When I got my first glimpse of Fallen Legion: Sins of an Empire, I instantly got goosebumps as it reminded of the Square Enix classic Valkyrie Profile. After playing it those who enjoyed Valkyrie Profile will definitely find the combat much to their liking, but Fallen Legion in many ways feels like an endless horde mode where battle after battle quickly drowns out everything else the game has to offer.
Fallen Legion begins with our hero Cecille Octavia as she gets word of her father’s death. Upon hearing the news she is crowned queen and must return to the capital, but the trip back is quickly marred by a mutiny by General Legatus who wishes to take the throne for himself. Cecille herself isn’t strong enough to face the dangers that await her and is introduced to a mysterious talking book called the Grimoire.
The Grimoire reveals it was an advisor to her late father and helped him keep the peace of the kingdom. The Grimoire’s power allows it to manifest warriors based on ancient weapons using Cecille’s imagination of what the warriors who wielded these weapons looked like. By manifesting warriors for Cecille, she embarks to her capital to stop the tratoris Legatus. The story itself doesn’t really reach the high climactic stages you would hope for as most of it is delivered with beautifully drawn character portraits simply talking to each other. There is some voice acting but it’s very few and far between.
Fallen Legion sees Cecille traveling around her kingdom on the way to her home capital to take her rightful place as queen. The traveling unfortunately just has us moving Cecile from point A to point B with side missions to embark on if we so choose or returning to previous locations to complete battles you’ve already undertaken. In the overmap you’re able to read up on the characters in your party, the world, and key players in the kingdom.
The most important thing you can do before entering a mission is equipping Gemstones. Cecile is only able to equip three gemstones at a time and each one gives various benefits to specific characters. Each gemstone can give characters extra attack damage or allow them to launch attacks faster. Some even see them change stances but I never really understood what changing stances did as I didn’t see any change to the characters in battle. The other thing that bothered me is I had to remember the lavishing names of all my party members as each gemstone was character specific so if I used different characters in different battles I would have to go in and change the gemstones to match those characters.
Combat is the highlight of Fallen Legion and where you will spend ninety percent of your time. Each of your party members are mapped to one of the face buttons with Cecile taking up a permanent spot on the triangle button. Battles consist of spending action points to attack. Each party member has up to three action points allowing them to attack three times before having to wait to regain an action point. All three characters can attack at anytime and whatever order you want them too as long as they aren’t hit by enemies which cancels their attack.
Each character has a killing blow they are able to land which inflicts massive damage to an enemy as well as causing some sort of status abnormality. In order to land the killing blow you must successfully launch and land a certain amount of consecutive attacks without taking damage. This is determined by a bar shown on the bottom of the screen with the order your party members will attack. If you take any damage while on the offensive this bar resets and you have to start over in building up the consecutive hits.
At first it would seem that you can simply button mash your way through everything and at first that’s exactly what I was doing. It wasn’t until the third mission that I found out button mashing will simply kill you faster than thinking about your attacks. One of the major things that everyone needs to master is blocking, more importantly parrying attacks. Block reduces the damage your characters will take but it will still count as damage and it will still kill you. Parrying attacks by blocking right as an attack is about to hit you will break an enemies guard and allow you to attack them when they have no defensive to hide behind.
Parrying attacks also fills your attack point meters to full allowing you to counter attack with full force. Enemies will give away their attacks when you see a red spark appear on them indicating they’re about to attack. It’s not as easy to deflect as it sounds though. Even with an enemy attack indicator you won’t be able to block let alone deflect an attack if you are in a middle of an attack animation. You also can’t just tap the block button hoping to get a deflection. It wont work, I tried. You simply have to be smart when to attack and when to hold back and play defense. The biggest problem when it comes to parrying attacks is that most of them you won’t even see coming due to the sheer number of things happening on screen at the same time. It gets so chaotic sometimes that you have to stop everything you’re doing just to gather yourself.
Unlike the three teammates you bring along Cecille herself has special abilities to use. Cecille has three abilities she can use. Revive, Attack, and Heal. In order to use these abilities your teammates must build up meters by successfully landing attacks. Once these meters are filled Cecille is able to use her abilities. Each ability has a separate bar that fills but each one fills up in the same way.
One of the most rewarding aspects of Fallen Legion is the impact your decisions make on the world. While moving from battle to battle you will be presented with information of the going on’s in your kingdom. Three cards will pop up on screen and you will be informed of a situation that is occurring. You have a limited amount time to make your decision but the decision will branch out and affect other decisions that will come into play later on.
One such situation happened when I was told that a small nation that was part of my kingdom has decided to become independent. I had the decision to denounce the independent state, send troops to arrest those pushing for independence or negotiate an alliance. I chose to make an alliance and saw the impact of my alliance through future situations. By making an alliance I was able to send refugees to the Independent state, get food supplies to other cities in my kingdom as well as placing key people in council positions to sway votes my ways.
Its amazing thing to see your decisions have such a major impact on the world and one I haven’t seen done so well before. My only major problem with this system is its simple implementation with just cards. The other problem I have is that each card also gives your party members befits like restoring health and or getting attack boosts. What made this worse is a buff would sometimes be part of the decision I wouldn’t select so I was left having to choose between a moral compass or the buff that may help me defeat the stages boss.
As far as the soundtrack goes it has its moments with select good songs but not all them will really stand out, but it does have its moments much like with its orchestral rock soundtrack. The art design on the other hand is quite good with solid character designs and some fantastic animations.
The PlayStation Vita version of the game doesn’t really change anything mechanics wise. What it does do is provide the game’s story through Legatus perspective and allows you to play from his side of the army and experience things from his point of view.
Fallen Legion: Sins of an Empire is a great homage to Valkyrie Profile but it’s also a good game on its own merit. Fallen Legion has a fun combat system that’s made even better by its strategic timing of offense and defence. It’s also a delight to see how your decisions affect the world around you in ways I haven’t seen done so well in years.