• Fell Seal Arbiter’s Mark review by Rick Moscatello

    A Polished Diamond In The Rough

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    When it comes to RPGs, most are pretty weak and forgettable. RPGs need a good story, good puzzles, good fights, and good character development to make it to the top, although certainly a game can survive being weak in one area (eg, Diablo has almost nothing that qualifies as a puzzle, although D2’s Horadric cube was enough to put the sequel over the top).

    Fell Seal Arbiter’s Mark manages to score well in everything a RPG needs to make to all-time-best lists years from now…except for some publicity, which I’m helping with now.

    Fell Seal’s story is a unique take on the “save the world” motif. You’re an Arbiter, the fantasy equivalent of a Texas Ranger, roaming the world to put the smack down on bad guys. Your authority is granted by a Council of Immortals, heroes who saved the world from doom many years ago. The story is a masterpiece of very brief storytelling—little snippets of text and brief cutscenes will present all the backstory you’ll need to be motivated to continue with your eventual quest of saving the world.

    Part of story is world-building, and Fell Seal doesn’t disappoint. Although this is clearly a fantasy world, there are no elves or dwarves or knock-offs of same, even as the place is populated with several other fantasy races, unique to Fell Seal.

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    The only real drawback here is the game puts you on railroad tracks, with few options on where to go next. While eventually the world opens up and you’ll start to see you have several places to explore, the early part of the game does feel a bit constricting.

    Puzzles, much like options on where to go, are easy to miss. The game is littered with chests, usually in inconvenient (or hard to see) spots…open the chest and you’ll get a unique reward, usually a magic item to help you along your quest. There are also “henge pieces” and “obelisk clues” to follow, or ignore if you want, though solving these side quests is far more satisfying than the usual “fetch my shoes” quests of other games.

    The weakest part of Fell Seal are the battles, and that may be a matter of opinion. In addition to the set piece battles of the main storyline, you can also patrol an area, triggering a battle. These battles are generally “balanced” in the sense that it’s going to be a fight. You’ll need to use your characters’ abilities well to win these, and I was surprised (and a little annoyed) at just how often these random encounters turned into knock-down drag-out brawls where I just barely got by. As you gain levels, in most places the monsters will gain levels as well, which can be a bit frustrating, as you generally won’t be able to come back to a region and extract payback—the monsters got more powerful as you did, so it’ll just be another tough battle.

    Adding to the difficulty of the fights is the maps are all pre-drawn, usually convoluted affairs making it difficult for you to focus-fire on enemies or maneuver how you’d like. With time you’ll understand the maps and moves better…but if you’re looking for an open field fight against weak foes even just once in a while, you won’t find it here.

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    Character development is the big deal in Fell Seal. There are around 30 different classes a character can take, and a character can change classes in between battles. In addition to the “main” class, a character can also choose a secondary class (usually one he’s already mastered, classes have a “cap” to them you can reach quickly enough), as well as secondary passive and counter abilities. It seems complicated at first, but eventually you’ll get the hang of it, and see just how massive the options are for character customization. There are also many hidden classes (like lich, vampire, werewolf, and more) which are available through side quests or through crafting.

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    Characters don’t really die in this game, instead taking an “injury” which can only heal by not using them in a fight. While you’ll generally fight with six characters your “camp” will include 10 or so, as backups for when the injured need to rest. Injured characters can still fight if you want to use them, but at a penalty; curiously, a newly injured character can be brought back in the same fight without penalty, although if injured again, he’ll need to miss two fights to recover. You’ll often trigger those random fights just to get your injured “A team” guys back at full strength—and that’s when you’d really like an easy fight. Characters left in camp still gain some experience even when not in battle, so your “B team” guys won’t be utterly useless when you need them.

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    There’s crafting as well. Collect components and you can make a decent array of special equipment, as well as upgrade items you already have. This is, perhaps, the only part of the game not very refined, as you’ll have a surplus of components long before you have all the items you’d want. Still, it’s a good system, and you can ignore most of it if you just go to the store and buy what you want in the first place (and option for most, but not all, items).

    Bottom line, this is a very well-made game, and anyone looking for a great turn based RPG experience should check this out. The only real weakness is lack of replay (unless you really want to try out harder difficulties or strange character combinations), but one solid playthrough takes over 80 hours, so you’re totally getting your money’s worth if you finish it once.

    Overall Rating: 92
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Fell Seal Arbiter’s Mark review by Rick Moscatello started by Doom View original post
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