Three of a kind puzzle games are a dime a dozen nowadays. Of this genre, Bejeweled and Puzzle Quest are probably the most recognized. Endless Fluff Games has skillfully thrown their hat into the puzzle ring with a surprisingly challenging and deep entry entitled Legend of Fae.
Ok, I know. Looking at a title like that and the decidedly feminine title screen, you can pretty much guess what this game is composed of. Yup, you guessed it, FAIRIES! Though in the story the little characters make a point to distinguish themselves as Faes and not fairies, I think we all know the truth. Oddly enough, even as I realized I was playing a fairy game, this quickly faded from my mind since I am a sucker for a good puzzle game.
Faeries aside, the premise of the game is that you are a young girl, Claudia, that is an engineering acolyte (magic user). She summons little cute elemental faes to battle horned squirrels, troll looking things, flying reptilian creatures, and plenty of other odd looking monsters. Somehow, the young girl’s island of Sea Cross Island is invaded by evil faeries and her completely non-paternal uncle runs away and leaves her a magical lantern that he created for her. Luckily, the good faes teach her about the magic lantern and instruct her in the ways of magic!
The basics of this match three game are simple. You are given a cursor that horizontally highlights two orbs. Upon clicking on the cursor (you guessed it) you switch the position of the orbs! Within the puzzle board are colored orbs for fire, water, air, earth, body, and mind gems. As you could probably figure out, the more of these orbs that you match up, the more powerful the spell that you can cast. The body orbs provide a few different functions. When not battling monsters, they allow Claudia to advance or walk through the level to the next encounter (each level is timed mind you). When you are battling, the body orbs allow you to dodge attacks. When combined, the mind orbs create Mind gems that kind of act like a dispel magic spell to counter status effects. As you advance throughout the game you will learn other skills such as merging spells before casting, summoning more powerful fae, or shock waves that destroy surrounding orbs.
As seen by the screen shown above, there is a lot of information to take in while playing this game. Most notable of them all is the adventure screen. This portion of the screen is not always visible and will cause everything under it to fade away as you view Claudia and the monsters that she is battling. In the adventure screen you are expected to target certain monsters (since you will be attacked by groups of monsters rather than just one), cast your elemental spells, and pick up dropped items from defeated faes. This dynamic of the game alone makes it quite difficult as monsters who are casting affect spells or attacking you can disorient your attempts to match your elemental orbs.
As I said before, the game can be quite challenging at times. As you advance through the stages the different monsters that you encounter are colored in specific colors to indicate the element that they are immune to. In addition to that, there are enemies that cast additional status effects that not only harm or disorient your character, they hamper your ability to make orb combos. For instance, the petrify attack turns all earth orbs into immovable rocks for a time (or until a mind gem is activated). Poisons will constantly drain Claudia’s health. Burning orbs will do the same but including them in a combo will cause the fire to spread to nearby orbs.
Imagine trying to build up spell levels to attack a boss and about 4 other monsters when you’ve been poisoned and petrified at the same time. You’ll be forced to change your offensive tactics to defensive in hopes to heal your character and remove the status effects. Of course, the time it takes for you to do this could also allow for your enemies to heal themselves or cast another round of status effects upon you. Hence the speed of you making the appropriate combos is important.
Another tactic that is useful in the game is making sure that every move or orb switch that you make leads to combos. Doing so will build up a gauge called the Spell Weaving meter. As this increases, the spells that you cast are more powerful, allowing you to do much more damage.
Just as with any game that uses elemental attacks or affinities, you can achieve ‘critical hits’ by using the appropriate counter element. In other words water counters fire, fire counters earth, earth counters wind, and wind counters water. Achieving critical hits allows for higher damage and higher point scores which are essential when trying to reach expert status for a particular level. And say you defeat all of the fae beasties and still have some spell power left over? Well, then you can use that power to place enchantments upon Claudia that have effects such as increased defense, HP regeneration, increased spell power, or faster mana levels for faster spell casting. It should also be noted that you only score points when you defeat enemies. So if you are adventuring with Claudia and you are making orb combos left and right, you benefit only in preparation for your next encounter, not in increasing your score.
With so much to consider on the screen and remember when it comes to battling monsters, it is easy to lose track of what you need to be doing. While some people would be content just making orb combos, Legend of Fae forces you to constantly be aware of what enemies you are facing as well as if and how they are attacking you. Many times I found myself making combos left and right while I forgot to either cast a spell to defeat my foes or to even make Claudia advance further in the stage. Also, remembering to switch my target to the appropriate monster before casting managed to trip me up and a spell or two in the process as well. But, as you progress through the 50+ levels, you will slowly get the hang of all the tactics needed to achieve success. These levels start out pretty easy and the difficulty progress upwards at a nice pace that will rarely leave you saying that the game is either boring or not deep by any means. You’ll find yourself multitasking offensive tactics and defensive tactics at a breakneck pace to keep up with the action.
Once you finally get through a stage, you are brought back to a world map that occasionally gives you multiple options on stages to proceed to next (based on the story). Also, little gears that are acquired through finishing levels can be used to upgrade your characters spell abilities in the different elements mentioned before. As you would imagine, the higher the specialization, the bigger and better the spell effect.
As you are treated by the simplistic character animations as the dance around in place in true turn based RPG fashion, you are engulfed by odd voices, orb breaking bells, and a forgettable music score that at times reminded me of the music from the Age of Wonders franchise. Though the colorful goblins and faeries are pleasant enough to view as you adventure, you certainly aren’t going to marvel at the artistry any more than any other puzzle game out there.
Still, you’ll find yourself coming back time and time again to reach that next level, sling that next elemental spell, or to just see what Claudia runs into next as she chases after her good for nothing uncle who left her alone with this peculiar magical lantern. I mean come on, you gotta give it up for ANY developer that can make a grown man feel it’s ok to play a game about faeries!
Control and Gameplay: Mediocre
Balance: Above Average
Originality: Above Average
Addictiveness: Above Average
Appeal Factor: Good
Miscellaneous: Above Average
FINAL SCORE: Above Average
Short Attention Span Summary
Endless Fluff (great name by the way) managed to weave a number of RPG stylings and mechanics into this puzzle game to create a truly intense and challenging experience that will certainly take puzzle masters some time to master. With customizations to spell casting ability and lots of different enemies requiring different means to defeat, Legend of Fae is an excellent match three puzzle game.