Looking around at peers in the gaming industry I saw Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark getting some majorly impressive early grades. For me this game flew swiftly under the radar and when I finally turned the game off (just a few hours ago) I knew I needed to immediately write about it.
The turn-based tactical RPG genre is currently experiencing something of a renaissance and I couldn’t be happier. It provides an extremely unique feeling in the gaming medium. It’s chess with adrenaline. It’s the calm of Mahjong but with the rush of sitting on a roller coaster. Ever since Final Fantasy Tactics it’s a feeling I’ve been chasing. I’m happy to tell you that FSAM gives me that feeling in several heavy doses.
Developed by 6 Eyes Studio and published by 1C Entertainment, FSAM is all the best parts of this genre with almost none of the tedium typically associated. I have some minor gripes sure, (the menus are not super gorgeous). And make no mistake, if you’re already the kind of gamer that hates this genre there’s not much FSAM can do for you. If you’re like me though, and you love turn-based gaming, you’re doing yourself a disservice by skipping this game.
The story unfolds at a slow pace, and I mean that as a compliment. You begin the game as a group of Arbiters, essentially the “good guys” of this world. The Arbiters are going through a rough patch and as dialogue unfolds you discover that many of them are untrustworthy and the overall reputation of the Arbiter’s isn’t what it once was. Think The Night’s Watch from Game of Thones, but with several badass female soldiers added.
The battle tutorial and first story beat are combined into one scene. A nobleman attacking a (seemingly) unarmed bystander. The Arbiter’s step in and within moments you’re taught the battle essentials and take a nobleman prisoner.
If I can take just a step here and discuss tutorials. The turn-based genre can often times absolutely dog the player with encyclopedias of tutorials. There’s usually a host of mechanics to learn, and it’s one of the reasons this genre is so loved but the teaching of the player can also quickly deflate the player’s excitement. For me, FSAM comes in at just the right tutorial sweet spot. It’s as if the tutorial just shouts ideas from you while letting you dive into combat quickly.
From the get-go you’re shown how to hire additional members to your party. The customization screen is surprisingly deeper than I was expecting. With games like these I’m big on my squad having matching colors and unique outfits and FSAM gives me all I want in that arena. In fact one could get lost in time tweaking the appearance of their team, not that I’d know anything about that…
The main character, a young female solider named Anadine, has an impressive and wild past. Her tutor and superior officer Kyrie is perhaps one of the few honorable Arbiter’s left in the world. After the capture of the nobleman they’re (obviously) pulled into a larger conflict that has world shaking implications.
Deep Tactics Surround the Player
The early game tactics are fairly straight forward. High ground is usually better, attacking someone from the rear is always better and other things that are typical of this genre. But as the game unfolds you’re slowly pulled into the complicated and deeper tactics surrounding magic. Item bonuses and class mechanics will also give you a few more touch points to study.
FSAM excels at player agency, especially when it comes to designing your characters. The game allows your character to have a sub-class under their main class. A Knight on your team is great, sure, but what about a Knight/Mender? A Ranger is always a great addition, but I found that my Ranger/Plague Doctor was an excellent unit to move quick, attack fast, and heal and poison at his leisure.
Nathan is the co-host for the Splash Damage Bros. Podcast. He’s exactly as nerdy as he sounds.