Review: Legend of Fae

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The indie gaming scene is really booming right now, for all platforms but particularly on the PC. I swear – every week it seems like there is some cool new game sprouting up out of nowhere and blooming into a hit on digital download sites across the Net. Too many to even keep track of!

One such indie gem that has really been eating up a lot of my time lately is Legend of Fae, a role-playing match-3 puzzle game from the two-person team at Endless Fluff. Right now, you can grab it for $9.99 straight from the developer, but supposedly a Steam release is also in the pipeline if you would prefer to wait.

When I was approached to review the game and had it described to me as an RPG puzzle game hybrid, my immediate expectation was an experience similar to the Puzzle Quest series. It does share similarities with Infinite Interactive’s revolutionary hybrid, but the game actually has just as much in common with PopCap’s Bookworm Adventures games. Puzzle Quest and Bookworm Adventures are great games, so Legend of Fae must be great too, right? Absoposilutely!

Legend of Fae, the endearing tale about a young girl named Claudia on a quest to find her missing uncle, is a true genre blender, bringing together elements of role-playing, puzzle games, and adventure, and wrapping it all together with a well written and beautifully presented narrative.

Over the game’s 50 levels, you will become attached to Claudia and emotionally invested in her journey, thanks in large part to the likeable characters, subtle yet sincere soundtrack, and lovely sprite-based artwork that animates before you with a painterly flair (I like the look so much that I have a piece of concept art as my desktop wallpaper right now!). The game just has a lot of heart – the type of heart that shines through in a game created by a small but dedicated and passionate team of developers.

On Claudia’s adventure, she encounters Fae creatures that have thrust Sea Cross Island into chaos, and also befriends four elementals, who fight by her side as she discovers her true power as a sorceress.

In each level, your objective is to move from one end of a side-scrolling environment to the other and defeat any enemy encounters along the way, with expert completion time and score goals providing added incentive to finish quickly and skillfully. In this way it feels similar to Bookworm Adventures, but instead of spelling words to kill, you are solving match-3 puzzles and casting spells!

The game plays out in two phases: the top half of the screen displays what’s termed the Adventure Stage, and the bottom half of the screen consists of the puzzle board, filled with the colored mana orbs needed to initiate all of Claudia’s actions.

There are four main elements to work with – Fire, Water, Earth and Wind – and each correlates to a different colored mana orb. So, as you match three or more red orbs on the puzzle board, you fill up the fire mana pool, and so on and so forth. As your mana fills for each element, the corresponding elementals float next to Claudia on the top screen, and to attack you click on the desired element after first selecting a target enemy. Outside of combat, you can click these floating orbs to cast buffs, like haste, regeneration and increased spell power/defense. This is an important strategy to employ before charging forward to the next fight.

Combat is also ruled by a rock-paper-scissors element system whereby water counters fire, fire counters earth, earth counters wind and wind counters water, and so it helps to use the appropriate spell to counter the element of your target in order to land critical hits.

In addition to the elements, there are also purple movement orbs, which serve as the fuel to move Claudia through a stage and also activate a dodge ability when matched in combat, and gray mind orbs that create special mind gems. Mind gems become incredibly important as the battles toughen up, as they are needed to cure status ailments enemies may place on you, such as a blind effect that blanks out your puzzle board and a petrify curse that locks up random orbs so you can’t move them.

Legend of Fae is not a turned-based game either. The battles unfold in real time on the top of the screen while you are matching orbs at the bottom, and you constantly have to move back and forth between the two halves to cast spells and replenish your mana supply. This gives the game a constant sense of pace that keeps your mind (and mouse finger) active at all times, and combined with the aforementioned elemental strategies and other mechanics such as Spell Weaving (matching orbs in succession to increase damage), the battles and bosses (yes, there are bosses!) present a healthy challenge, particularly over the latter half of the quest.

To keep up with the increasing difficulty, Claudia’s sorcery skills can be upgraded from the main map menu in between stages. Upon completing a level, you are rewarded with a spare part to upgrade the spell lantern that gives Claudia her power. This upgrade system takes the form of a fairly in-depth skill tree with individual upgrade lines for each spell, plus more advanced skills you can save up for, such as combo spells that blend two elements into fusion attacks and the ability to summon powerful elementals by aligning four elements of the same type around a mind gem. And if you reach a level where your current lantern setup isn’t balanced properly, you can always spend a spare part to respec your spells.

For such an unassuming game, Legend of Fae offers a lot of depth, strategy and challenge – and it’s quite a long adventure, too, at roughly six to eight hours (under or over depending on chosen difficulty setting and your overall ability to achieve expert completion times). The game’s only real flaws are minor polish details that are pretty much expected from such a small indie project. Things like the lack of adjustable screen resolution – you either have to play in windowed mode to maintain crisp image quality or in full screen at a predetermined resolution, which on a larger flat screen monitor like mine muddles the beautiful sprites and art with a blurry finish like a blown up photo. There are noticeable loops with the background music as well. You’ll be playing along, and all of a sudden the music will cut out and play back from the beginning. A small detail, yes – but it is distracting when it occurs. It’d be great if the loop transitions weren’t so jarring.

Small quirks like that, I hope, are things Endless Fluff can touch up in time for the Steam release and/or a patch. And who knows, after that I’d love to see this game spread its wings further, as I think it would be a great fit on touch screen devices like the DS / DSi / 3DS and iPhone / iPad.

Legend of Fae may have been made by a small indie shop, but it has a robust feature set, addictive gameplay, and charming appeal on par with any game you get from downloadable game giants like PopCap and Telltale. It’s that good, and you absolutely must check it out!

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Pros:
+ Successful blend of addictive match-3 puzzling and role-playing systems
+ Engaging story with likeable characters
+ Lengthy quest
+ Beautiful sprite-based graphics and lovely music

Cons:
– No customizable screen resolutions
– Jarring soundtrack loops

Game Info:
Platform: PC
Publisher: Endless Fluff
Developer: Endless Fluff
Release Date: 2/22/2011
Genre: Puzzle/RPG
ESRB Rating: NA
Players: 1
Source: Review code provided by publisher

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About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!