Saving Throw: Legrand Legacy: Tale of the Fatebounds (Switch)

Saving Throw is a series which has our staff reviewing previously reviewed titles to either reflect on those experiences, or to analyze it for the first time through a fresh pair of eyes.

Our first Legrand Legacy review, written by Timothy Taylor, can be found here.


I love retro RPGs, whether they are the “real deal” or are newer releases that simply draw inspiration from “back in the day.” That is exactly why I’m compelled to play almost any RPG that fits the mold – Legrand Legacy: Tale of the Fatebounds is one that promises to tap into those olden days, but perhaps not in the way you’ve come to expect. No, we aren’t dealing with yet another pixel-based, retro-styled RPG – let’s be clear that I’d have no problem if we were, though. Instead, Legrand Legacy aims to replicate the earliest days of pseudo-3D RPGs – fixed backgrounds and all – and does so faithfully, but is not immune to some stumbles along the way.

Story

Trouble is brewing in Legrand. While war rages between giant factions, threatening to undo the lives of its inhabitants, something even more sinister – world-breaking, if you will – is beginning to bubble at the surface. Something far more dangerous than mere “man versus man,” something that only a miracle could hope to subside. Prophecy speaks of a Flame and Fatebounds – the only group which can truly bring peace not only to the countries at war, but also the ever-growing presence of darkness.

At the center of this tale lies Finn, a slave that earns his keep through gladiatorial combat at the behest of those in power. While he doesn’t remember how long he has been held captive, nor does he recall the life he once had outside of the prison, an exchange of owners inevitably kickstarts his journey that will impact the livelihood of all Legrand…should he accept the task.

From the beginning, Legrand Legacy loves to drop keyword-encrusted excerpts on you constantly, and it could really benefit from a compendium like those found in the Dragon Age titles. Often, party members will refer to people, places, or events by a specific term, but won’t really explain their meaning until a later point. There are also situations in group discussions where your team will begin to discuss a certain important topic, only to save the fleshing out of some of the terms within for later – because of “time.” I want to care about this world you built, but not if I have to make my own mini-encyclopedia to keep things straight.

Even when context is added, it isn’t always enough to make you really care about the people and/or the situation at hand. What starts out as decent distinction between your various party members ends up blurring together when they end up not really going anywhere beyond those base differences. There are certainly twists and turns to be experienced, but many of them can be seen from a mile away. There is a lot of dialogue to sift through and, unfortunately, some conversations feel as if they’re going in circles. There’s one spot where you’ll come across some people that don’t trust you, and they literally say that “they don’t trust you” a dozen or more times before you get anywhere in the discussion.

I’m all for meaty dialogue sequences – Dragon Quest Builders 2 comes to mind immediately – but only if they are well written and actually add something to the experience – again, Dragon Quest Builders 2. I reference Builders not to smear an obviously lower budget title – they aren’t even in the same realm as far as budget and manpower goes – I’m simply stating that cutting down on the dialogue fluff would have went a long way in making the sequences more enjoyable, at least for me.

Beyond the main narrative lies a decent amount of side quests. While their rewards often pay off, they lack inspiration. Many side quests require you to pay lots of money up front in order to progress – something which is especially difficult to swallow early on, and will be discussed in detail later – rather than having you follow a truly interesting subplot. The few quests that are actually combat-oriented are sometimes designed around your party being a much higher level than when the task becomes available, and this is even obvious with some of the item-based “scavenger hunt” objectives. Backtracking is somewhat of a non-issue thanks to the fast travel system, but beware that many quests will have you trotting the globe in order to complete them, and there is little fulfillment to be gained from the endeavor outside of its rewards.

Ultimately, in regards to the main story, there’s a lot that lore enthusiasts can appreciate, but I feel like its delivery demands that you do the heavy lifting rather than making it a painless – thus more entertaining – experience.

Presentation

Where Legrand Legacy falters in the narrative and its delivery, it somewhat makes up for in presentation, with the gorgeous, hand-drawn backgrounds primarily contributing to that success. I respect the fact that fixed backgrounds aren’t for everyone – some might immediately associate them with the “grainy” kind often found in PS1 games – but these are just exceptional.

