Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark – A Nostalgic Ride
Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark
A Blast from the past
As I never tire from turn-based strategy role-playing games, I had the pleasure of discovering something called Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark after weeks of playing Fire Emblem. The combat and class system makes me nostalgic about the Final Fantasy tactics games. It’s very story-driven and each character plays differently due to the number of class options. I liked Fell Seal, but with that said, it’s definitely on the harder side of the scale. I often felt frustrated by the ally A.I. when compared to the enemies. Additionally, many of the side characters feel one-dimensional and the main character conveys no emotion. Overall though, the game feels right at home on the Nintendo Switch and I’m looking forward to playing the DLC when it arrives.
I really had issues with Fell Seal when I first started playing it. It played too slow and felt clunky in comparison too more recent strategy games. It took me a few hours to come around and start having fun. What sold me was the sheer amount of customization each unit had; there are over 20 classes with some having to be unlocked by level up certain classes. A character can have a main class as well as a subclass, allowing the character to utilize abilities from both classes. Each battle I replayed felt different from the previous so long as I used a variety of characters.
On top of everything else, crafting is another way to get items and equipment.
A strong fable
While only a handful of characters are integral to the story, every other one you recruit can be completely customizable. Everything from their name to their character portrait can be changed. Instead of being silent protagonists, these units only appear in the background in cutscenes while the protagonist is actually a fully-fledged character in the story. It was a little weird to me at first, but I ended up loving this. Nothing breaks the fantasy more than characters trying to poorly interact with a silent protagonist and this was a welcomed change. It’s just too bad that I ended up not liking the characters.
I did, however, really like the story and the set up for the world. Seven powerful immortals form a council after stop a beast of unimaginable destruction to ensure nothing like this ever happens again. For the smaller concerns, they enlist the help of the Arbiters to keep the lands protected from bandits and smaller monsters. Of course, the Arbiters aren’t all good, and it’s up to Kyrie and her team to discover how deep the corruption of the Arbiters really goes. I was enthralled, to say the least. I only wish the characters’ dialogue was a bit better, especially Kyrie’s. She comes off as this authoritative figure with no emotions, which I found falls flat when you’re simply reading the dialogue.
Injuries weaken your units and they can only recover if left out of a battle.
Something else I found rather jarring was the character portraits compared to the actual sprite art of the game. Most of the character portraits, while extremely well done and beautiful, are quite realistic and serious. In contrast, some of the character models have a goofy grin on their face in the middle of combat. It was sometimes quite distracting (although hilarious). This also became a concern while I was creating some of my characters. The portraits don’t match up to the heads of the units. This leads to me not always knowing who was who after I had created a bunch of new units. It’s minor and definitely not game-breaking, but it still took me out of the experience a bit.
Difficult, but within reach
In terms of difficulty, I had a love-hate relationship with the game. I love difficult games that are fair or require a decent strategy. My strategy often involved me over leveling my units or simply waiting for the enemy to come to me. Neither of these are all that fun after a few battles. Turning down the difficulty is an option but since I had a strategy that worked, it never felt necessary. A lot of my frustrations came from the ally A.I. The enemy is smart and will do the best move nine times out of ten. Your allies often only heal and avoid aggro, which is frustrating when they’re supposed to be helping you. Healing only goes so far.
The sheer amount of battle objectives took me by surprise. Tactical games usually have one goal in mind – kill all the enemies. Fell Seal uses this as a win condition only a hand full of times. Instead, objectives like survive as long as you can or collect this specific item, to name a few, are used in its place. Tactical games often feel repetitive as the game gets to the third act, but not Fell Seal. My only complaint with the battles was the lack of ability to save my file when selecting my team; not a big issue in the grand scheme of things.
Yes, I liked Fell Seal, but I still think it has flaws. The characters aren’t memorable in the narrative, but the story is solid and takes some interesting turns. Playing at a lower difficulty and enjoying the story and combat is the way to go for this one. The sheer amount of customization available to your characters is incredible and I need to adjust my expectations for future indie RPGs in the future. Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark is a solid tactical RPG and if you loved Final Fantasy Tactics, you’ll love this game.
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Reviewed by Taylor Ivings on the Nintendo Switch. Game provided by 1C Entertainment.