The late 1990s to early 2000s were an exceptional era for RPGs. Some of the most memorable titles that sit in the pantheon of exemplary ambassadors for the genre were released during this block of time. People adored the turn-based action, the quirky ensemble of characters, the grandiose stories, the prerendered backgrounds and fully cinematic cutscenes. Semisoft is a small development team located in Indonesia’s capital, and had an ambition to create an RPG that recreates the feeling and aesthetic of one of those classic RPGs, taking direct inspiration from classics like Suikoden, Final Fantasy and The Legend of Dragoon. Legrand Legacy: Tale of the Fatebound, released on the 24th of January 2019 for the Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4, Xbox One and PC. With that in mind they sought to recreate an RPG utilizing classic elements like turn-based action, 2D hand-drawn backdrops, 3D sprites, and an overworld. One of the most difficult assessments for a project like this is to discern when and where homage ends and design flaws begin, and while I appreciate the care that went into emulating the feeling of an “old school RPG” it’s unfortunately not without its share of problems.
Legrand Legacy utilizes the Amnesiac trope; one quite familiar with this genre, and many others, as it’s a relatively easy way for players to discover the world and the story elements as the protagonist discovers. Finn, our hero, is a slave forced into gladiator arena combat. We see glimpses that he had a past he doesn’t remember, and during one of his battles, as he is approaching certain death he awakens an ancient power he never knew he had, and one he continually explains as something that doesn’t belong to him. He is rescued from by an enigmatic old man named Greddo, who is also an archetypal “Old Man with Knowledge,” possessing wisdom of the history of the world, and foresight into what is expected of Finn. Greddo is of a race who primarily communicates via telepathy. He helps you escape your fate as a gladiator, provides you with weaponry and armor and hires you to escort him while he attempts to deliver special medicine to his sickly daughter as soon as possible. While crossing the Rahas Desert – the barrier standing between Tel Harran and your destination of Shapur, the duo encounters a team of bandits who ambush Finn, knocking him unconscious and murder Greddo. A woman intervenes at the last second, unable to save Greddo but able to take Finn and flee. The woman is a noble-born named Aria who set it upon herself to chase after a legend and ancient prophecy, which brought her to this desert, in search of a prophet who can aide her. With the help of Finn, now recovered, they embark on a search for the prophet and discover they are chosen or “Fatebounds” - individuals who can put an end to the Mugna Feud, a great war between two kingdoms that puts all of Legrand in a chaotic state.
The main story is quite long, and while it’s rather slow to start out, it picks up the moment you discover your purpose and role, and the game is quick to add the remaining members of your party. There are also a slew of side-quests to extend your total playtime. Granted, there were some clerical inconsistencies with the plot. For example, a mid-chapter has you working about the slums of Ostia – a nation cruelly divided between the aristocrats and the poor, where the aristocrats give the false promise of a better life should they win a gladiator arena for the rite of passage into the better half of the city. Your team needs to pass through to continue their quest but are forced to compete. This eventually devolves into starting a revolution where you overthrow those in power, as the game progresses and you embark on your next part of the journey, you have the freedom to double back and re-enter the city, only to find that it’s exactly as it was prior to the revolution, with the only differences being a few text dialogues that contextually match what happened. It would have been nice to see the city visibly altered in some meaningful way. I understand from a design perspective that you should contain the same elements that the city possessed before, as certain continuations of side-quests open up after the main events in the city, but it would have been a nice added touch to see a newly drawn version of the city, post-rebellion.
Despite that minor grievance, I felt attached to each of the characters, and loved the banter between Kael – an rogue-like thief and Aria or Finn. Each of the game’s 6 playable characters has a distinct personality and become quite likable as you go on. One of the most impressive aspects about Finn as a character is that he is anything but passive or accepting of the world around him, or the characters he interacts with. He has a wonderfully quizzical nature about him, and he’s quick to question the logic of certain decisions and instances that the game’s NPCs present him with.
There is an item system similar to typical Bethesda-styled games in which you can become over encumbered. Each healing item, buff, elemental attack, or crafting material has a distinct weight, and while you can carry up to 350lbs, over-encumbrance happens pretty early on. Thankfully, the game has vendors in each city where you can offload any items you do not need to use. The perplexing thing about this system is that, offloading bears no real influence with regards to crafting weapons and items, which begs the question as to why they would incorporate a weight-system at all? Crafting materials easily consume the most weight, and despite the fact that I can dump each of them into one of these vendors for safekeeping, they’re still readily available and accounted for if and when I want to craft an weapon or create a healing item, without having any need to withdraw those items from storage. It just feels like an unnecessary system, or one that was properly implemented, if the only real consequence is that it significantly slows you down, but bears no real impact with how those items are used.
