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I’m always hankering for an old school, PlayStation 1 era role-playing game on a home console. So it’s no surprise I was excited when Faery: Legends of Avalon hit Xbox Live Arcade. Here was an RPG teeming with fantasy settings ripped from Aladdin, the Flying Dutchman and other fairy tales.
And while the old school — and perhaps archaic — components of the game aren’t groundbreaking or entirely unique, the adventure is one worth taking.
Faery is similar to any turn-based RPG of yesteryear. Players have to pay attention to what enemies are weak against and manage their action points. Bigger attacks targeting multiple baddies will use up your characters whole turn while regular attacks can be strung together for three hits or allow you to throw in a healing spell or potion in the same character’s attacking round.
Nothing groundbreaking, though many games should not only mimic Faery’s exclusion of random battles, but also the seamless transition into scuffles.
While battling isn’t the game’s strong suit, exploration is.
Exploration takes advantage of the fact that your characters can fly — though the fussy camera and controls are bit of a chore — and the fanciful settings of a majestic tree, pirate ship and giant beetle in the desert lend themselves to fun exploration lacking in other titles.
Another unique aspect to the game is leveling up. At first I was bummed to only be able to customize the main character with equipment and level him up, but I shortly got over it after seeing how much I could tinker with my character through metamorphosis.
Other games may give you skill points to place upon a silly grid, but Faery’s skill points do much more than that — they change the physical appearance of your hero.
To learn skills, points are placed into different body parts. Growing wings styled after a butterfly or dragonfly decides what elemental magic your character can use. Growing a feline tail boosts your dodging ability whereas a scorpion tail grants you poisonous attacks.
It’s a unique way to show your character growth and really makes the character in your control feel like it’s different — a feeling that carries over into the mission structure.
Quite a few missions allow players to complete them in two different ways: diplomatically or violently.
Usually it comes down to fighting through a horde of enemies to get to a boss or leader or gathering materials for a more peaceful solution.
For example, players need to rid the magical tree Yggdrasil of termites in order to save it from dying and dooming one of the few remaining Faery worlds to oblivion. One possible solution is to gather honey to place on rocks to lead ants — natural enemies of the dreaded termites — into their lair.
Those who like to settle situations with fisticuffs can enter the termite domain and blitz through to the queen to accomplish the same goal.
Neither decision is the wrong decision, and neither has a different outcome; but it is nice to have the choice to do something different from time to time.
Decision-making leads me to the game’s first problem.
Throughout Faery it seems as though your decisions don’t result in anything tangible. Sure, naughty or nice responses to teammates may pop up a little notice telling of your companions dislike or love for you, but it doesn’t seem to do anything.
The end of Faery provides the chance to make an important decision seeming to have a lasting impact on the rest of the story…in the next title. That’s right; the game ends with an important question from one of your comrades — who is seemingly in love with you—and Oberon, the faery king.
Unfortunately, the game ends right after the decision. All players get for an ending are a couple 2D scenes filled with text hinting at what may come and the dreaded to be continued pops up at the end of this nearly 10-hour adventure.
It’s not a bad cliffhanger like, say, Hydrophobia. It’s more like Arc the Lad where the first game was an introduction to the world, characters and troubles permeating throughout the land.
Characters are also a bit flat in the title. The most unique character is an outcast who speaks in poetry rather than normal sentences. Aside from that you have do gooder number one, do gooder number two, angry person, animal lover and dragon who doesn’t talk but seems to purr like a cat…
The characters just didn’t do much to really make me care about them; they just seemed to be another 3D model taking up screen space when I was zipping around the game world.
There are also other tiny, but annoying issues to keep the experience far from perfect.
Accents for the pirates in the Flying Dutchman stage are bad and had me skipping most of the dialogue because it was a chore to read. It makes Kid’s accent from Chrono Cross seem like a standout achievement in video game writing.
The soundtrack also gets repetitive fairly quickly. I had the TV on mute or turned down to barely audible levels throughout most of the adventure.
And when players finally get to the end of the game is when all of the revelations hinted at in the adventure are thrown at you in a breakneck pace. Then it’s over.
Despite the many flaws, Faery is a good game with a ton of potential. Hopefully developer Spiders can implement meaningful impacts from player decision while also delving deeper into the characters and the meat of the story after leaving it on such a high note.
The good: Unique fantasy setting ripped from old legends and myths.
The bad: The awful camera and controls hamper the wonderful exploration.
Cat tail: My faery has one.