Fallen Legion: Sins of an Empire Review – Triumphant Struggles (PS4)
As someone who grew up loving role-playing games, it has been frustrating to see the genre become largely stagnant over the past decade. For every high-profile success like Persona 5 there are 15 other RPGs that don’t bring a single original idea to the table either mechanically or thematically. Thankfully, a lot of recent innovation has come from the indie scene as Undertale notably managed to subvert expectations and deliver a wholly original experience.
The latest indie RPG to bring something new to the table is YummyYummyTummy’s Fallen Legion, which is launching on both PlayStation 4 and Vita (we’ll have a review for that version tomorrow) as two separate titles. Players are given an incentive to check out both versions as each display a different side of the overall narrative. The game’s structure isn’t the only area where it’s unique, as it features an original battle system that assigns each character to a different face button on the DualShock 4 controller. This isn’t a game that attempts to play off the nostalgia of players, as it has grander ambitions.
Fallen Legion wants to bring something new to the genre and in that aspect it’s a monumental success. There’s definitely a learning curve to coming to grips with its battle system (one that I was more familiar with than most thanks to the developers walking me through an early version of the game at PSX 2016), but any frustration that occurs early on quickly disappeared as my skills improved. Battles almost had a rhythmic construction to them as I hit buttons to trigger attacks, and watched the movement of my foes so I could block their attacks in time.
Battle It Out
Another aspect that helps Fallen Legion stand out from the crowd is how it forces the player to make a series of story decisions in-between successive battles. Players will be given three choices after being presented by a scenario (such as a local prince attacking a village), and it’s up to the player how they’ll handle the scenario. Each decision comes with a perk (such as a temporary health boost or mana recharge), so like in Reigns I often went against my moral judgment in order to make sure I could live to see another day. It’s a really great system that is put in place, and can even impact how the story goes (my choices ended up unlocking several side-missions).
The moment when I was really sold on Fallen Legion‘s combat was during my first major boss fight (which you can watch in the video above). My squad was up against an intimidating dragon that managed to do massive damage every time it landed an attack. This forced me to play more defensively than usual, and it led to a back-and-forth battle that had party members knocked out, only for me to revive them before succumbing to the boss’ sizable offensive strike. I eventually managed to outlast the dragon in this war of attrition, but it was only due to some solid strategy and some clutch blocks that kept characters alive long enough for me to heal them.
The boss fights continued to be the highlight of Fallen Legion as I made my way through the story, but the rest of the action was rarely as satisfying. After a few hours of play I had unlocked more powerful versions of my characters, and this allowed me to be far more reckless against regular baddies. Most of them could be defeated by simply overwhelming them with flurries, and I only had to think about blocking as a secondary plan. The further I got into the game, the less I felt truly engaged with the combat.
Sins of an Empire
Unfortunately, Fallen Legion is a game that simply peaks too early. Nothing else the game threw at me gave me the adrenaline rush that my brush with a dragon did early on. Later levels became more of a slog, as it failed to introduce different challenges. It simply felt like I was going through the motions, and much of my initial excitement had faded away.
One reason why the game started to drag near the end was due to Sins of an Empire failing to have a captivating story. I found most of the cast to be extremely one-note. The only character with any semblance of depth was the protagonist, a young princess that constantly struggles with knowing if what she’s doing is right or wrong. Everything else fell flat, as the major twists were incredibly obvious and I never got invested. One reason why I failed to connect was due to how sparse the voice acting was, and how randomly it seemed to be placed throughout the game. Pivotal story beats often went unvoiced while smaller scenes had higher production value.
Fallen Legion: Sins of an Empire doesn’t manage to nail all of its ideas, but it manages to make enough of them stick for it to be a worthwhile title for role-playing game fans. Developer YummyYummyTummy didn’t play it safe, and has implemented some fantastic ideas here. It’s just that some repetitive level design, and a flat story, manages to drag the game down in its back half.
Fallen Legion PS4 review code provided by publisher. Reviewed on PS4 Pro. For more information on scoring, please read our Review Policy here.