Turn-based strategy RPGs aren't as popular as they were 20 or so years ago but the talented folks at 6 Eyes Studio have brought back the genre in an epic way with Fell Seal: Arbiter's Mark.
I'm a huge fan of classic SRPGs like Final Fantasy Tactics and Vandal Hearts so when I watched the trailer for Fell Seal: Arbiter's Mark, I was immediately intrigued. Thankfully, the game itself surpassed my expectations. For starters, it plays as you would expect with epic grid-based battles, rewarding collectible treasures, and unique enemies that are great fun to overcome. Although it's undeniably old-school, Fell Seal takes many liberties with the classic formula and they all work to some extent. For example, items replenish between battles, you can change classes freely, and there's even a nifty injury system that makes having a character die in battle feel devastating. On top of that, there are plenty of options to ease the difficulty or opt out of certain systems which is great for newbies and those who want a more streamlined experience. 6 Eyes Studio went above and beyond to make a full-fledged SRPG that'll feel right at home on PS1.
On a presentational level, Fell Seal excels as well. The character sprites are detailed, lovely, and pleasantly pop off the backgrounds. Speaking of which, the environments are gorgeous complete with intricate hand-crafted maps that come to life with their vivid colour and attention to detail. Fell Seal's music is spot-on, too, with fleshed out orchestral pieces that make each battle feel grand. When you factor in the gratifying sound effects, you're left with one fantastic looking and sounding SRPG experience.
Believe it or not, Fell Seal: Arbiter's Mark also offers impressively in-depth party customization options. For starters, you can recruit soldiers at any time if you have the cash so building a unique party that suits your play style is incredibly rewarding. Each member can be assigned classes as well and earn points in order to unlock more passive and active abilities for their respective classes. Of course, you can purchase better equipment at stores but one aspect that's awesome is that you can craft items, gadgets, and equipment pieces from found materials. As a result, after each battle, you'll find yourself spending all of your earned class points, seeing if you can craft anything new, and purchasing new equipment for your squad before taking on the next challenge.
Although I'm blown away by Fell Seal, it does have its downsides. As someone who loves SRPGs, I surprisingly found myself quite overwhelmed when I started playing by the vast amount of options and systems. Therefore, I can't imagine how a genre newcomer would adapt to having all of this information thrown at them without a comprehensive interactive tutorial. Instead, I wish that each element was slowly introduced for the first few hours of the campaign so you can get comfortable with each aspect before learning something new. My only other significant complaint is that certain battle maps can be rather tricky to navigate. Considering they're all rendered in 2D, being able to tell that you can jump across a gap or that certain terrain is untraversable can be quite difficult.
As a fan of retro turn-based strategy RPGs, I'm very impressed with Fell Seal: Arbiter's Mark as it really hits the nail on the head while also offering plenty of cool innovations to the classic genre. If you enjoy these kinds of games, you definitely need to play this epic SRPG.
- + Spot-on old-school turn-based strategy gameplay that's super-rewarding
- + Lovely visuals and satisfying audio
- + In-depth party customization options
- - Initially steep learning curve may put off less patient gamers
- - Battle maps can be confusing