Inside Pulse 12

Review: Faery: Legends of Avalon (Sony PlayStation 3)

Faery: Legends of Avalon
Developer: Focus Home Interactive
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment America
Genre: Role Playing Game
Release Date: 1/4/2011

The PlayStation Network, for all the wonderful things it has going for it, tends to be light on certain genres, the most notable of those being role playing games. I love a lot of the games the service has, such as Everyday Shooter, fl0w and Hoard, but if I’ve wanted an RPG, I’ve been stuck with the PS1 classics like the Final Fantasy games and Grandia. I’m all for the service diversifying. However, I want the system to diversify with a good game.

Faery: Legends of Fetch Quest–er, Avalon isn’t that game. Though stylistic, Faery takes everything that we only tolerate about the RPG genre – the staid battle systems and the fetch quests – and combines them with a bland story and uninspiring aesthetics, things which most RPG fans consider mandatory. While competent in its own right, there just isn’t enough to provide enough entertainment for the dollar, especailly with much better games being available, cheaper, even if it’s just a PlayStation One game.

You play the part of a fairy that has been in a state of stasis for some time. It’s never really made clear how long you were there, or what caused you to enter this state; you just find out that your king Oberon has woken you up and wants you to find two companions to help save Avalon. Right off the hop, this shows the game’s biggest weakness: an abundance of fetch quests. I call this game Faery: Legends of Fetch Quest because that’s what it basically is: fetch quests with a few battles thrown in. By fetch quests, I mean long, winding, INVOVLED fetch quests. For example, to get the character Bert, I first had to beat up his two brothers (I’ll explain that in a bit) who had managed to damage his book. He would not join me until I got three pages that had torn from it. The first page was hidden in a bird’s nest, but I had to get the bird – a seagull – away from the nest long enough to get the page. To do this, I had to go around and ask people what to do. One of the people in Avalon suggested I draw the bird away with a fish, so I had to find a fish. I had to go into a cave and trade a potion with the goblins in the cave for a fish, place the fish, draw away the bird, grab the page and bring it back to Bert. I then had to repeat a similar process TWO MORE TIMES, after which I fought the brothers again. Another character was recruited by finding a dragon’s egg, which I had to figure out how to hatch, so I carried it around with me over two worlds, asking everyone I went to what to do with this egg, until I found someone that had a clue, which involved yet another convoluted gathering process to be able to hatch the egg and get me Drake, my new character.

These fetch quests aren’t just for recruitment purposes. They’re literally to do *everything* in the game. Get a key item, do a fetch quest. Get the help of one character, get something from another, but to get that item, you need to so something else for THAT character. The fetch quests intermingle with other fetch quests by other people to create one large fetch quest singularity. If you LIKE fetch quests, then there’s nothing else I can say to dissuade you from the game, as you’re in heaven. But even if you are ambivalent about them, the sheer number of them, and the multiple steps required to complete each one, will annoy you because the majority of this game is involved in some fetch quest or another. I personally hate them, even in games I like, so one can imagine what it was like for me to play this game.

Character interactions are done via a dialogue wheel that fans of Mass Effect will find immediately familiar. You use the wheel to determine what you want to say in a particular situation. This can mean conversation items that can have a positive or adverse effect on your relationship with the person you’re talking to, though those are usually clearly marked with a positive blue or negative red hue. Even without them, it’s pretty obvious when you’re about to be a nice guy and when you’re about to be a jerk, so there’s no real morality in play. At most, you’re going to not receive any help from the person in question, though it ultimately has no effect on the game as a whole. In fact, all of the conversations have an ultimately minimal effect on the bottom line of the game, which is ultimately to fulfill the right fetch quests to advance to the next world. The characters themselves all have their own personalities, though most of them are not particularly well developed. The one who’s the most interesting is easily Bert, the troll I mentioned before. Bert is disliked by other trolls because he’s actually intelligent and booksmart, and not quite as strong and brutish. He says everything in verse which, while kind of hard to follow for someone with no interest in poetry, adds a flair of personality to the game that is otherwise lacking through the badly translated and underdeveloped dialogue elsewhere.

The worlds themselves, of which there are four, are colourful and well designed, but ultimately too small. Despite the apparent pains taken by the developers to make you feel like you’re flying in a large world, ultimately, everything feels constrained by artificial boundaries. If you try to fly out beyond where you’re supposed to go, you’re stopped by an invisible wall, beyond which everything is fuzzy. Therefore, you’re stuck in a small area with a few people to talk to. Furthermore, finding people – especially in the Yggdrasal Tree, where everything above the ground is obscured by tree branches – is made harder by the ineffective map, which just tells you where people are, but isn’t contextual to where you are at the moment. A minimap while flying would have been exceptionally helpful. The act of flying itself, while initially exhilarating, is made troublesome by a stiff and ineffective control scheme that doesn’t let you look around while you fly, and maps directions in a way that make it harder to actually get anywhere with any precision than it should be. This doesn’t break the game, as there is no precision required, but I found myself fighting with the flying controls more than I should have.

