Title: Fell Seal: Arbiter's Mark
Developer: 6 Eyes Studio
Release Date: April 30, 2019
Reviewed On: PS4
Publisher: 1C Entertainment
Genre: Tactical RPG
Playing tactical RPGs is as close as I’ll ever get to playing a traditional tabletop game. Many TRPGs share the same elements of that of a tabletop game — you got customization options, different strategies to come up with, a cast of distinct characters and roles, and more. To me, TRPGs are just more accessible as I can go in, quickly learn what I need to learn simply by playing and be on my merry way as I go on an epic adventure. With tabletop games, however, I often get overwhelmed by all the bits and pieces and rules to keep track of, which shows how impatient I can get when it comes to playing games for the first time.
Stepping into the classic-style turn-based TRPG Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark is like visiting an old friend that you know so well but haven’t spent time with in a while. Developed by the two-person studio, 6 Eyes Studio, the team clearly were inspired by TRPG classics like Final Fantasy Tactics and Tactics Ogre when creating their latest game. While Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark doesn’t quite go toe-to-toe with those classics, the game instead is one of the most accessible TRPGs I’ve ever played due to its array of features that make it stand out amongst modern TRPGs.
Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark has the usual epic fight between good and evil, but with deep twists within that keeps it from being plain and predictable. Centuries ago, a brutal beast of destruction came into the land of Teora — wreaking havoc left and right. But then, a crew of seven heroes stepped in, defeated the beast, and thus became the first Immortals. Since trying to prevent another end-of-the-world catastrophe isn’t easy, the Immortals started the Council who are responsible for making sure mass destruction doesn’t happen, yet again. To help the Council out, the Immortals rely upon mortal agents known as Arbiters to maintain law and order, to protect the land from any danger, and to even take the spot of an Immortal that steps down. However, one Arbiter discovers that her very own group she loyally follows is changing… for the worst. This is where you come in as you take control of the do-gooder Arbiter, Kyrie. Kyrie, along with her fellow Arbiter friends, feel iffy about the latest Arbiter candidate to take on the Marked Pilgrimage to be the next Immortal. Due to their concerns, Kyrie and her crew decide to investigate the internal corruption happening within the Council in hopes to prevent the system and the world around them from being ruined.
The story itself is well-told and gripping since there’s never a moment that feels off or unnecessary. With that said, it’s nothing groundbreaking, and that’s okay. I was always engaged with the story, and I consistently wanted to see what would happen next throughout Kyrie’s adventure. To go along with the story, Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark has a main cast of characters that consists of three characters: Kyrie, a loyal and honorable Arbiter, Reiner, a sly jokester Arbiter, and Anadine, a dotish Arbiter apprentice that’s under the wing of Kyrie. At first, each of these characters is pretty one dimensional — personality-wise — which makes them hard to like initially. Since I’m more of a fan of the main protagonist that is more of the ‘anti-hero’ or ‘rebel’ type, I didn’t quite like Kyrie. However, as the story progressed, I came to find that the main characters, along with supporting characters, do end up becoming a little more unique and likable. For players that would like to know the characters a bit more, there is the option to enjoy optional side events that offer greater character development for each character.
What could make matters more difficult for some players to connect with Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark’s cast of characters is that there is no voice-over dialogue for any of the characters — the dialogue is only given via text. Classic TRPGs was the same way, of course, but the lack of voice-over in the game does make it less immersive. However, the text dialogue itself is rather good — having a nice mix of deep, dramatic lines and light humor ones — that’ll make TRPG fans happy with Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark storytelling overall.
The main component of Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark that will ultimately draw players in is the well-crafted, customization-friendly, and enjoyable gameplay it offers. In addition to the main cast of characters that, for the most part in certain battles, need to be in your party, players can create and get customizable characters that fall under a specific class. There are a total of 30 classes in the game, from the traditional knight class to an interesting plague doctor class, and mixing and matching classes will, in turn, make up for a better party that best fits your playstyle. All of the classes each have unique abilities, which there are over 300 in total, and that’s important to keep in mind of as they can either make or break your chances of winning battles. I found that the class system to be not too complex to the point of it being frustrating, and instead, it actually had me come up with different strategies and enjoy taking part in battles even more.
What I especially loved, though, were the character creation options in Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark as it lets players deeply customize their own characters to their heart’s content. Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark’s turn-based tactical combat is delightfully familiar for fans of traditional TRPGs. Players move their party about in multi-terrain, well-designed, isometric maps, all the while keeping in mind of enemies and environmental hazards that lurk about. Basically, battles consist of defeating all of the enemy troops as player use their turns to makes their way to strike each enemy down. Depending on a character’s class, the character can move a certain number of spaces and attack or use abilities in specific ways — which leads it up to the player to make strategic decisions on the optimal time and place to focus on attacking, defending, buffing, or healing for each turn.
Players only have a set number of items to use in battle, so they can’t rely on having 99+ potions to help them out, and there’s an injury system where if a character falls in battle, they suffer an injury that deals -10% hit to their stats that can only be recovered by not having the character in the next battle. The impressive level of strategy in Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark’s combat makes for engaging and enjoyable battles that’ll keep players on edge at all times. Victory in battles is dependent on a player’s skill and strategy, not on cheap and unfair tactics, which leads to players truly being invested and immersed in Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark. For players that truly want the best party imaginable, or need to simply level up, maps can be replayed so grinding through additional battles is an option. The only downfall with battles, however, is that players can’t rotate the camera at all, which is disappointing.
Considering the fact that accessibility has been a hot topic lately in gaming, Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark is seriously a TRPG for anyone and its due to the game having one of the best difficulty systems ever. Sure, there’s the usual ‘easy’ to ‘very hard’ presets we all know about, but players can also tinker with specific gameplay mechanics like enemy level scaling and even the injury system overall to truly get the experience that they want.
Furthermore, the lush, hand-drawn art style for the in-game, pixelated chibi-like character designs and the classicalism-style character portraits are gorgeously detailed. It’s odd, at first, that the character designs are so vastly different from the character portraits themselves, but I ended up liking the stark contrast between the two. Character animations are pretty good, as they’re somewhat stiff in general, but some animations, like the higher level spell animations, are impressive. On a different note, Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark soundtrack is epic and perfectly fits the game so well.
Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark is a great, nostalgic tactical RPG that fans of classic TRPGs, like Final Fantasy Tactics and Tactics Ogre, will enjoy everything that the game has to offer. While it may not be quite as excellent as those classics, Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark is worth playing through from beginning to end due to its well-crafted gameplay that’s a nice mix of old and new. With its deep customization options and classic tactical turn-based combat, anyone that enjoys tactical RPGs or even those that are curious about the genre should definitely consider playing Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark.
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