Developed by YummyYummyTummy and Mintsphere Published by YummyYummyTummy Reviewed on PlayStation 4 and Vita
Fallen Legion is an ambitious, JRPG inspired game from a new studio founded by former video game journalist Spencer Yip. While many indie JRPGs opt for a traditional overhead perspective and turn based, first person combat systems, Fallen Legion eschews those conventions in lieu of a side scrolling, action based combat system. With a beautiful, hand drawn aesthetic reminiscent of Vanillaware titles and a combat system that invokes memories of tri-Ace games, Fallen Legion immediately stood out when it made its debut at PlayStation Experience 2015.
The entirety of Fallen Legion takes place not in one, but two games: Sins of an Empire on the PlayStation 4 and Flames of Rebellion on Vita. Each game features its own unique protagonist and supporting cast. In Sins of an Empire, you are Princess Cecille, who is reluctantly duty bound to succeed to her deceased father. She’s accompanied by Grimmoire, a sentient book that orders Cecille to help him find and devour human souls in exchange for his help. This help includes the ability to summon Exemplars, long dead soldiers that wield legendary weapons. Meanwhile in Flames of Rebellion, you follow Cecille’s former ally, Legatus Laendur, as he attempts to seize the throne to restore prosperity to Iria and bring glory to his people. He, too, is able to summon Exemplars after stealing pages from Grimmoire.
While both versions feature different events and NPC allies, you’ll still be using the same Exemplars and spells while traversing identical areas. The main difference is the perspective and supporting case. Cecille’s story is slightly more interesting because of her troubled relationship with Grimmoire, who’s demanding blood lust weighs heavily on her conscience. Laendur’s journey is also fraught with strained relations with his allies and internal paranoia. The ability to side with various factions in both games provides a bit of intrigue and makes repeated playthroughs different, even it if doesn’t affect the final outcome. It’s unfortunate players are unable to experience both stories on one console; ideally Sins of an Empire will release on Vita and Flames of Rebellion will make its way to the PlayStation 4.
The combat system occurs on a side scrolling 2D plane with each Exemplar’s attacks mapped to a specific face button. There’s a decent variety of Exemplars that wield weapons such as swords, spears, hammers, bows, and more. Each one is given three AP (attack points) that allows them to attack. AP is refilled after a certain amount of time has passed. There’s also a bar at the bottom of screen that dictates the total number of actions your Exemplars can take per turn. Each Exemplars can unleash special attacks called Death Blows if their attack is the final move on the bar. Death Blows trigger different effects ranging from rendering enemies defenseless to initiating burn damage for a few seconds. Additional Death Blows are unlocked as you progress. Cecile and Laendur are able to cast attack, healing, and revive spells once they accumulate enough mana through combat. Another crucial aspect is blocking, an important move that can either reduce or prevent damage altogether depending on your timing. A perfectly timed block can deflect attacks and restore AP, allowing for quick retaliations. You’re also able to adjust your Exemplar’s positioning, which can save frontline fighters from dying while you accumulate enough mana to cast a healing spell.
Advancement in the game occurs via an overworld map filled with points that correspond to either a story cutscene or a combat focused stage. Most stages have you engaging in a series of continuous battles; in between encounters you may be asked to make one of three choices regarding the affairs of the kingdom, which factions to align with, or even which of your allies you prefer. Not only does your decisions affect the plot to a degree, but they’ll also grant you temporary bonuses and attributes. Weighing your current battlefield needs against the greater good of the kingdom comes into play. There’s a morale meter that rises or falls depending on your choices. I found that making decisions that result in earning gold often leads to higher morale for the kingdom. Depending on who you align with, different branches can be unlocked on the overworld map.
The game is a bit light on RPG elements as your Exemplars do not gain experience from battles nor can they equip different weapons and armor. Instead, you can alter their attributes using gemstones acquired in battle or through temporary tributes based on the factions you decide to align with mid-battle. You can unlock more advanced versions, Order and Chaos, of your Exemplars by completing specific stages. It’s somewhat disappointing that the Exemplars themselves lack personality due to them not having dialogue, especially given how appealing their designs are. You’re also able to replace certain spells for Cecille and Laendur upon meeting certain requirements. Some of the tribute and gemstone effects are a little vague with limited descriptions, sometimes making it difficult to decide on which to select.
Aesthetically, Fallen Legion stands out with its beautiful, hand drawn visuals and striking character designs. The Exemplars and their advanced forms have appealing designs and are well animated. The visuals do suffer from a lack of variety as you’ll be encountering the same enemies and backgrounds as you traverse through both games. The battles can get cluttered with an overabundance of effects and moving units, making it hard to tell what’s happening at times. Some of the flashier bosses also affect the game’s frame rate, particularly the Vita version.
Fallen Legion has a nostalgic JRPG inspired soundtrack, ranging from melodic overtures to electric guitar riffs that accentuate the pace of combat. There’s a limited amount of voice acting for Cecille and Landeur during the story bits. Both protagonists and their exemplars also have RPG standard call out lines during their attacks as well. The game does have a puzzling lack of voice acting during key plot moments. Still, the voice acting performance delivered by Xanthe Huynh (Cecille) and Darrel Delfin (Landeur) are solid. It’s unfortunate that Grimmoire lacks a voice; hopefully further games from the studio will alleviate these inconsistencies with a bigger budget and more development time.
Both Fallen Legion games are brimming with excellent ideas but are slightly marred by muddled execution in some areas. While Fallen Legion‘s scope is clearly limited by its budget and development constraints, its ambitious, innovative game play makes it stand out from other indie RPGs. It’s an outstanding first outing and I’m very excited to see the next game from YummyYummyTummy.
Update and Performance Notes
When Fallen Legion originally launched, the PlayStation 4 version ran fairly well while the Vita version struggled with slowdown and a consistently bad frame rate, making for a very sluggish experience for a game that relies on precise timing. The 1.08 update on PlayStation 4 and 1.06 update on Vita brought a slew of improvements to the frame rate and decreased the time it takes for Exemplars to block. The Vita version still suffers from long load times and dropped frames during the most intense, effects heavy situations. The more intense boss battles will feel laggy due to drop frames and short pauses, but the update provides tremendous improvement performance wise. Some of the latter boss fights feel more like slide shows with severe input lag, unfortunately, making it hard to recommend the Vita version over its console cousin. Fortunately YummyYummyTummy is committed to update both versions in terms of performance and game play tweaks.