The core gameplay and battle system and an emphasis on organizing the formation of your characters in one of the six cells allotted to you, and encourages you to strategically place character types accordingly, like melee characters in the front or ranged in the back. The battle system is turn-based, however regardless of whether or not you are attacking, guarding or using the game’s magic system, Grimoire, you will need to execute a quick-timed event by pressing the prompted button within the wheel that appears on the screen. A small wedge of that wheel is highlighted in blue, and any successful input in that zone indicates a ‘good’ or passing score for the quick-time event; there’s an even smaller needle-like zone in green to give you a ‘perfect’ score, which also gives players an added damage boost. Anything outside of the passing zone is denoted as ‘poor’ meaning your selection either fails, or its effect is minimized. I originally thought this was a more modernized inclusion to an otherwise traditional combat system, when I remembered the Shadow Hearts series and how this wheel design is very similar to it, giving me a greater appreciation for Legrand Legacy's attention to the older series. Thankfully, using items, or using magic to heal, along with any magics that buff or debuff characters do not use the quick-timed event. One issue with the quick-timed events is that the ‘perfect’ threshold is indiscernible at times, with some instances looking like I landed on it perfectly but still received ‘good’. I do appreciate that it keeps you on your toes, so you aren’t mindlessly grinding through combat. You need to pay attention as the position of that wedge changes sporadically, as do the sequence of the face buttons.
Monster types also play a role in how you want to organize your team, and thankfully you can spend one of your three main party’s turns in swapping for another if they are more useful. Ranged attacks work better on aerial enemies, anti-physical enemies soak up physical damage but are prone to Grimoire attacks, and anti-magic are weak against physical attacks. Each character also has an affinity for a particular element; Finn is fire-based, Aria is water-based, Kael is dark-based, Scatia is light-based, Eris is wind-based and Azzam is lightning-based. Each character has Grimoire attacks that can target a single enemy, a row or a column of enemies. This all plays into the strategy of your formation, as certain elements best opposing enemies, and certain attacks will be more beneficial depending on the formation of the enemies in their cells.
Magic is weirdly antithetical to traditional RPG magic systems. Typically, a player would have two separate bars indicating their health meter and magic meter, and as you use your magic it depletes your meter. With Legrand Legacy, there’s no limit to how often you can use your Grimoire attacks, and in fact your meter (the AP meter) accrues the more you use magic! Once it reaches its threshold you can unleash a powerful finisher, called Arcane. This unique design of a magic system is also hampered by the fact that you cannot use magic outside of battle; for instance, if you are severely damaged, have no potions readily available, and are several panes away from a life-pad that can fully heal you, you are unable to use your Healers’ Cure magics outside of battle. This also adds a level within any given battle as you have to refocus your strategy of healing your team mid-battle while you defend your healers and hope any incoming attacks don’t deal more damage than you are healing.
Where the gameplay tends to falter is in its overly-ambitious attempts at peppering of several other mini-games. There’s a strategy-RPG type of minigame where you are trying to recapture Ostia, that has you taking turns to move about linear paths to attack an enemy head on, or flank them for a damage boost. Another minigame was within this same part of the story arc, and had you do a quick-time event to match or counter soldier attacks. This was trial by error, as enemies do not telegraph their attack until after you’ve pressed the input so there’s no discernable way of knowing unless you get lucky. A lot of this felt like unnecessary padding, and actually took me out of the game’s experience, rather than keeping hold of my attention.
The world of Legrand is wonderfully hand-drawn. Each of the 12 cities has a distinct and unique look to them, and it’s very reminiscent of that “golden age” of RPGs. Everything is presented from a static plane that shifts or tilts its camera ever-so-slightly as you move from one corner to another. If you let your character remain idle, the game slowly pans out so you can absorb the additional detail of the hand-drawn cities and vistas. Semisoft really nailed the emulation of older RPGs, and it tugs at my nostalgia in just the right way. The characters are all 3D sprites are superimposed on the static background, and unfortunately have weird instances with clipping in the environment. Going back to that uprising in Ostia, there is a point where you need to race to a previously inaccessible part of the city, and must move around slaves fighting soldiers, and fighting soldiers yourself. During one of these points, Finn became caught behind two characters fighting, unable to move which forced me to restart the game. These don’t happen often, but it’s worth noting.
The rest of the visual performance is adequate. The character models are either deliberately low in quality, to mirror its inspirations from an older generation, or are the way they are due to budgetary constraints. This is where it becomes increasingly difficult to assess if it was a deliberate design as an homage to the classic RPGs, or if they just couldn’t muster anything better. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, and assume the former and not the worst. However, there are certain performance issues I can’t look past, like framerate dips when the character count is high, or the sluggish latency between engaging in an enemy sprite and entering the battle sequence. Attacks look well choreographed, and that is especially the case for the Arcane special attacks. The cutscenes are great, and feel right at home from an PS1/PS2 era RPG, though admittedly one of a lesser budget than say, Final Fantasy.
Overall, I really enjoyed my time spent playing Legrand Legacy: Tale of the Fatebound, and was surprised in how much Semisoft really wanted to emulate a feeling of an old RPG. On that front, I would say they were very successful. The hand-drawn cities and overworld, matched with the superimposed 3D character models gives that distinct feeling. The gameplay is a mixture of classic turn-based combat, and quick-time events to keep players on their toes. The story, while standard-fare and heavy-handed in its use of tropes, is still fairly captivating, and engaging from start to finish. I feel like I would recommend playing this if you grew up in, or appreciated the age of RPGs that Semisoft tips their hat to.Legrand Legacy: Tale of the Fatebound was reviewed using a Switch Digital Copy provided by Another Indie. You can find additional information about Gaming Union's ethics policy here.
|Beautifully hand-drawn cities and vistas.|
|Great mix of turn-based combat and quick-time events.|
|Wonderful cast of characters.|
|The mini-games felt more like unnecessary padding.|
|Minor performance hiccups.|
|Questionable inventory system|