Perhaps the only game I've ever been embarrassed about when asked the question “What are you currently playing?”
If there was one game on the Xbox Live Arcade Marketplace that I would have, without a shadow of a doubt, proclaimed that I would never play - it would have been Faery: Legends of Avalon. The cover, the synopsis, the screenshots, even the trailer: it's the kind of game you'd feel embarrassed about playing, just for the title. Then, as if the gaming God himself had come down and demanded that I stop thinking such thoughts about a product that people had worked hard on, Gamers Nexus was contacted by one of our nice PR contacts and asked if we'd be interested in reviewing Faery: Legends of Avalon. Being the generous, kind-hearted, soul I am, I knew that our loyal readers wouldn't have been able to go a week without reading about the thoughts streaming from my brain, so I decided to give it a good honest go.
Developed by Spiders, a developer specializing in third-party development solutions, and published by Focus Home Interactive, Faery: Legends of Avalon is the story of you, yes YOU, as you're awakened from stasis to find a world almost completely devoid of magic. This world certainly isn't in the state you left it in so you set off out to discover what's been happening while you've been quietly slumbering. That’s where the problems start.
You play the game as a recently awoken Faery, setting out to rediscover the world around you. It is quickly found out that magic has been slowly seeping out of the world while you’ve been sleeping. Nobody really knows the reasons why and, unsurprisingly, that's where the player comes in. With rudimentary access to the usual RPG stuff - stats, equipment, and team members - it rapidly becomes evident that Faery has the basics hammered out. Most importantly: team members? Yes, you heard that right, and your assumptions are probably correct. This isn’t a standard RPG, it’s a turn-based RPG. My biggest problem with the whole turn-based ideology is the fact that the enemy stops attacking and waits for you to attack them first. This annoyed me in all the Final Fantasy games, it annoyed me in Costume Quest the other week, and it annoys me yet again here in Faery: Legends of Avalon. I just can’t seem to escape the clutches of turn-based games.
The gameplay on a whole isn’t too bad, there are just tedious and irritating segments of the game that could potentially deter most modern gamers. For example: most people, when given spells in this type of game, would spend the time to find out which spells, and in which order, do the most damage. In Faery: Legends of Avalon you’re really only given a basic attack and one decent magic spell - the strategy of classic turn-based games is lacking in Faery, and it is very, very detectable. In almost all instances the enemy you’re fighting will be strong against one of these and you’ll end up just spamming the opposite type of attack. There’s no skill involved, no tactics, no strategy. Just finger-numbing boredom for the most part. My biggest issue with the gameplay came from the quest text in the game. On more than one occasion I was sent on a quest to deliver an object to a specific person, only to find out that after searching for about thirty minutes, the person I'm actually supposed to talk to has a different name from the one in the quest text. This totally threw me off and meant that a quest, that should literally have taken me 2 minutes, took me over 10 times longer than that. That's just not acceptable in my opinion. I can give a little bit of leniency to foreign development companies when it comes to translations, but names are one thing that never change no matter the language (most times, anyway). The only conclusion I could come to is that the character's name was changed at some point in the development and the quest text wasn't updated. This one incident alone corrupted almost all of the enjoyment I could have siphoned from Faery: Legends of Avalon, but I carried on regardless. For you.
Having said all that about the gameplay, Faery: Legends of Avalon isn't hard on the eyes. The environments are good looking enough for an Xbox Live Arcade game, and the slight hint of cell shading was quite welcome. It wasn't enough to make it look like an interactive comic book, but just about enough to give the game world the slight sense of something that wasn't quite real. Something a little out of touch with reality. I suppose that was the intention considering that the game is about all things magical. The screenshots themselves don't really do the look of this game justice, I was quite taken aback when I first started it up and was presented with graphics that wouldn't have seemed out of place on a fully fledged Xbox title. There are a lot of other things about Faery: Legends of Avalon that made it obvious that it could never have been anything other than an XBLA title, but the visuals certainly weren't one of them.
After giving it careful consideration, I can't really recommend that people buy Faery: Legends of Avalon. The combat is repetitive and downright dull, the story isn't interesting enough to keep me coming back for more than a single playthrough, and most of the characters are just annoying beyond all belief. It's a commendable attempt from Spiders but there's nothing here that hasn't been done a lot better in a whole heap of other games. It's not too long though, probably about eight hours worth of play. Which isn't bad for an Xbox Live Arcade game; however, the duration of play is short when considering the RPG genre.