While Fell Seal’s ambition is at first daunting, the turn-based strategy is thoroughly entertaining, even if its difficulty ramps up at rather early doors. But first let’s discuss, does the Switch have room for more titles like Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark? There’s a tonne of great strategies already on Ninties hybrid console, from Fire Emblem to my personal fave, Wargroove, so what’s Fell Seal’s USP?
It’s largely inspired by titles such as Final Fantasy Tactics rather than the aforementioned titles, but Fell Seal’s storyline isn’t up to the quality of the Square’s classic, in fact, it’s entirely forgettable, so much so that I barely kept up with the scripted missions throughout the fifteen or so hours I spent playing the campaign. Fifteen hours might not sound a lot, but I didn’t think I’d make it through the first hour when I first picked up Fell Seal. It’s exceptionally difficult, right from the off, especially for a seasoned strategy gamer like myself.
After you’ve chosen your squad (from a bunch of nobodies and a couple of main story heroes), the order of attack is randomly generated between you and your enemies. This means that often, you can be pummelled before you even begin. Obviously it can work both ways, but if the computer is feeling mean spirited Fell Seal can be a hard mistress to master. While spiritually it has a lot in common with other titles, Fell Seal does plenty of interesting things to make itself stand out. The injury mechanic, while annoying at first, is actually really clever, leaving you to decide to either bench your character so they can heal or force them to fight injured but weakened. If they fall in battle again then they gain another injury and become further weakened. This conundrum often makes you change your usual strategy and come up with different tactics than you’d normally take, forcing you to explore different options.
Items play differently too, and while shops are spread across the map for buying items and gear for your squad, in-battle items such as potions and traps are crafted through various components collected in battle. This allows you to always start a battle with a fresh set of items, but only what you’ve crafted. Again, I wasn’t sure if I liked it at first but once I was used to it, I preferred it to more traditional systems; it required less backtracking to bulk-buy, but also meant I had to be clever about when and how I used items in my arsenal.
Flanking plays a big part of Fell Seal, but it also plays a big part for the enemies too. Its part of the reason you end up getting pummelled so often. It doesn’t really matter which way you face, you always seem to find that enemies will find the quicker route either round the back or to the side to wallop you for maximum hit points. It’s a great touch, but with relatively good AI in Fell Seal, it’s actually quite difficult to combat.
There’s ample customisation in Fell Seal, from character design to weapons and abilities. Probably the most impressive customisation feature comes in the form of the class changes. You can very easily swap your characters class as and when you wish, and as they level up they can also unlock new classes for you to experiment with. This also allows you to make hybrid classes, such as Plague Doctor/Magician’s who are able to practice the dark arts and magic at the same time.
The only down side to this is that changing class means learning the move sets of these classes anew, meaning your beasty high level Mercenary who you now want to be a Knight has a rather lame skill set that you’ve got to work on honing. They will however unlock some skills passively from different classes, but not at the same rate as they would when assigned.
Abilities won’t surprise anyone who’s played an RPG or turn-based game in the past. There’s plenty of defensive magic attacks and physical attacks, many of which can buff the user or negatively effect the enemy. Most powers and attacks aren’t particularly interesting and only serve to get the battle over with, but the most interest abilities are the ones that cause environmental effects, such as those that force enemies off ledges and into water or sand traps. But the environment is criminally underutilised in Fell Seal. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a beautiful game, but there’s simply not enough utilisation within the world. That being said, the character design is great, especially within the enemies.
What excites me most is I’ve barely scratched the surface – Fell Seal is a huge game, with tonnes of story content, forty or so hours apparently, as well as plenty of treasure hunting and extra dungeons to explore.
Fell Seal is a fantastic strategy that mostly, does everything right. It might be unforgiving and at times a little frustrating, but its longevity and bold amount of choice make it a solid option for anyone who’s looking for a new turn-based adventure on the Switch.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Fell Seal: Arbiter's Mark Review
Gameplay - 8/10
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 8/10
Replay Value - 8/10
User Review( votes)
Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark is a solid option for anyone who’s looking for a new turn-based adventure on the Switch.