Fallen Legion: Rise to Glory
Developed By: YummyYummyTummy Inc
Published By: NIS America
Release Date: 5.29.18
Nintendo Switch owners rejoice! You win again! Originally released as two separate entries, Fallen Legion: Sins of an Empire for the PS4 and Fallen Legion: Flames of Rebellion for the Vita and later for the PS4, NIS America combined the two games into one package as Fallen Legion: Rise to Glory for its Nintendo Switch port. For the woefully indecisive among us, this is a great thing. Now you don’t have to choose one storyline or another or just buy two games, and that’s awesome, since they’re both pretty great. It would be a tough choice.
The Emperor’s Path
The Fenumian Empire has fallen on hard times in the last few years. It has over-expanded its borders, food shortages and political unrest abound, and the emperor’s health is in rapid decline. So rapid, in fact, that he passes away almost immediately after the game begins. Rule of the empire passes to his only daughter, the Octavia, Princess Cecille. Maurice, a trusted confidante to the late emperor, brings Cecille the grave news as well as a magical talking grimoire that served as her father’s most valuable advisor. The grimoire grants her the power to summon magical warriors known as exemplars, which she must use to solidify her hold on the throne.
Unbeknownst to Cecille, her top general Legatus Laendur witnesses her first interaction with the grimoire. He is taken aback by the princess’s willingness to consort with the dark arts and first decides to steal and destroy the grimoire to protect her and the empire. He is unable to do so, and can merely remove a few pages before he has to flee before being found out. These pages teach him how to summon exemplars as well, and with a little chiding from his subordinate and sworn brother Bryn, Laendur decides it would be best for everyone if he overthrew Cecille and claimed the throne for himself. He rallies his troops and sets off for the capital, hoping to reach it before Cecille. The race is on to see who will claim Fenumia’s throne.
At the beginning of Fallen Empire: Rise to Glory, players select which story they want to follow by choosing their main character. Laendur’s story paints the picture of a young man hungry for glory and maybe a bit of revenge against the empire that conquered his homeland. Through betrayals, politics, and a little bit of vanity, the player sees Laendur strive for his goal against the odds. Cecille’s path follows a young woman unsure of her ability to lead, and doubly doubtful of her desire to do so. She must combat a coup, forces acting against each other within the empire, and her own misgivings to uphold the legacy of her family and secure a good life for her subjects. They’re both fascinating journeys with relatable leads, but I did have one issue with the story; only the main character really got any development.
Though each path has a plethora of supporting characters, ranging from captains in their respective armies to political allies, no character really gets much development throughout the story except the player’s chosen protagonist. This led to a somewhat flat and unrelatable cast of characters, so even when there was the occasional betrayal or shocking revelation it didn’t really have much of an emotional impact. Some of the characters got by on having an interesting personality, but there was never much depth or development for them. It was hard to invest in anyone but the protagonist as a result, which made investing myself in the world difficult. Which is sad, because it is an interesting world, full of Game of Thrones style political intrigue and big swords, I just wish I could have lived a little more in it.
The Art of War
The action in Fallen Legion is very similar to the battle system from Valkyrie Profile, from the glory days of the PSX and the remake for the PSP. The player controls four characters, the protagonist and three exemplars. Each of the exemplars is bound the A, B, or Y button, and pressing those buttons prompts an attack by the assigned exemplar. Each successive attack builds the combo meter, and if an exemplar meets the proper combo requirements, hitting their button unleashes a powerful attack called a deathblow which deals extra damage or adds buffs to your allies or ailments to your enemies. Each exemplar has three action points which are used each time an attack is made. AP regenerate while the exemplar is at rest, but there are a few other ways to generate AP as well.
Pressing the L button has your exemplars guard, and guarding just as an enemy strike is about to land is called a perfect guard and will replenish one AP for each exemplar as well as reflecting any ranged attacks or stunning some melee attackers (the melee stun doesn’t seem to apply to bosses). I found the timing of the perfect guard to be a little tough to gauge a lot of the time. Some enemies have a pause in their attack animation that makes it tough to see when an attack is coming. Sometimes, an enemy will be blocked from view by another enemy, and I never saw the attack animation start at all. It’s a little frustrating, as the game relies heavily on the combo meter.
Raising the combo meter adds a damage multiplier to each attack. The higher the combo, the greater your attack power. Getting hit or not attacking for a few seconds will cause the combo meter to reset, thus wiping out the damage multiplier. Having a high combo also affects the score you receive at the end of each level, which effects the rewards you receive for completing the level. So it kind of sucks for an enemy you can’t see to get off a cheap shot and end a big combo.
