Legend Of Fae Review (PC)

Game Review: Legend of Fae
Release: 2/22/11
Genre: Puzzle/RPG
Developer: Endless Fluff Games
Available Platforms: PC
Players: 1
MSRP: $14.99
ESRB Rating: N/A (I’d personally rate it E10)

Puzzle games have come a long way from the days of Tetris.  First it was Columns, then Dr. Mario, then Bejeweled.  A little bit of Super Puzzle Fighter and Puzzle Quest started mixing things up by taking the traditional puzzle format and layering in combat on top of it.  Puzzle Quest, in particular, managed to bottle up RPG elements complete with leveling and quests around a story mode to help tell its story.  And that’s where Legend of Fae comes in.  At first glance you’d be forgiven if you wrote this off as a Puzzle Quest clone, but you’d be foolish to disregard it merely as such.   Legend of Fae presents a unique challenge to the rapidly growing Puzzle/RPG genre, and turns what appears to be a forgiving casual game into a fast paced battle that forces you to do so much more than just match 3 similarly colored blocks together.  This layer of strategy is what will set Legend of Fae apart from any other Puzzle game you’ve played before.

Legend of Fae is Endless Fluff’s first commercial game, but you’d never guess it from looking at it.  The tightly woven tale follows a young girl named Claudia who sets off on a quest to find her uncle.  With the help of an artifact left behind, Claudia is soon able to call upon elementals to help her as she battles various creatures in her quest.  Claudia and her elemental friends all have unique personalities that develop as the story is told, and all have memorable impacts.  I initially thought the story would be a little too light for my tastes, but as the game marched towards its climax, I found that it told a satisfying and solid story as Claudia comes to grips with the realities of the world around her.

Legend of Fae features a real-time battle system that is part puzzle, part live-action.  To explain, you will spend time building up energy in your four basic elements by matching colored tiles, similar to most other games of this type.  In doing this, you will surround yourself with elementals that you can then unleash on your enemies.  These attacks can be focused on a single creature, can affect all creatures in one direction, and sometimes can even affect all creatures in battle.  Certain creatures will be weak to certain elements, while being strong versus others, so careful strategy is often needed to wipe out enemies who vary in their elemental vulnerabilities.  All of this happens in real-time; as you’re working to build up your power, your enemies are attacking you, buffing each other, healing, or performing other in-battle actions.  This makes the pace of battle a little hurried, but rarely out of control.  As you finish the 50+ stages in the game, you gain items that you can use to build your power in the various elements, which will unlock greater abilities, make you and your attacks stronger, and even allow for summoning creatures or performing multiple element attacks by combining elements.  How you build up Claudia is up to you, and you will not be able to max out your stats, so two people will most likely follow two very different routes to the same end.

The story is told through dialog in the stages, as there is time in each stage before the various fights for exposition and to build up your strength.  You advance in the stage by matching purple walk icons, so you can prepare for each battle by avoiding those purple matches and building up your elemental colors.  Taking time between battles will also allow you to use your elemental passive powers, which can make you more powerful in battle for a limited time.  Of course, taking too long means you might not meet the target times or scores the developers set for each stage to meet the “Expert” designation, so if you are looking to unlock everything in the game, you’ll have to move with some urgency.  The elemental attacks are fairly well balanced, and through the course of the game you’ll go through areas that will highlight each elemental’s strength.

Legend of Fae does a lot of things very well, which is impressive since it’s also breaking a lot of new ground in its gameplay.  The balance of strategy between building up power in matching gems and executing attacks is masterful; the more you match of a certain color, the higher level the attack (assuming you’ve unlocked the higher level attacks through your character development), but the longer time you’ll be taking between attacks.  Your enemy is not standing still either, so you’ll always be choosing between going on a series of smaller offensive attacks, or setting up for a devastating attack while eating damage.  The game plays fairly easy early on, so by the time the battles start scaling up in difficulty (and they will), you’ll have a good handle on the gameplay mechanics.  You will likely be completing the Expert goals early on with some ease, but this will change as you progress.  The game also does a good job of introducing boss battles, with the early ones simplistic, and the later ones requiring expert balance between your elemental attacks (and no spoon feeding on how to defeat them, either, which I found refreshing).  The ability to build up your magic power between battles in a stage is a great addition, and if you properly plan between battles, you will never find yourself overmatched through most of the game.  The music and sounds are good, with appropriately epic tunes for the various encounters (though the music will start getting repetitive towards the end).  And for the completionists out there, there are gems to collect upon defeating enemies that unlock pages in a journal to give you more background on what you’ve been fighting, as well as the aforementioned expert times and scores for each level.

There are a few issues worth mentioning that, while not game breakers, certainly stand out.  The biggest involves the battles themselves; the live-action pace means that you will often miss what attacks the enemies are performing while you’re busy trying to play the puzzle game to build up your attack power.  As a result, you can often be taking big damage and not know it.  Fortunately, many of the status ailments you suffer affect the puzzle board, so you can tell when you’re poisoned or blind, but otherwise you’ll often come out of puzzle mode ready to attack only to realize your priorities have completely changed based on how much damage you took or what powerups and healing the enemies have performed.  Speaking of status ailments, aside from Blind, the other ailments aren’t well described in-game (they are covered in the help menus), so you may die a few times thinking that those fancy glowing spinning colors were some sort of boost to your magic when, in fact, they are killing you.  There are some minor grammar issues in the game that can pull you out of the story a bit as well.  Finally, the balance of the elements, while pretty spot on, is still a little out of whack.  The wind elemental, for example, is critical as flying creatures can only be hit when knocked to the ground, and only a wind attack can do this.  Because you cannot max out all of your spells, you are also forced to choose between focusing on a couple of elements, or spreading it out across all 4.  The problem is that the game isn’t really balanced well for a specialized spec, as you’ll often be fighting battles that have creatures that are strong in each element.  You can re-spec your choices at any time, but at the cost of one upgrade piece, which basically means re-speccing more than once or twice becomes detrimental to your overall build (I actually re-specced myself out of being able to beat the final boss).  It would have been nice to have re-specs incur no penalty on normal mode, and impose the one upgrade point penalty when playing at the expert level.  So if you do go through the game, look over the upgrade screen, and try to plan out your character ahead of time, knowing that you will need all 4 elements to beat the game.

vttym’s take: Legend of Fae offers a unique challenge in the Puzzle/RPG genre that breathes new life into matching colored tiles.  While some of the details of the battle will get lost as you furiously work to build up your attacks, there’s no denying that the fast pace of an ordinarily casual playstyle actually works quite well, and makes winning the battles feel that much more exhilarating.  The story is light without being insulting, and moving without being forced.  There are some balance issues with the elemental attacks, but there’s enough variety in the spells and attacks that you can experiment to find what works for you (unfortunately at the expense of an upgrade point or two most likely). If you have enjoyed bejeweled-style puzzle games in the past, but were looking for something a little more engaging, Legend of Fae is the perfect game for you.  You will have a hard time quitting once you get started.

Pick up the demo and see for yourself how much fun you can have with this game.

+ Unique take on the Puzzle/RPG genre

+ Great variety possible in character builds

+ Impressive attacks with higher level spells

– Balance issues with elemental attacks

– Experimenting with different character specs can make the game unnecessarily difficult/impossible

Final Score: 8/10

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