Faery has a proper sense of miniscule grandeur.
Faery: Legends of AvalonPublisher: Focus Home Interactive
Developer: Spiders Studio
Release Date: 2010-11-10
While playing through Faery: Legends of Avalon, I was struck by the fact that this is the only game set in a world populated by vaguely British pixies that I have ever played. It has a proper sense of miniscule grandeur (seagulls in Faery are not to be trifled with, giants that they are), a relatively flexible magic and leveling system, and a novel approach to physical character development. It also lets players fly around like a fairy might, outside of combat. Considering these features, the world of fairy folk seems like an excellent setting for a turn-based role-playing game. It almost is.
Faery concerns itself and its player with the diminishing population of fairies ruled by King Oberon from his island fortress in Avalon. I took on the role of a mysteriously important fairy only recently woken up from a kind of suspended animation. I was expected to aid the kingdom of faeries in its hour of need, and to do so, I, of course, needed to kill monsters, collect party members, and level up.
It is disappointing that the free roaming soaring exploration encouraged (by the attractive open spaces, if not by an abundance of activities) in the game’s large levels is completely ignored in its combat. Instead, players are tasked with lining up attacks and powers, using three heroes to defeat all comers. While I can admit that creating some kind of high flying fairy dog-fighting sim might have been onerous, it always feels like a letdown moving from the mostly unrestricted aerial spaces of the main game to the strictly demarcated boundaries of the battle screens.
Those battle screens are the heart of the game. There are a few fetch quests and a large collection of fellow fairies to speak with, but the story never goes anywhere that interesting. Additionally, there certainly aren’t any serious puzzles to speak of. Combat and character development are the principle attractions of Faery, and there’s quite a lot of both, luckily.
Unfortunately, character upgrades (that the player has a hand in) are relegated to the main character. Despite the fact that different heroes can be recruited to fight along side your recently awoken avatar, their skills and powers develop automatically. Oddly, while party members develop their own passive skills (making them more adept at fighting this or that type of frog, goblin, or sprite), in combat their active powers are perfect replicas of the main character’s own. Thus, combat tends to be even less tactically complicated than that seen in average tactical RPGs. Since every single character draws from the same roster of active powers and spells, it doesn’t really matter who casts what or who attacks what. In fact, the supporting cast could have been done away with altogether and replaced with one versatile main character.
Party members are more like useful appendages than individual units with their own abilities and strengths. They can fall in battle (and remove their action points from your available pool), but their momentary deaths are hardly worrisome for a skilled player. They can be healed or revived, their deaths never bar the player from using abilities, and all health loss and status effects are removed after every battle. I might as well have been playing as some middling-sized Transformer with 3 body parts. None of them are really that vital in combat, and their contributions to the already meager story are minimal.
The other half of Faery’s gameplay focuses on character development, though it certainly isn’t supplied by the game’s minimal item juggling element. Your fairy can be outfitted with various pieces of armor. If you place matching pieces of armor (crowns, chest pieces, boots, etc.) on every bit of your fairy, you get a little stat bonus. That’s the long and short of it, and it quickly becomes apparent that play-wise the armor doesn’t matter that much (it can change your look to a degree, though). Hidden away among this less-than-exciting inventory fiddling is a delightful leveling feature: whenever I pick a new skill, I always have two choices (lightning or fire, say), and whichever one that I pick will alter the look of my fairy in a noticeable way. My lightning slinging, healer fairy doubtless looks different than a fire starting, buffing fairy would. It’s a neat little feature, and I wish it extended in some way to the game’s inventory system.
Skills and spells do matter, thankfully. Different enemies are immune or resistant to different attacks, as I found out to my dismay when it turned out that I lacked the ability to do much damage to certain enemies early in the game. It always pays to have a few spells in every category, be it healing, electric, or melee, so that all comers can be dealt with as handily as is possible. Unfortunately, though the combat can be slightly difficult at times, there are never any truly exciting battle encounters. This is partly due to the requirement of a less-than-rigorous grasp of the game’s systems because of the game's overall low difficulty level and partly due to the fact that nothing carries over from one combat encounter to the next.
Faery looks like it should be an exciting game. Its setting is certainly unique among games, you can fly around as a fairy, and it does try out some interesting leveling/character appearance interconnectedness. Its combat certainly isn’t awful, and its world is detailed and bright, compared to your average game. It just feels like the stuff that’s interesting (fairies, flying) has absolutely nothing to do with the bulk of gameplay, which is really a shame.