Spend a brief amount talking with different indie studios and you’ll undoubtedly hear a common rumination: development with a small team isn’t easy. With limited money and a restrained pool of talent, crafting even a simple title can be exhausting, often testing the determination of teams. But tackling something like an epic role-playing game is another matter. Success within the genre hinges on the synergy of story, sight, sound, and mechanic. If just one of those components is inadequate, the entire experience can feel lackluster.
As such, the appearance of Legrand Legacy – Tale of the Fatebounds is miraculous. Certainly, an indie team can’t match the multi-million dollar budgets or the legions of personnel that construct something like a modern Final Fantasy game. But for those who favor the unpredictability and verve of a plucky upstart rather than a homogenized sequel might find plenty to appreciate in Semisoft’s inaugural offering.
Download the thirteen gigabyte Steam demo (beta 0.170908.0 at the time of writing) and you’ll be privy to an opening cinematic that feels culled from the PlayStation One era. A CG movie introduces us to Legrand Legacy’s protagonist, an amnesiac slave named Finn, who is about to enter a gladiatorial arena. Inside, he meets his adversary, a masked behemoth who rips off the head of a rival, before letting a jet of arterial blood splatter across his face shielding. While Semisoft asserts that the game is a ‘love letter’ to classic JRPGs, this sequence divulges a dark, unflinching tone that remarkably divergent from experiences of the early 2000s.
Subsequent play reveals Legacy’s variety of graphical styles. Up close, character exhibit an economical number of polygons, making them look like an upscaled PlayStation 2 title. Dialog employs Live2D, which allow portraits to animate fluidly and express a multitude of emotions. When the camera pans out, Legrand Legacy’s environments come into view. While many are pleasing to the eye, others exhibit a painterly style rendered with a brush that’s just a bit too large. Yet, allow Finn to idle in an area, and the camera zooms out, revealing Legacy’s potential. Largely, the title mimics the visual quality of role-playing games from the early 2000s. For some, that will stoke feelings of nostalgia. For those use to high fidelity and characters crafted from vast poly counts, Tale of the Fatebounds visuals might seem dated.
Yet, if you’re able to look past a few uneven art assets, the game’s other elements deliver a positive early impression. When Finn confronts his gladiatorial opponent and almost is killed, a transformation happens, with his pupils becoming cat-like and his strength amplified. While the rules of the match demand the killing of the underdog, Finn snubs the public execution, earning the anger of his owner. Disgusted by his attitude, Finn is quickly sold to a benevolent old wizard named Geddo. The pair quickly develop a bond of mutual respect and begin to look for Geddo’s daughter, putting Legacy’s plotline into motion.
Although the game’s writing abstains from using a rich vocabulary or devices like metaphor, the team at Semisoft are capable of scripting interesting relationships. Remarkably, Finn and Geddo’s rapport proves to be a restrained delight, as the two transition from slave and master to a pair of colleagues who exhibit esteem for one other. And while NPC dialog serves an obvious expositional function, Legrand Legacy is considerate enough to signal what conversations will move the plot forward and which are there for world-building.
The game’s combat is another virtue. Encounters with enemies are triggered by collision on a map, and resolved through a system that merges turn-based action with quick-time actions. Attack an opponent with either a melee or ranged strike and an icon with a revolving dial will appear on-screen. Success requires players to press one of the four face buttons on a controller just as arm rotates in marked region. While hitting the mark to ensure an attack isn’t too hard, landing on a narrow band for an elevated assault will require some keen reflexes. Gratifyingly, that’s only one small piece of the encounter system, with players able to interrupt enemy attacks or use elemental advantages to subdue foes.
Unquestionably, Legrand Legacy – Tale of the Fatebounds demonstrates promise, blending competent storytelling, an engaging combat system, and a poignant soundtrack into this indie role-playing experience. While Semisoft has already demonstrated enough aptitude to warrant a day-one consideration from role-playing fans, it will be interesting to see how many minor improvements the studio will make when Legacy launches on January 24th, 2018.