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Each class has a unique skill tree consisting of a combination of active skills, passives, and counters. The first two are self-explanatory. Counters are triggered automatically when the character takes damage or reaches a critically low level of HP.
You unlock new classes by reaching certain levels in their prerequisite classes. This creates this intricate weave of unlocks that can be a bit overwhelming early on. But once it clicks, it becomes very satisfying to experiment with.
You see, each character can freely switch between available classes. This determines their stat progression and their gear options. But apart from their main class that gets experience, you can also designate a secondary class and have access to its active skills during combat. You also get two extra passive skill slots where you can mix and match passive skills from all of your unlocked classes. This leads to a staggering level of potential customization, and I’m all for it.
What you should also consider here, is that in order to unlock new classes, oftentimes you will have to go through multiple intermediate steps, in the process greatly limiting the combat efficiency of your characters. This puts you in a position where you have to weigh your desire to unlock a new class against having a party that’s actually good at doing damage. I really enjoy when games do this, and would honestly recommend Fell Seal for its character-building system alone.
On the other hand, the game also does this thing where at some points it takes your story characters away from you. I don’t think anyone enjoys that, and have no idea how that even got in.
And this leads us to the part of the review where I tend to list my miscellaneous gripes with the game.
While the combat is generally fun, the absolute majority of battles simply asks you to defeat all enemies. I would’ve preferred way more variety in objectives.
The game also has quite a few stats, but you don’t really get to interact with them. As your characters get levels, their stats grow without any involvement on your part, which makes having them in the first place kind of pointless. Why even give me stats if I can’t manually raise them?
There are also elemental resistances and numerous status effects that due to the game’s poor UI, most of the time you have no idea what they are and what they do. In order to learn more about them you can read the in-game Help Compendium or use a tooltip system that’s not exactly user friendly.
And finally, one last thing I want to mention here is the fact that after a while the game tends to descend into a bit of a feast or famine type situation. Veterans of multiple battles, your top dogs are living the life, throwing enemies around like nobody’s business. But due to how fragile most underleveled characters are, your B-team, and the weaker spellcasters for that matter, tend to fall over if a light breeze blows in their general direction. This makes it so you keep using your main squad while neglecting the rest of your team, dreading the next time the game decides to send one of them away on some story-related sabbatical, which thankfully doesn’t happen all that often.
Inspired by console games, Fell Seal’s options menu tries to pretend it’s a proper options menu, but it’s not fooling anyone. Raising or lowering the game’s volume feels akin to playing a piano. The graphics menu offers half a dozen options, none of which deal with the game’s graphical fidelity in any way. At least you can rebind keys and speed up combat animations.
Despite the limited options, the game’s visuals are vibrant and I would go as far as to say charming. The soundtrack is also quite enjoyable. At the same time, sound effects are pretty weak and fail to convey the crunchiness of blows and all the supposedly awe-inspiring swooshing of magic.
The save system is perfectly adequate - you have manual saves with multiple save slots and autosaves before battles.
During my playthrough, the game ran well, never crashed, and loaded pretty much instantaneously.
Those of you who enjoy New Game+ modes, should be happy to learn that Fell Seal has one, meaning you can replay the game while using your high-level and well-equipped squad.
It’s safe to say that Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark is a game outside of my usual wheelhouse. I was coming into it with little expectations and no nostalgia goggles.
Despite that, after coming to terms with the game’s subpar controls, I had a lot of fun with it and would recommend it to anyone interested in turn-based RPGs based on its character-building system, fun bite-sized tactical battles, and pleasant visuals.
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