Fell Seal: The Arbiter’s Mark, developed by 6 Eyes Studio, is an obvious tribute to the PS1 era tactical RPG titles such as Final Fantasy Tactics, Tactics Ogre and Vandal Hearts. It’s not uncommon to see indie studios try to recreate games from the golden days. The problem is that most of these efforts end up being unsatisfactory. Luckily, Fell Seal: The Arbiter’s Mark is not one of those failed attempts.
You play as Kyrie, a very lawful captain of a group of Arbiters, who are the game’s equivalent of the police force. One fateful night, Kyrie and her company witness a wealthy noble man murdering a defenseless man in cold blood. They quickly intervene and apprehend the noble man. Little do the arbiters know that their organization is corrupted and the noble will do everything in his power to worm his way out. This fateful encounter sets Kyrie and her team on a dangerous path to discover the true nature of their organization.
While the story sounds a bit generic on paper, the game handles it very well overall. There are just enough twists and turns to keep you excited during your journey. Some of the characters can be dull and one-dimensional at times, but there are also fun and interesting ones to balance the team out. Overall, the story will not blow you away but it’s good enough to keep you invested.
As for the gameplay, the ability to customize your party is an important factor in a tactical RPG. A deep and rewarding customization is what transforms a visually boring grid-based tactic game into an addictive one that keeps you hooked for hours. The good news is, Fell Seal truly excels there.
Similar to Final Fantasy Tactics, there are several classes to choose from. Only a handful of basic classes, such as Wizard and Mercenary, are available at the beginning but many advanced and more interesting classes will be unlocked as you play. Each class has its own skill tree and it’s fairly easy to master a single class without too much grinding. Once a skill is acquired, it can be equipped to a different class. For example, once you’ve learned a healing spell, you can equip Mender class to a Wizard as a subclass and you get a Wizard who can both deal elemental damage and heal.
You can even customize the looks of your team, except the main characters. Instead of giving you a stock sprite and art for each class like in other tactical RPGs, Fell Seal allows you to edit your characters in-depth, such as their hairstyle, facial features, clothing and colors. Like a proper table-top RPG, you can make unique and interesting characters to suit your wildest imaginations.
The enemies can be quite challenging and smart. They will almost always try their best to deal maximum damage to your party, so you need to be extremely careful with the placement of your units. Place your lightly armored units without considering the reach of your enemies and you will get them ganged up and killed by an obnoxiously effective AI. This can result in excruciatingly unfair difficulty spikes in some missions when dealing with flying and agile enemies, as they can freely swoop in and kill off your weaker party members very fast. If a unit dies in the battle, he/she will get a nasty “Injured” status, which weakens the unit in upcoming battles unless you let the character rest for a while. You will need to train a team of competent substitutes to avoid ending up with a lot of “Injured” units in your party.
Gorgeous hand-drawn art fits perfectly the game. The colors are vibrant and the sprites are extremely expressive and detailed. However, the animation and battle effects look really stiff and rough. The worst are the spells effects, as they look more like animated stickers playing over the target than real devastating magical effects. But this is just a small nitpick and doesn’t affect the overall experience. Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark may lack polish and grace but it remarkably pulled off a rewarding gameplay loop that will keep you coming back to it for hours. Pick it up if you’d like to experience a well-made tactical RPG reminiscent of the golden age of the genre.
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