Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark Review (Switch) – hunting truth and justice

2 comments

Launching a strategy square tactics Switch game hot on the heels of the newest Fire Emblem release is a bold move, but Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark holds its own quite well! It is important to remember that this is not a triple A studio title, so I won’t evaluate it as such. Fell Seal is a solid entry in the genre, presenting an interesting story, a generous amount of customizable features, a memorable soundtrack, and a unique, beautiful, art style that appears as if hand drawn.

Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark is a great game that will appeal most of all to nostalgic Final Fantasy Tactics and Tactics Ogre fans and may be the successor they have been waiting on. Having not playing either of the games that seem to have inspired it, I enjoyed Fell Seal very much and would wholeheartedly recommend it to any lover of strategy-tactics games.

The Premise

In Fell Seal, Arbiters are what you get if you take a police force, cross them with the justice department, add some magical abilities, and transport them into the fantasy past. They uphold the law and dole out punishment for breaking it. The story follows Arbiter Kyrie, her Arbiter partner Reiner, and apprentice Anadine as they are swept up in politics and drama surrounding the appointment of a new Immortal, the top leadership position of the Arbiters. Kyrie is out for justice and nothing can stop her as she leads her band of companions across the continent in search of the truth.

Visuals and Audio

The lovely art design of Fell Seal is detailed and colorful. Each stage is a floating 3D grid representing the area your party is passing through, populated with chests and enemies. If you enjoy customizable visual elements in games like I do, take care not to get completely distracted by unit creation and forget to actually play the game! There are dozens of customizable appearance options for each unit you add to your protagonist’s team, including clothing, hair, face type, hats, name, portrait, and color choices for most of those. Your recruited units appear in the party’s base camp, milling around or in conversation with one another, and will also show up in the background during narrative moments.

Fell Seal has a fantastic soundtrack! Ranging from somber to jaunty, and quaint to epic, the tunes in the game are creative, memorable, and did not strike me as repetitive at all. The sound effects during combat stages are well chosen to fit each of their respective abilities. A wider range of both animations and sounds might have been nice for physical attacks, but the ones that are there are perfectly suitable. The sledges and mauls in particular have a nice, meaty “thwack” to them on contact with an enemy unit. Dialogue, while not voice acted, is well thought out and concise without taking itself too seriously.

Gameplay

Fell Seal’s gameplay is incredibly solid, though could use a little balance tweaking, mainly in enemy item use that causes battles to sometime drag out longer than was likely intended. You’ll have to pay attention to the direction your units are facing at the end of the turn because all units take more damage from the sides, and even more from the back. Enemy units can and will try to get behind yours for high damage backstabs.

There are a variety of position dependent attacks, such as Forceful Blow, which does more damage if you knock the target into an object or wall or unit. Multi target spells will commit friendly fire unless the unit in question has learned an ability that stops area attacks from affecting allies, so you must consider your unit positions at all times. Enemies can and will do all of the same things your units can do, including leveling up mid-stage, even more than once if they take enough actions.

Units will remain wounded (stacking stat debuff) after being eliminated during a combat stage and will not regain their full stats again until they take a turn resting while others fight, so I found it best to keep a rotating roster of leveled up recruits. I found myself putting much more thought into the combat scenarios in Fell Seal than I have needed to for other tactics games in the past, which made thoughtfully executed plans very satisfying.

Final Thoughts

Fell Seal, Arbiter’s Mark is a highly customizable experience, meant to be played in exactly the manner you prefer. You can adjust a plethora of game options: difficulty, RNG, enemy health, etc. The normal (“veteran”) difficulty can be pretty brutal if you aren’t prepared or take careless turns. Creativity-oriented players can get happily lost in all of the options for character appearance and classes, which grant a sense of consistent progression as you master all of the classes. Having been ported from the 2018 PC release for all consoles, the game handles very smoothly and I didn’t notice any bugs. Overall, Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark is earns an 8/10 from me. This is a title that strategy-tactics lovers will doubtless want to add to their wishlists!

Game Trailer – Game key kindly provided by 1C Publishing

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2 comments on “Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark Review (Switch) – hunting truth and justice”

  1. I’ve been craving a strategy game but was holding off on buying Fire Emblem: Three Houses for some reason. It just wasn’t hitting the right notes for me. I’m grateful I found this review for Fell Seal though, as it’s been sitting on my Xbox wishlist for a bit now. Between the beautiful artwork and the more Dungeons and Dragons-esque setting, I think this title be more up my alley.

    If you’re interested in more strategy games, Regalia: Of Men and Monarchs has some interesting mechanics and adorable characters 😁

    Liked by 1 person

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