Gather The Legion
The first Fallen Legion (Rise to Glory) was an interesting little title. It threw a bunch of ideas into a pot, blended it into a soup with a fairly consistent texture and handed you a pamphlet containing a complex political narrative. It has its flaws, but needless to say, I was very excited to see the recipe refined in a sequel. Fallen Legion Revenants now exists, and it’s not exactly what I’d hoped for.
Despite being a new entry, the story is far enough removed from Rise to Glory’s duelling plots that this can be played as a standalone title. Revenants does make a few nods to Rise here and there, but you aren’t missing anything by jumping in blind. There are two main protagonists for you to control – the roguish politician Lucien and the hauntingly deceased Rowena. You are residents of the evil sky-prison-dungeon-castle-lair, Welkin. Needless to say, the whole place is pickled, and the people down below are pickles for sure. Prison might suck, but a zombie-infested, country-spanning graveyard is probably worse. That being said, Ivar, the Warden, lopped off Rowena’s head prior to the game starting and then stole her son. It’s not massively complicated, but it is more than adequately interesting.
The story is conveyed in several ways. Firstly, you have standard cutscenes, sometimes voice acted, that deposit exposition all over the shop. You also have plenty of in-game spieling going on. Many missions are split into swash-buckling action and timed walky-talky bits. It’s here you play as Lucien and are meant to gather information, converse with various locals and generally decide where Rowena will go in her next mission. These are interesting segments, but they completely break the flow of the game. These could have been better served as their own separate thing, as opposed to being tacked on in the middle of missions.
Fighting The Game, Not The Enemy
The core combat of Revenants remains mostly unchanged. Your party of four trundles from left to right automatically. Every now and then you’ll bump into some enemies that need a good spanking, and your team is more than happy to oblige. Each character is assigned a face button, and holding down various triggers, or bumpers, will unleash a special move known as a Deathblow. These deal increased damage and most alter the enemies formation. Enemies will frequently try to shank you during combat, but you have a handy-dandy block button to put a stop to that. The catch, of course, is that it requires precision timing to pull off.
Attacking drains AP and Mana, but blocking regains it rapidly. As a result, the game has a real ebb and flow to it that is very addictive once it sinks its teeth into you. The problem is, the game is painfully unresponsive – sluggish being an understatement. Pressing any button can be a chore because your characters take their sweet time doing anything. This was an issue in the original, but it hasn’t been fixed here, which is unacceptable.
Exacerbating the situation, enemies tend to overlap when they attack, or even when they are just lollygagging around. It’s not uncommon for a ranged enemy to be completely obscured by the flab rolls of a larger foe, making it impossible to get a read on when they are going to attack. It feels cheap. It feels unfinished. I could work around the sluggish controls, but I can’t exactly predict when a functionally off-screen enemy is going to fire a shotgun at my bonce. This is made worse by the dynamic camera, which pans for some reason, often hiding the back ranks of the enemy from view.
Laying the smackdown on enemies and parrying their attacks reduces their stamina. When that bar hits zero, they enter a staggered state, which massively increases your damage. Chipping away at stamina before unleashing all manner of hell on your enemies is satisfying when it works, but more often than not, another enemy will immediately jump in front of the guy you just staggered, wasting the opportunity. I found the system immensely frustrating, especially when damage is painfully when they aren’t staggered. This functionally prolonged most encounters as a result.
It’s Not ALL Bad…
That being said, bosses return and are the highlight of the combat as they tend to exist by themselves. Each one has a unique set of attacks that have obvious tells. Once you nail the timing, you can lay into these guys almost none-stop. They are difficult until they become trivial. Trial and error would probably be an accurate descriptor here, but they were still very fun.
Outside of combat, you can explore Welkin Castle, which is just a series of 2D screens filled with various NPC’s. Here you can unlock new characters to take into combat, equip new equipment and assign new abilities and masteries. It’s basically a long-winded menu. Unfortunately, the game is plagued with long, frequent, loading times. This is especially apparent when unlocking new characters as you have to sit through a 10+ second loading screen, complete a tutorial that takes, at most, 5 seconds, before sitting through another 10+ second loading screen to complete the unlock. It’s tedious to sit through, and because the screens are so abrupt, it makes the whole process feel unpolished.
Equipment, Masteries and Deathblows are fairly in-depth. Equipment isn’t necessarily an improvement across the board, with certain pieces focusing on specific stats. One sword might improve your attack damage, but another could radically increase stamina damage for example. Masteries add powerful new passives, such as applying an electric shock whenever you land a perfect block or empowering your next magic attack. It’s a lot of fun experimenting with different loadouts, and when combined with the number of potential characters, there is a lot to like here. It helps that you are constantly drip-fed new things to try, which is always nice. It’s a shame the game isn’t good enough to support these systems.
Like Rise to Glory, Revenants has a wonderful hand-drawn art style that is somewhat held back by the grim-dark aesthetic of the game. The colours are muted, enemies are beautiful but incredibly samey (especially early on) and the game’s tone and theme are all over the place. It looks good – better than than the original from a technical standpoint – but it gets very samey, very quickly. There just isn’t that much variety. When it comes to the sound design, however, the game performs a bit better. Voice acting is much improved over Rise to Glory, with each actor whipping out a performance that is worth listening to in English. The music fits whatever tone the game is trying to set, but is one of those soundtracks that you immediately forget the moment it stops.
Fallen Legion: Revenants isn’t a bad game, just a disappointing one. Instead of improving the core experience, the game has added more features that have done very little to distract from the underlying issues. Therefore, it’s very difficult to recommend Revenants, and I would say it would be wise to wait for a sale or pick up Rise to Glory on the cheap.
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