The 3D assets aren’t the best, but are era-appropriate and aren’t lacking variety. Character design is well done, and the amount of unique enemies you’ll face is acceptable. Combat animations and sound effects won’t set your world on fire, but they are decent enough. What works really well, especially with the hand-drawn backgrounds, are the animated character portraits that accompany the vast majority of dialogue sequences. These really help bring life to the characters and their reactions to situations that arise, in ways that simply aren’t possible with static portraits.

Occasionally, you’ll be treated to some old-school FMVs akin to the ones found during important plot points in the early 3D Final Fantasy games. While a nice touch, most of them are so short that they feel a bit pointless. The soundtrack is quite good though, as many tunes have stuck with me from the beginning. Overall, the aesthetics found in Legrand Legacy can easily entice those that can appreciate the “antiquated” fixed background approach.

Combat

There’s much to love – and hate – about the various gameplay systems found in Legrand Legacy. The turn-based combat present draws inspiration from titles, such as Legend of Dragoon and Shadow Hearts, with its inclusion of the ACT, or Action Circle Tempo system. The potency and success of the majority of combat actions – both offensive and defensive – are tied to timed button presses, which are displayed as a wheel with a couple “sweet spots” within it. Nailing the timing of these can result in maximum damage dealt, or the ability to block most incoming damage for that round. Although this process is relatively simple, Legrand Legacy ups the ante by randomizing the button AND sweet spot location with each command, rendering memorization impossible.

Although I adored this feature in the beginning, I eventually opted out of it entirely once I had to start grinding in certain areas. Yes, you can adjust the ACT system to be fixed rather than randomized, or you can turn it off entirely at the cost of reduced experience gains. In its purest form, the ACT system does a great job of stimulating what would otherwise be a rather run-of-the-mill combat system, but the novelty can wear off over time once you realize how much time it adds to every encounter.

Legrand Legacy allows for up to three party members on the battlefield at a time, which can be placed in either the front or back row. The front should be reserved for the melee-inclined not only so they can perform their abilities properly, but also so they can eat most of the incoming damage…at least it should be that way. Despite having front-row companions present, enemies will frequently attack the back row anyways because…why not?

While you are limited to three active party members at a time, you can freely swap between your reserves once per character turn – think a more restricted version of the system found in Final Fantasy X. Character swapping is essential in both surviving the inevitable onslaught of your foes, and capitalizing on your opponent’s weaknesses. Standard attacks have little to no charge-up time, but special abilities – or grimoires – generally require you to wait until the end of the turn to unleash. This is where some strategy comes in, because each offensive action performed – whether from an ally or foe – has the potential to interrupt the target’s ability. Standard melee strikes may not be as exciting as grimoires, but collectively might interrupt a particularly dangerous enemy’s actions long enough for you to get the best of them, and the same concept applies in reverse.

Battles aren’t random – you can clearly see your adversaries in the field. Bumping into one will initiate a battle, but you’re encouraged to sneak up from behind for a free round. This process is easier said than done though, because enemies have a wide field-of-view and many maps inhibit your movement speed in some way. Apparently, enemies also have the footwork of a NFL running back or wide receiver, seeing as they can turn on a dime, ultimately making your efforts of slowly slogging through a marsh to get behind them that much more frustrating. Their perfect 20/20 vision, seemingly 360 degree view is one thing, but the hazards placed around many areas for the sake of slowing your progress is just plain dumb.

Character Progression

Character progression is handled by way of level ups, manual stat allocation, and the blacksmith. Leveling up grants you two stat points, which can be put into individual stats as you see fit. The importance of certain stats will vary based on the character in question, but you are free to distribute them however you like. Choices are irreversible though, so it is best to follow the grimoire guide…maybe. Let me explain.