Eventually, your characters will end up in combat, which is standard by what we would consider JRPG archetypes. You start each round with a set of action points, and each attack or action you take uses up a specific number of action points, with some moves requiring a cool-down time. Therefore, if you have four action points, you can attack two different enemies, then use a healing spell using two points, or attack the same enemy four times. It’s boring, but it gets the job done. Battles themselves appear infrequently – usually when you’re going through what the game considers dungeons – and once you beat an enemy or set of enemies, they’re gone, so there’s no such thing as “grinding” for experience. Experience in itself is gained through either fighting or via those infernal fetch quests, and once you get enough of it, you level up, which can involve adding skills to your character. These actually manifest themselves via physical changes to your avatar – for example, you’ll grow antennae, or horns – which is a nice touch. However, one issue I have is that once you choose something to add, you can’t go back on it. While that makes sense from a logistical standpoint – you’d be changing physical characteristics at whim – it limits gameplay, since later skills piggyback onto earlier ones. Therefore, if you choose to be primarily a fire user to start out with, you can’t change those fire skills to lightning skills, which also means you can’t learn later lightning skills, or anything else elemental based. This renders a lot of the equipment in the game useless, because equipment is based upon elements and/or properties. Instead of having one set of armour be a +5 to defence and another one be +8, you have different parts of armour that are imbued with elements or properties, such as ice, healing or resistance, and to equip everything in a set doubles the benefit gained. If you aren’t using lightning spells, there is no reason to college anything of a lightning property, though equipment is collected at random throughout the various chests found throughout the game (there is no currency).

Ultimately, Faery is an RPG with very little of anything that makes it an actual RPG, with the exception of the fetch quests. There are characters that could have been interesting with a little more care, but they ultimately don’t give you a reason to care about their world or themselves. There are worlds that are too small to get invested in, and not interesting enough to really investigate. The combat is staid and boring, and the entire game, so long as you finish the fetch quests, is extremely easy. It’s too bad, because there was the potential for something really good here if the developers would have let it cook a bit. As it is, I can’t stress how much I disdained playing this game. It’s not as if the game was aggressively bad – it’s never going to be mistaken for a Hall of Shame game – but it’s extremely boring, with virtually no real action to be had and nothing truly interesting going on.

Graphically, Faery is a mix of pleasing visuals that are held back by technical problems caused by a woefully underpowered engine. The entire game has a nice, easy fantasy vibe that draws its inspiration everywhere from Lord of the Rings to Arabian Nights, and though I am unversed in classic literature, the influence really shines through in the individual character and world designs. As limited as both are in practice, the game’s design oozes with personality. Unfortunately, I have to look at things with a technical eye as well, and I can’t forget how I would see water “rolling” in Avalon, but then notice that it was like a rolling bedsheet that just happened to be painted like a body of water, or the times in Yggdrasil that I would be flying through the tree and literally clip through branches, leaves and other minor physical areas. I would feel more like a fairy if I was actually getting whapped around by random tree branches as I flew through them, but the developers were either unable or unwilling to add that small touch. The end result is a game that looks outstanding in still shots, but doesn’t perform so well when actually in motion. In terms of audio, there’s background music that fits the light fantasy motif of the game that is nice and soothing. There is no voice acting to be had, and this seems to bother other reviewers much more than it should. I’ve seen people tear this game apart because of the lack of voice actors, but this is an unfair criticism as I can read just as easily. There is a lot of text to read, but for a $15 game, the lack of voice acting is not a problem. I am disturbed, however, that they didn’t use the money saved from not hiring voice actors on better QA. Way too often, especially in the earlier parts of the game, I would see dialogue that was either missing words, or just flat out garbled, as if the game’s code had a misdirected pointer. These issues haven’t been fixed via a patch as of this writing.

The Scores
Story: Below Average
Graphics: Decent
Sound: Above Average
Control and Gameplay: Poor
Replayability: Bad
Balance: Pretty Poor
Originality: Decent
Addictiveness: Dreadful
Appeal Factor: Poor
Miscellaneous: Poor

Short Attention Span Summar

Faery: Legends of Avalon has one thing going for it: an interesting setting. After that, you’re stuck with a game that’s anywhere from mediocre to bad on virtually all levels, as well as one that doesn’t give you any reason to go back to it after you’re through with it. Though the game is competent and tries something different, the game’s active disdain for any semblance of pacing is ultimately its undoing.

If you’re the type of gamer that actually likes keeping a list of chores you have to do for other people, then by all means, this is the game for you. Alternatively, I have some chores around my house you can do, if you don’t mind being rewarded in “XP”. Anyone else would do much better in just picking up one of the PSX RPGs already on the service. The Final Fantasy games, Grandia, even Wild ARMs are all better games than this, and they’re $9 cheaper.