Fallen Legion: Revenants is an unusual game. When the rest of the gaming industry said “We think games should work like *this*”, Fallen Legion: Revenants looked up from its finger painting of a ghost witch and said, “Nah, I’m good”. Oftentimes when a developer takes this stance and sets off perpendicular from the deep worn tracks of gaming conventions, we end up with some stunning and revolutionary games. I’m thinking of games like Watch Dogs Legion with its immersive open world, Red Faction: Guerrilla with its building deformation/destruction and basically anything by Hideo Kojima. However, in this hall of innovators, with great games adorning every wall, standing proud like portraits, Fallen Legion: Revenants has shown up to ask for a spot for its aforementioned finger painting and, while it does have some artistic merit, it doesn’t hold a candle up to anything in the Kojima Wing (which is just as well considering the metaphorical fire hazard of a metaphorical candle in a metaphorical building full of metaphorical paintings).
The game is a sort of side-scrolling knight-them-up where you play as Rowena, a magic ghost lady and three Exemplars (fighty people) who are under her control. You’re trying to track down Rowena’s son by fighting your way to his location through a plague-ridden world, with the plague in question turning mankind into mutated creatures that you’re assured it’s morally acceptable for you to decimate your way through to achieve your own ends. You also spend brief sections of the game playing as Lucien, a politician in the human safe-haven of Welkin Castle where you use social skills to uncover intel to pass to Rowena to aid her search.
One way the game diverts from mainstream gaming is having no time whatsoever for people who haven’t played the previous entry in the series, starting off with no explanation to what is going on or who anyone is. I picked most of the above paragraph up from the game’s website and some in-game dialogue. Honestly, I kind of dig this approach to writing a game’s plot. There’s something there for people who’ve played the previous games and want to follow the story but also there isn’t any real need to understand what’s going on to play the game. Some great games have zero plot at all and focus 100% on the gameplay. I’m thinking of Tetris, Plants vs Zombies, Doom (wait, Doom has a story!?). I’m okay with Fallen Legion: Revenants joining the ranks of those games and I wish more games would do away with their plots if they actively stand in the way of the gameplay (I’m looking at you, Sakura Wars, with your 90-minute opening cutscene).
However, the main way Fallen Legion: Revenants strays from the tracks laid by the rest of the video game industry is in the combat. It’s almost turn-based but not quite. Each one of your four core characters is assigned a face button which causes them to attack (or in Rowena’s case, use magic spells to heal the Exemplars or manipulate the enemies in some way). You can also add in a press of a trigger or bumper to change the type of attack done. Each attack by the Exemplars uses Action Points and each Exemplar has their own pool of Action Points which slowly refill over time (you can do about three attacks before you’re out of AP and need to wait for it to recharge). I imagine you’re supposed to manage which Exemplar is attacking at a particular time so you don’t end up waiting for all of their Action Points to come back, but I never saw the point in doing that, as the timing of attacks doesn’t do anything, so you might as well dish out as much damage as quickly as you can. This leaves the combat feeling quite frustrating as you’re constantly doing nothing while you wait for the ability to attack again. The best comparison I can think of is if VATS in a Fallout game was the only way you could interact with the game. No movement and no manual aiming, just fire until you run out of AP, wait for the AP to come back while the enemies continue to attack, fire until you run out of AP again. I think with a bit more to the combat, balancing your AP usage against something else, this would’ve been a really interesting combat system but, as it is, I don’t think it’ll be catching on and showing up in any mainstream games.
For me, Fallen Legion: Revenants is one of those restaurants that does fancy and experimental food and that has highly mixed reviews on TripAdvisor. Maybe the apple crumble flavoured pasta and peanut butter salad are doing something interesting, but by the time you finish you’re still hungry and just want some proper food so you stop by a Five Guys on the way home. It was certainly an experience. There’s some interesting stuff going on in there somewhere and I’m sure some people will get a lot out of it, but if you’re expecting to draw parallels to a game you’ve played before, you’re going to end up disappointed.