Most grimoires are obtained after achieving certain stat thresholds. A fire-based cleave for Finn, for example, may require you to reach 20 Strength and 20 Intellect before it becomes usable. New grimoire requirements are clearly displayed, providing a supposed “ideal” stat distribution for you to follow. But what isn’t made obvious is how individual grimoire damage is calculated, and whether or not their prerequisites are worth the effort in the first place.

Finn is your typical melee fighter, so you would assume that the damage of his grimoires would be based on strength. That doesn’t appear to be the case though, as it seems all grimoires are tied to the Intellect stat, something that likely won’t be a specialty of melee users. Many abilities feel like a wet noodle as a result, lacking any real impact even in situations where the elemental affinity should play in their favor. Because you can’t redistribute stat points, you could easily end up with sub-optimal builds that are vastly inferior to the clear winner(s). Freedom of choice means nothing if there is only one true champion in the mix.

Fortunately, each character’s ultimate ability does give you the information you need to make the most of their power. Arcana are uber-powerful spells that can be used once your AP bar is full. AP generates naturally through combat, but has the potential to charge up even faster with well-timed defensive maneuvers. These are game changers – in fact, they are all-but-required to finish off many of the difficult boss fights. Speaking of difficulty – easy, normal, and hard options exist and can be changed any time from the pause menu, but I personally could find little difference swapping between easy and normal mode during my playthrough.

Finally, there’s the blacksmith which will upgrade your weapons – for a price. The upgrading process is the only form of equipment progression in Legrand – no other gear comes into play. Thus, reforging can increase (or decrease) stats beyond the standard attack-based ones, capable of changing defense, evasion, health, and so on. This obviously waters down the whole “gearing up” process found in other RPGs a bit, but what makes it even worse is its associated, and convoluted, material grind.

Crafting requires money – known as danaar – and a healthy amount of materials to perform. You’ll frequently find all sorts of materials from slaying foes in the wild, but there isn’t an in-game reference available for you to easily pinpoint where specific components drop. All you can hope is that the materials you need for that next upgrade are found in your current (or a future) area, otherwise you might wander aimlessly trying to figure out their origin. Collectively, Legrand Legacy wants you to think you have multiple meaningful paths of progression, but its execution is rather sloppy.

Odds and Ends

Legrand Legacy struggles with a few other systems beyond the aforementioned ones, most notably with its economy. Danaar is difficult to come by, as it is tied directly with the material grind. Enemies never drop money, and rarely drop what would be considered “trash loot,” instead forcing a guessing game of selling off crafting materials that may or may not be worth hanging on to for future use. It is an incredibly annoying system that could have been avoided by just marking some items as vendor trash, or by having enemies drop some raw coin themselves.

Who doesn’t like an Elder Scrolls-like encumbrance system? Legrand Legacy has adopted a similar weight mechanic that limits the amount of items you can carry at any given time. When you reach that limit, your movement speed is reduced significantly until you either get rid of some items, or unload at a storage facility. There’s nothing wrong with weight systems in games, but Legrand struggles with the implementation.

For example, I was rewarded some items that pushed me over the limit, but the event lead to a chain of other events in which I had no access to storage. In the game’s defense, you can turn off this feature entirely, but not everywhere (including the aforementioned sequence of events). This left me to either chucking potentially valuable goods, or walking a snails pace until the scripted sequence was over, neither of which felt right.

An encumbrance system works well in games like Elder Scrolls because you can actively choose what items to take off a corpse, but you have no say-so here in Legrand Legacy. It isn’t uncommon for you to get a half dozen or more items after each fight, with each piece adding to your overall weight, and you have to take all the spoils every time. This leads to unnecessary inventory management unless you keep your bag clear constantly, which is why I just don’t see a reason in having the feature at all.

Conclusion

Legrand Legacy has some definite problems mechanically, but it doesn’t do everything wrong. It boasts a stunning world, portrayed exquisitely through the hand-drawn backgrounds which, unfortunately, may not be fully appreciated depending on your tolerance of its many setbacks. Regardless, for $19.99, Legrand Legacy is an ambitious project that can easily span dozens of hours despite some of those ambitions never reaching their greatest potential.

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