When Princess Cecille's father unexpectedly passes away, control of the embattled kingdom of Fenumia is passed over to her. She's quickly handed a magical, talking book that was apparently a prized possession of the recently deceased king, and this Grimoire is more than willing to impart advice to Cecille on how she should proceed in order to mend her fractured empire. This mostly involves the use of Exemplars - mental projections of some of the most celebrated warriors in Fenumia's history - to fight alongside Cecille in battle, and take on some of the biggest and baddest in the kingdom on the route to peace. Whether or not Cecille should trust this sassy, worryingly misanthropic tome makes up the central crux of the internal conflict of the game, while in the bigger picture the mistakes made by previous rulers have left Fenumia as an empire on the brink of collapse.
Fallen Legion takes a somewhat minimal approach to telling its tale. The story is fairly threadbare, and the cut-scenes are little more than static images of characters with dialogue appearing across the bottom of the screen. There's hardly any voice acting, but since the cutscenes are generally short, a little light reading isn't too much of a chore. Across the ten or fifteen hours you'll spend with the game, getting to know the characters and dealing with political turmoil make up a minute fraction of the whole, leaving the vast majority of this action rol- playing game being spent in battle.
Once Cecille learns how to elicit the help of Exemplars, they'll be taking care of most of the heavy lifting in a scrape. You control Cecille using the triangle button, who's able to unleash a magical attack (once it's charged), as well as being able to heal the party or revive a fallen comrade. The three Exemplars that make up the rest of your party are tied to the other face buttons, and so pressing X will make the one tied to X attack, providing they have enough action points to carry out the order, and so on. AP is constantly recharging while your Exemplars are taking no action in battle, and so the trick is to time the attacks by your various party members in order to keep the combo racking up, while also allowing enough time for tired Exemplars to regain AP so they can jump back into the fray.
The early going of the game is practically bereft of challenge so it's easy to give into the temptation to button mash during combat since it's much quicker and the lack of devious enemy AI means you won't run into many problems. But you'll hit a brick wall at around the half way point of the game if you take this approach, since many later enemies require a little more nuance. Blocking and parrying will be the key to taking down many of the baddies in the second half of the game, with well timed blocks leaving enemies in a defenceless state that makes it easy to amass a lot of damage in a short space of time.
By far the most interesting idea in Fallen Legion is the way that moral choices are presented. Rather than have the standard good and evil binary choices that many games favour, Fallen Legion offers choices at the end of some battles regarding decisions that need to be made in order to lead Fenumia, but each of these choices is also tied to a buff you'll receive for the next battle. Often, there'll be a buff you might feel you'll need for the upcoming boss fight, but it might be shackled to a choice that you may find distasteful. It's a compelling system, because it requires you to decide whether to shift the narrative in a direction you might not prefer in order to be well equipped for battle, or to potentially make life harder for yourself in your next encounter just so you don't have to execute a few peasants. There were more than a few of these choices that left us in a bit of a quandary, but then those peasants probably didn't really need their heads, did they?
The PlayStation Vita version of the game plays in largely the same way, but tells the story of Cecille's rival, Laendur. The two versions of the events that transpire during the course of Fallen Legion aren't dramatically different, but if you've got access to both consoles and you like the PS4 version, you can always give your Vita some love knowing that you'll at least be treated to a new story.
Fallen Legion isn't a home run. The story is somewhat trite and undercooked, and most of the cast are little more than stereotypes, but there's an earnest charm to the game that's hard to overlook, and the brevity of the campaign actually works in its favour. The frenetic combat is undoubtedly repetitive, but it's occasionally thrilling, and the choice system is well implemented and thought provoking. This won't change the mind of anybody who generally avoids action role-playing games, but for fans of the genre, there's enough here to warrant recommending Fallen Legion as a bite-size adventure to tackle between bigger games.