Legend of Fae
When Claudia was born, she was a sick little girl. Her leg was too weak to support her weight and, as her parents lived and worked on a farm, they were unable to take care of her. So they packed her off to live with her Uncle Monte, where she learned to be an engineer. One day, she woke up to find Monte was gone. He left her a hurried note telling her to escape their island home and seek safety on the mainland, and a curious lantern that he'd never got to work but he suspected she would. Claudia soon discovers she's a sorceress, able to use the lantern to channel mana and summon elementals. And a good thing too - lots of Fae creatures are springing up all over the place, and they aren't friendly.
Legend of Fae is a curious combination of role playing game and match-3 puzzler. Switch pairs of orbs on Claudia's lantern to make sets of three or more - some of these make her walk, others collect different kinds of mana, and there are other types as well. Collect enough mana of a particular type to prepare one of four elementals - water, fire, earth and wind - which can then be used in combat. Yes, combat! Claudia will encounter a number of Fae creatures in her journey, from the humble gremlin to all manner of nasties with their own abilities, and casting elementals at them will defeat them. Many enemies have an elemental factor themselves, so choosing the right attack will maximise the damage you can cause.
The game consists of a series of levels. In each, Claudia travels across the top half of the screen, with the player forming lines of orbs in the bottom half. Periodically she is attacked by Fae creatures; you can attack these by entering battle mode and clicking on the elementals you have summoned. Targets are automatically selected but you can also choose which to attack by clicking on them. When all enemies are destroyed, Claudia continues her journey, but you may need to gather more orbs to replenish mana while in combat. Speed is of the essence! Claudia can also be blinded or poisoned by some enemies; matching specially marked orbs or forming a "mind gem" can cure these, but these effects also wear off by themselves after a while.
Control is entirely by mouse, and very intuitive. New concepts and enemies are introduced gradually, so the player is not overwhelmed by the range of different aspects. The above paragraph doesn't even mention defensive uses of elementals, upgrading your lantern, the bonus to attacks you can accrue by making an unbroken series of matches, or the bonus items you can collect (including tome gems, which add descriptions of game elements to Claudia's book). It's an unusual limitation that you can only match horizontal pairs of orbs, unlike the horizontal and vertical style of Bejewelled, which makes some matches virtually impossible (like matching all the "blinding" orbs). Fortunately you are not required to make a match with every move, so it's difficult to get particularly stuck.
Legend of Fae is a well-presented game. Claudia and her surroundings are given a comic book style and animate in a fairly realistic fashion. The Fae creatures look a little odd, but likewise work well - it's a little bizarre that they just stand around and attack one at a time, but this has been the style of RPGs for a very long time and I cannot hold it against this particular one! Elemental properties are made obvious by colour - orange/red enemies are fire based, blue enemies are water based, and so on - so you can usually identify which element is which with ease. Effects such as earth defence, blindness, etc are all portrayed fairly clearly and everything is laid out to be as clear as it can be. The screen is a little busy on first viewing but the gradual introduction to game features makes each component clear as and when you need it.
A range of music accompanies the game - soft and gentle when simply matching, but launching into battle music when enemies appear. The battle music in particular reminded me of the Final Fantasy series. Sound effects are varied too - the simple matching sounds are augmented with different voices from your elemental friends when they're set for battle, as well as a range of combat effects and so on. Despite this, the sound never gets too intense or distracting.
As already mentioned, Legend of Fae features a wonderfully intuitive control system and a gradual introduction to the surprising number of game features. The ability to upgrade your lantern with parts won at the end of each level allows some control over how you play, and (rather neatly) has the option to reset everything so you can reconfigure. Battles are (so far!) not too complicated - the first boss encounter requires a little more thought, and when there are a lot of enemies on screen it is good to employ a little strategy. One issue is only having four "shots" at a time and needing to "reload" on the fly, but this works rather well. Making use of defensive magic is also effective.
You are able to replay levels, which can be especially appealing if you want to beat your previous score/time. Do well to gain an "expert" rating. There are also tome gems to be collected, and these seem to be found on set levels rather than randomly dropped - I missed one of the first three and found page 2 of my book was still blank while pages 1 and 3 were not. Four profiles are supported at a time - one for each element - and saving is automatic. I don't know how many levels there are but I sense there's a lot of life left in this game and there's a lot more I haven't seen. Curse the evil of a deadline!
I don't think I've encountered any real downsides to Legend of Fae yet. The matching gameplay is perhaps a little repetitive, but the new features help to keep it fresh. Combat gets steadily more difficult as you advance - the single (and even pairs of) gremlins that attack you at first will struggle to defeat even the most novice of players, while being attacked by six enemies at once with a variety of nasty attacks on hand will provide a bit more of a challenge. A little strategy is called for when defeating enemies and when handling your magic - do you use your mana defensively, or in a more attacking style of play? Which element(s) do you favour when upgrading your lantern? There's a fair amount of replay value here.
Legend of Fae is a relatively small download size but packs a lot into the space. An interesting attempt at melding two different game styles, and a largely successful one; if you're looking for something a little different to your typical match-3, this is definitely worth a look.
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