Fallen Legion: Rise to Glory / Fallen Legion Revenants by developer YummyYummyTummy and publisher NIS America Inc.—Microsoft Xbox One review written by Nick with a copy provided by the publisher.
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
This rerelease of the Fallen Legion games hits a lot of really sweet notes for me. I love strategy games as a rule, and I appreciate that the developer did some unique things with this one, making it more of an action-oriented affair. Some aspects of the gameplay worked better for me than others, but by and large this packaging of games is more fun than not.
Note: Please be aware that this review contains some spoilers either in the text or in the screenshots taken during gameplay.
For starters, this is actually a combination of Rise of Glory (which is itself a combination of the two earlier games: Sins of an Empire and Flames of Rebellion and some extra content to boot). So really, this release is kind of a three game package. Depending on where you buy it, you can nab them as a collective or as two separate purchases between Glory and revenants.
Moving on from the logistics of how the games are assembled, there’s the games themselves. Rise to Glory takes the same basic tale from two different perspectives. One route sees Legatus Laendur (this is the Flames of Rebellion title) rebel against what he sees as a dark influence upon the ruling family as he attempts to build an army to fight against the empire. Conversely, you can follow the story of Princess Cecille (this is the Sins of the Empire release), whose father just passed way and now has to struggle to rule the land in his place. These two ex-comrades now view the same war through different perspectives, each one telling a relatively brisk story that clocked in at just under ten hours for me.
Both routes feature the same core gameplay, that sees you building a legion of characters that allow you to build out a party of four. Then that party takes on maps of enemies while telling a story that never really hooked me, but didn’t get in the way of me enjoying Rise to Glory either. Of the two paths, I enjoyed the rebellious route of Legatus more, but having two halves to the same tale was an interesting approach to take. I just wish the story itself had been a bit more interesting.
Some of what probably hurts the story though, is how thinly it gets told. This is in part to enable the choice system that is baked into the game. In most zones, as your party runs from left to right and takes on various encounters, a trio of cards will pop up on the screen. They present different boons such as increased speed at the sacrifice of power, or a 10% gain in mana, things of that nature. However, these choices also tend to play out into the story, which I suspect is part of why it was kept so shallow, so those decisions could be relatively superficial. You might hear that your harsh decisions cause morale to lower or units to abandon you, but it seldom feels overly meaningful.
In terms of the gameplay, it’s unique – but probably not quite my preference. What I mean by that is I have long been a fan of turn-based strategy / RPG titles, but the focus in Rise to Glory is on action. Enemies swing at your characters, and you can try to block them or strike through the attacks. Each of your three soldiers and your commander have attacks / spells tied to a specific face button. Early on the game can be a bit button-mashy. Later battles that tend to be more challenging become a slower affair as you try to minimize damage taken to your team by trying to time perfect blocks, while countering with a handful of attacks that will help to build up your combo bar at the bottom and trigger some powerful attacks. There’s certainly strategy to be had here, from whom to put in your party to how you time and execute your attacks, but it lacks the tactics that I personally would have preferred.
This style of combat mixed with the choices (which have to be made against a timer as well) certainly add a sense of urgency to the gameplay. Another genre deviation is that your characters don’t gain experience and level up in more traditional JRPG fashion. Instead, you find various gems with boosts that provide bonuses such as increased health but slower speed. Sometimes when you beat a zone, your characters can pick up perks such as a boost to harming humans or an increase to a character’s blocking damage resistance. These different mechanics still provide a sense of progress – even if it lacks the depth of most strategy or RPG games. Sans skill trees or mechanics of that nature, your characters get stronger but in very linear fashion.
In terms of the presentation, all of these titles share some common DNA. The colorful 2D visuals are pleasing to the eye, even if it can get a bit jumbled during combat at times where enemies are layered against enemies, making it hard to see who is attacking when. The sound effects are solid and the music – especially boss battles – is quite memorable and appropriate to the setting.
Then there is the Revenants, which has a lot of the same presentation style, and similar action-focused strategy, but manages to create a few new wrinkles. Similar to Rise of Power, Revenants takes two different protagonists and winds them around a story that tries to deal in some politically moral gray area as a template similar to what they used in Rise to Glory. Similarly, the game is just not long enough and the world not given enough time to surface everything to make the narrative really compelling. It’s a shame, because in both titles you can see the blueprint for a world filled with lore and fun ideas that just never quite get as much time as they need to fully develop.
The good news is, the combat was a small step forward in my mind. It’s the same basic style of action points, defending with precise timing and trying to string together enough attacks to devastate your enemies. The strategy on whom to use and how to use them feels a bit more open-ended in Revenants, and the end result is more enjoyable combat. One of our two protagonists – Rowena – heads this part of the game up. The focus is on finding (or with a perfectly timed block, creating) openings for unleashing counter attacks. There is a lot of fighting to be had here, but it’s generally enjoyable even if the characters again don’t really progress in typical RPG fashion.
Outside of the combat, our other protagonist is Lucien, who has to handle the more political side of things. It’s still choices made against a timed deadline as you have to try and make the best out of a less-than-ideal situation. This is where a bit more of the world building happens, but it again feels a tad too rushed at times for my liking. I suspect that is the intent, like the choices from Rise to Glory being set against a timer as well, to increase the sense of urgency. It just sometimes led me to feeling like I didn’t fully understand the assignment before turning in my homework.
In all, the Fallen Legion: Rise to Glory / Fallen Legion Revenants packed is a well-made one that should provide north of a couple dozen hours of gameplay. The action / strategy mix is unique and can create for some rewarding experiences, even if the combat and character progression didn’t always have quite as much depth as I like from my more traditional RPGs. The presentation is a solid one and the world that these games are set in is interesting, if perhaps not as deeply explored as I would have liked in the end. Still, the overall experience is worth having for those looking for a different take on the strategy genre.Score: 7 / 10