you what it is, how to use it, or even anything related to it. For instance, some masteries require you to perform elemental edge or magic combos. I can tell you right now, don’t expect a tutorial on these in the first chapter somewhere. Yeah, sure, elements are explained, but you’re still wondering what the edge is well after.
A few last things of note are how the game presents itself and how it tackles the issue the first two titles had in regards to choices. I’ll be perfectly honest, while moving around as Lucien, everything looks fairly nice, but as soon as you move within talking distance, you get an interaction wheel that gave me Newgrounds flashplayer flashbacks. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, or something I’d deduct points for, it certainly gives a stark contrast to the rest of the nice hand drawn visuals.
The whole Lucien segments themselves often felt rather janky, and while I do appreciate the fact that the developers tried something new, it definitely fell somewhat short of what it was probably meant to encompass. But hey, it’s a learning opportunity and I certainly won’t fault a developer for trying something new or different, just maybe on the quality of implementation. Speaking of, the save guru person is all sorts of weird. Firstly, what’s up with calling the “options” anything other than literally “options”? I’ll admit I fell for that about three times before it clicked with me.
Also finally, when you unlock the ability to go back to previous chapters and it says “you will lose story progress”, it means it quite literally. I wanted to check to see if it worked like new game plus in Sins of an Empire/Flames of Rebellion. Well, it does, but you know what the game also does? Autosaves. You know how many save files you get? One. Guess who had to restart from chapter 1 because they thought they could just quit and reload and retain story progress. Yeah, be aware of that. At least it gave me an opportunity to work on my masteries…