Along the bottom of the screen during battles there is also a combo bar that fills one space each time an exemplar attacks. Most spaces on the bar are empty, but some have buffs attached to them. Whichever character attacks and fills that node receives the buff. Buffs can be added to nodes in a few different ways, like as effects from equipped gemstones (more on that later) and as bonuses granted from resolving even prompts (more on that later as well). The combo bar is a nice feature that adds a layer of strategy to the action since you want to match the buff to each exemplar’s role.
Focus on Yourself
The X button is used to control your protagonist. Just hitting the X button casts a basic attack spell, while hitting the up or down arrows plus the X button casts healing or revival magic. Spells are generally set for each character, but certain gemstones collected after beating levels will have an effect that change the spell in one slot or another. Having your exemplars attack fills the MP meter of each spell, and the meter has to be full to use a spell. If all of your exemplars are KOed, pounding the X button will fill the meters, allowing you to use the spells, but when this happens, watch out! One hit and your protagonist is dead, spelling game over. Luckily, Fallen Legion is pretty forgiving about game overs, as you can choose to either restart a level at the beginning or go back to the world map before you started the level. You don’t have to go back to your last save.
During levels, you will also occasionally receive prompts about events happening in the world around you. These range from troop desertions to currying political favor, and you must decide what to do about them. There are three choices to choose from, and each of them has two effects. The first is in the immediate battle, which is simple enough. Each choice will offer an item that can be used at your will with the R button or a buff that will apply through the end of the level. The items affect your whole party, but only for one encounter. The buffs generally only apply to one character, but for the entire level. However, each choice also affects the player’s reputation in the kingdom or the status of the army. It’s hard to gauge what effect most of these things actually have on the game, other than the army morale meter. Resolving an event prompt will restore HP to your exemplars, and the amount replenished depends on how full the morale meter is.
At the end of a level, players are given a score for their offense, defense, and technique, as well as an overall score which includes the max combo. Players are given rewards for their performance, which, as far as I can tell, are based on the score. There are three types of reward; tributes, gemstones, and deathblows. Tributes are permanent stat bonuses, and they can either apply universally or to one exemplar only. Gemstones can be equipped in the menu, and they generally apply tributes to certain characters, although there are a few special gemstones that grant your protagonist a new spell. Up to three gemstones can be equipped, so choose wisely. Finally, an exemplar may be awarded a new deathblow. I think this relates to how much you use a character, but sometimes I’d get tributes or deathblows for characters I didn’t use in that level, so I’m not really sure how that stuff gets decided.
A Royal Bearing
Fallen Legion’s graphics have a really cool hand-painted aesthetic. The character motions are really smoothly animated, which creates the impression that you really are watching a moving drawing. Even down to the most basic enemies, each character has a fully detailed model that fits with the world around it. Even the backgrounds have that hand-drawn look to them, and even though they appear to be on a loop, each background setting is lushly detailed and gorgeous to look at. Although what with all the fighting going on you don’t really get much chance to enjoy the scenery it’s nice to see the developers go the extra mile. Overall, it’s a great-looking game.
The audio for the game made less of an impression on me, but that isn’t to say that it’s bad. The music was sufficiently upbeat during battles, which added a sense of urgency and drama to the proceedings. Between levels, on the world map or in cutscenes, the music fit the mood without distracting from what was going on in the story. There wasn’t a song I found myself humming long after I had put the game down, but I enjoyed the music overall. There is some voice acting in the game, but not much. The two protagonists are the only characters to get voice acting during the story scenes, but not many of their lines are voiced. Each of the exemplars is voiced during battle, but they only have a few attack grunts and they shout the name of their deathblows when they use them. The protagonists also call out their spells when cast. It adds a little character and liveliness to the battles which I appreciated.
Fallen Legion: Rise to Glory is a port from the Sony consoles originally, and as such it has no touch or motion controls. So, great news, it plays no differently docked or undocked. Even better, it was developed to be released both on the Vita and PS4, so that means it was developed to look as good on a handheld system as it does on a home console system, and it shows on the release for the Switch. I thought it looked and played just as well in either configuration on the Switch, so which way you play it really comes down to personal preference. And isn’t that the way it should be?
TL;DR: Engaging story that’s a little light on characters, gorgeous graphics, and fast-paced, tactical action that can veer toward frustrating once in a while.