"Legrand Legacy manages to capture much of the indelible charm of the JRPGs to which it pays homage through its rough-around-the-edges execution."
There's no shortage of games seeking to pay homage to the classics about which we old-timers constantly wax poetic. In fact, this class of game may now merit being a subgenre unto itself. While some titles manage to emulate the sources of their inspiration with varying degrees of success, many fall decidedly flat. Indie developer SEMISOFT is the latest to attempt to capture that magic with their debut title, Legrand Legacy: Tale of the Fatebounds.
Legrand Legacy opens in the desert city of Tel Harran, where a human slave named Finn is marched into an arena to battle the vicious gladiator champion. Bucking the odds, Finn overcomes the hulking foe by unconsciously tapping into a hidden power he doesn't understand. An elderly Norn, a race with the ability to speak directly into people's minds, is so impressed by this display of mysterious power that he buys Finn, sets him free, and hires him as his bodyguard. So begins the journey to save the world of Legrand from the second coming of an ancient evil.
In truth, there's nothing particularly original about Legrand Legacy's story. The overarching narrative is a patchwork of mostly Celtic mythology that is immediately identifiable by the largely unaltered names of mythical locations, items, and individuals. This borrowing of lore isn't, in itself, necessarily a bad thing. To prevent their creation from feeling derivative, however, the SEMISOFT team needed to enrich it with an interesting world, captivating writing, and engaging characters. They didn't quite hit the mark.
The history of Legrand is thrust upon the player through heavy exposition, early and often. It becomes so overbearingly descriptive at times that forthcoming plot twists are easily inferred through character exchanges simply meant to set the stage. Even so, Legrand itself is an intriguing place ravaged by war, slavery, poverty, and social stratification. The small amount of worldbuilding that does occur successfully paints a dire picture of a world coming apart at the seams. The potential immersion falls apart whenever someone opens their mouth, though, as the characters and dialogue are both thoroughly mediocre.
I'm not sure I've come across a cast of main characters as unlikable and paper thin as the main party of Legrand Legacy. Aria, the main female protagonist, is cartoonishly abusive, obnoxious, and petulant. Finn is an excessively deferential nincompoop who whines incessantly. Kael is a walking, talking bad decision, and the rest of the party is a collection of cardboard cutouts that are more caricature than character. Worst of all, nobody grows in any meaningful way — nor seems to learn anything — by the end of the story.
The character issues tie directly to one primary cause: poorly written dialogue. It's clumsy and unnatural at best, and nonsensical at worst. The main party spends an inordinate amount of time bickering with each other for seemingly no other reason than to manufacture internal conflict. This bickering occurs continuously through the duration of the game, right up until the very end, when a character who had to repeatedly learn the same lesson makes yet another irrational decision out of the blue. These complaints don't even include the inane love triangle, the incredibly poor decision-making ability of literally everyone with any power in Legrand, or the phenomenally underwhelming ending that leads me to believe that there has to be a good ending locked away somewhere. There's plenty of room for improvement in this area, to say the least.
On a positive note, one of the first things you'll notice about Legrand Legacy is the striking, hand-drawn backgrounds that grow more stunning with each new area you explore. They're certainly a feast for the eyes and enhance the game's unabashedly gritty art style. These visual aesthetics are perfectly combined with a great soundtrack to effectively capture the hauntingly moribund ambiance permeating Legrand. The animated avatars during dialogue scenes are worth noting as well, as they're a nice little touch and look great despite the accompanying text that distractingly justifies mid-speech.
Legrand Legacy's battles are standard turn-based affairs with an additional timing mechanic known as the Action Circle Tempo (or ACT). The ACT, appearing as a circle on screen for both attack and defense actions, requires the player to push buttons to stop the indicator in the right area to trigger bonuses. Fans familiar with the Shadow Hearts series will recognize the ACT as a watered-down version of the Judgment Ring. The key to surviving the many tough enemies throughout Legrand, though, is the exploitation of weaknesses and strategic switching out of party members during battle. It's a simple system that requires just enough strategy and player interaction to avoid becoming tedious or boring. It should be noted that controls, particularly response times, are key with a system like ACT. Thankfully, Legrand Legacy's are fairly solid and responsive, save a few areas on some maps where movement gets a little awkward.
Dungeons are fairly standard, though several of them include traps and conditions that add layers of difficulty. The desert heat slowly damages your party over time and cold terrain slows them to the point that outrunning enemies is impossible. They're nice diversions, and the dungeons are very straightforward, but some of the later areas spike somewhat in difficulty. There were a handful of instances where the environmental factors, dungeon layout, enemy damage, and respawn rates combined for some frustrating moments. Your mileage may vary here, of course, but some adjustments may be required for the sake of balance.
Legrand Legacy also includes a tactical war system inspired by the Suikoden series, where players move troops around a tile-based map to clash with enemy units. There are various troop categories, like archers and cavalry, and these too have strengths and weaknesses. It's not an overly complex system, but it's just deep and unforgiving enough to merit forethought during key story battles. There are several minigames to boot, like fishing, fencing, and a monster arena. These minigames, as well as the castle building and recruitment feature, are essentially window dressing with little real substance.
Legrand Legacy has some additional warts worth mentioning, including glitches and quality of life omissions that are a little odd. There are multiple grammatical errors and instances where the wrong character's avatar appears during dialogue scenes. The game crashed on me a couple of times, as well. Still, these are bugs that can probably be patched out. More perplexing is the lack of standard features: area and overworld maps, the ability to sort your inventory, and the inability to retain weapons after crafting new ones. None of these are game breaking, but they're odd nonetheless.
I found Legrand Legacy an exceedingly tough game to score. Although it clearly has its flaws, I enjoyed the roughly 40 hours I spent with it all the same. The small but immensely talented development team may simply have tried to do just a little too much here, possibly to the detriment of character development and script writing. There are things it does well, including its great audiovisual quality, but it doesn't truly stand out in any meaningful way. SEMISOFT wished to create a "love letter" to JRPGs, and perhaps it did that in a most unintentional way. Legrand Legacy manages to capture much of the indelible charm of the JRPGs to which it pays homage through its rough-around-the-edges execution.
This review is based on a free review copy provided to RPGFan by the developer. This relationship in no way influenced the reviewer's opinion of the game or its final score.