by Amber Hall
reviewed on PC
A Solid Play
Fell Seal: Arbiter's Mark is a surprisingly detailed turn-based RPG with a good amount of customization to fit most play styles. Me being a sucker for even the smallest amount of character customization, the game quickly pulled me in thanks to this feature alone. Add some fun gameplay with a good level of strategy, and Fell Seal proves to be a rather solid play. However, there are a few things here and there that dull the otherwise well-polished experience that is Fell Seal.
Fun Gameplay With Little Grind
The gameplay in Fell Seal is what you might expect from a turn-based RPG. Much like a game of Dungeons and Dragons, the start of each battle lets you pick where each character is going to start. Once a scenario begins, each character has a movement distance they can travel based on the grid on the playing field. Then, by using each class' unique abilities, you slowly take out the opposition. This sort of gameplay is made interesting with different map obstacles and new types of enemies to learn and defeat.
What I especially enjoyed with my time playing Fell Seal was how little grinding I had to do to get through. I'm sometimes hesitant to play RPGs like Fell Seal because of all the grinding games force me to do. The only time I felt the need to go back and play an old map was when I was in need of a bit more cash to buy something at the shop. There were never long moments of grinding, and I appreciate that pacing in Fell Seal greatly because it means that I can move on quickly and learn more about the gameplay and story.
A Not-So-Surprising Story
The story isn't anything groundbreaking, but it also doesn't have to be to be enjoyable. It boils down to a series of events which lead the heroes into pursuing a criminal nobleman while uncovering something much more sinister in the works. Each new location generally forwards the story before battle begins and offers some hints about the map you'll be fighting anything from bandits to magical creatures on. Indeed, the variety of enemies is impressive and each have their own set of attacks and debuffs to learn in order to take them out quickly.
The story is fun to navigate and the world building is interesting, but there are a lot of predictable moments. Nothing really came as a surprise to me as the plot unfolded and, while it was still a fun story to kick back and enjoy, I do wish that it had used the unique world building to leverage some level of surprise in the story. That being said, it also never came off as something that got in the way of the gameplay or halted the pacing of the game. And while I personally enjoyed reading character interactions, cutscenes are always skippable for anybody who would rather get back to the turn-based action.
A Sucker For Customization
If there's any feature that pulls me into a game, it's character customization. It doesn't matter how trivial it is and it doesn't matter if I won't be seeing the character for most of my playthrough, I'm a sucker for it. I was happy to find that Fell Seal has a decent amount of character customization and it gave each recruit a personality of their own. This makes it so that you grow even a little bit of an attachment for each of your characters who don't partake in the story. I found myself trying to protect my custom characters just as much as (if not more than) the set of main characters.
This customization extends into the classes of each character, and you can make some interesting combinations. As your characters level you unlock new sub classes for that character. You can switch your character into these classes anytime outside of battle, and it means that you can take full control over how each character plays. Moreover, you can mix and match moves, meaning that each character's load out of abilities can be fine turned toward your play style and toward your vision of them as a character. I had a lot of fun mixing and matching characters in this way, and it keeps battles just that much more interesting.
My biggest issue with Fell Seal is that there's a bit of a difficulty spike at a certain part of the game, which almost counters what I said previously about not having to grind. This sort of spike in difficulty in any game feels unfair, but it's especially apparent in something like Fell Seal where the rest of the game prior to that point feels relatively quick and snappy to get through. It made me question if I had overlooked some important mechanic or if, perhaps, there was something I hadn't done to prepare myself fully for what was to come.
My second issue with Fell Seal is that the graphics in some parts of the game feel a bit like what I've come to expect from cookie cutter mobile games. This is most apparent in the characters more so than the environments, which is a shame because it carries though all of customization options as a result. However, Fell Seal's graphics eventually settled with me and I began to mostly appreciate its simple art direction.
A Good Game, and That's Fine
Fell Seal isn't a game that breaks new ground, but it's still enjoyable to play regardless. The story is fun to experience and the gameplay is usually smooth and able to be played with little to no grinding. Character customization is impressively detailed in both aesthetics and creating class strategies. Overall, I enjoyed my time with Fell Seal despite the small issues I had with the difficulty spike and the graphics.
Fun story, fun gameplay, great customization options.
Story is slightly forgettable, random difficulty spike, cheap looking graphics