Gamers measure turn-based tactical RPGs against classics like Final Fantasy Tactics when they release, so there’s a lot to consider when developing a strategy game. After testing the waters for myself, I’m happy to say that Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark meets those elusive standards, and 6 Eyes Studios has made a name for themselves. Pierre and Christina Leclerc, two longtime members of the industry, formed the indie studio together with the hopes of creating a standout tactical RPG. After a successful Kickstarter campaign, and a whole lot of hard work, they’ve accomplished that goal. The depth and maturity of the game is on display with its robust customization and replay value. The pixelated graphics may not convince everyone, but the gameplay beneath that quirky surface is great. The developer hit the nail on the head, and they’ve quickly become a studio to watch.
The game’s opening shares the history of the continent Teora. Long ago, a dark creature named The Maw terrorized the land and sought to destroy the people and the land on which they lived. Seven heroes rose to vanquish the monster. They did so and became Immortals, who formed a Council to watch over the land. In order to maintain order and safety on the continent, the Immortals deputized honorable men and women to carry out justice across Teora. These loyal servants were given the title Arbiters. The story begins with the journey of two Arbiters who investigate the mysterious forces that seek to undermine the rule of the Immortals by unleashing chaos and destruction. The narrative is filled with surprises, and as the game progresses the characters reveal the lore of the world. Fell Seal possesses an engaging core story, and the additional content outside of the main quest allows players to play as little or as much as they want.
The mechanics of the game were impressive, as the system is both accessible to newcomers and complex for fans of the genre. There are over twenty classes from which players recruit their team, and there are even hidden classes that you unlock by completing certain requirements in the game. A real intricate interface exists in Fell Seal, and it’s to be commended. If you are not accustomed to tactical RPGs, then you’ll still be able to play through the game with ease, and by the end of it, you’ll understand the strategy quite well. But the deep level of customization available to players is what’s really astounding. There are so many aspects of the game that you can tweak, and it provides a personal experience for each player. You can change the gameplay in the menu by adjusting elements like the difficulty or the number of enemies. And the classes that comprise your band of heroes can be swapped out or modified. Tired of your gadgeteer’s healing skill tree? Change it for a fighter’s skill tree. The freedom intrinsic to the design of the game (and what 6 Eyes Studio has built with such a small team) is remarkable. It guides new players through, but it also rewards those returning to experience the world all over again.
The art style of the game is charming, but it may not convince players who are used to the cinematic graphics of today. Other than the main heroes, the pixelated characters rarely match the portraits that accompany them, and beyond the borders of the battles a void stretches to the edge of the screen. The visual world, though, is exciting, and the different regions of the continent are reflected in the change of terrain and the enemies encountered. The non-human races and creatures are numerous, as well as the outfits and appearances of the characters you create. If you can forego the stunning graphics of AAA titles today, then Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark may win you over by the time the game is finished.
You can approach the game in so many ways, and that’s probably the best part of Fell Seal. There are almost three dozen classes with their own unique skill tree. Each class brings something different to the battlefield, and they can all be developed into a strong part of the team. And players are not limited to the protagonists of the story. The game allows you to recruit new members to your team, build them as you see fit, and level them up until they stand as a vital part of the group. One of my favorite characters that I created and used heavily during my playthrough was a wizard/gadgeteer that could either strike the enemies with area-of-effect spells or buff his allies with little inventions. And I barely scratched the surface of the possibilities. Werewolves, spymasters, lich, princesses, lords. There is a glut of options available, and the variables will make each playthrough fresh as you dive back into the world of Teora.
What It Could Have Done Better
I’m not well-versed in the tactical RPG genre, but Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark made a compelling case for me to reevaluate that gap in my gaming library. One of the only quibbles I have is with the art style. The pixelated graphics didn’t bother me, but the visual dissonance between the art style of the game and the portraits within the menu did irk me. I would like to see that resolved if a sequel were to come out, but overall, I was very pleased. For a tiny indie developer, 6 Eyes Studio created an addictive game with heart. And it scratched an itch for turn-based strategy games that I didn’t know I had.
For $20 to $30, Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark is a great game with hours of gameplay, and it has the potential to outlive a game twice the price. If you’re a fan of tactical RPGs, it’s a lot of fun. If you’re not, it’s still worth your time. Grab yourself a copy.