Sometimes people fall in battle, and the only things left behind are the decisions they made and the weapons they wielded. The universe of the Fallen Legion series lives by this very conceit, promising an ever-evolving storyline depending on your choices and actions using magic to bring forth the personified souls of weapons into the physical realm to wage war once more. The two-game collection Fallen Legion: Rise to Glory / Fallen Legion Revenants is a time-consuming, frequently frustrating, yet ultimately enjoyable affair once it hits its stride.
The collection’s first game, Fallen Legion: Rise to Glory, is its own collection of two games in one package: Fallen Legion: Flames of Rebellion and Fallen Region: Sins of an Empire. The two stories are merged, with players able to pick between the two routes seamlessly. Both narratives center around a war-torn empire called Fenumia and its battle for succession following the emperor’s death. In the Flames of Rebellion route, you play as Legatus Laendur, who leads a rebellion against the status quo in the empire. In Sins of an Empire, you play as Cecille, the throne’s heir apparent who must prove herself against Laendur’s and others’ forces.
Though I appreciate the replayability inherent in having two routes and seeing the different perspectives on Fenumia’s situation, I gravitated more towards Cecille’s story as I progressed the plot. There was just something about her route’s story that connected with me more, so it was no surprise that I spent most of my time playing it and first saw the ending from her perspective. Still, the cleverly handled duality flows throughout the narrative.
The crux of gameplay in either route of Rise to Glory is that Laendur and Cecille can summon up to three Exemplars simultaneously to join them in battle. Exemplars are personifications of weapons from throughout the world’s lengthy history. You select which three characters you want in your party at a given time, noting their placement in the setup since characters closest to an enemy typically get hit more but can also protect their allies in the rear. Each Exemplar has a unique fighting style coupled with Deathblows, powerful special moves that you can choose between and that you gain more of as you progress through areas. You control each one with a mere button press on your controller. Hitting the associated button causes an Exemplar to attack. Doing so in quick succession and with button commands to your other party members unleashes potentially devastating strings of combos. Combat is relatively fast and frantic given how quickly moves fly across the screen.
Cecille and Laendur contribute to fighting as well, albeit from the back lines. They wield helpful magic, casting restorative spells or landing offensive blasts at opportune moments (notably when you can stagger an enemy and render them temporarily immobile). However, after using a spell, you must wait for its meter to replenish. In addition, the different magics you can use are limited, requiring you to equip status-boosting gemstones that you gain after completing battle stages to use certain spells.
Beyond just entering a stage on the world map and fighting through it, you must also make political and tactical decisions along the way. There are immediate effects that take place as a result of your responses to these timed scenarios. Also, some later repercussions affect morale throughout the land and possibly what story scenes are available to you later on. For example, I tended to be sympathetic to the refugee groups gathering in certain areas. The game made a note of that, granting me boons fitting for doing so and even awarding me an extra Exemplar later. I also took the time to help out a village that hated me, and the outcome of that decision came up in a surprising way later. Showing mercy as Cecille to defecting soldiers from Laendur’s side also provides story and gameplay effects. It isn’t the most complex decision-making system I’ve seen, and sometimes future outcomes almost seemed random, but I appreciated its inclusion to break up the fierce fighting.
Rise to Glory’s biggest weakness is probably just how frustratingly tricky some design choices are. You can block attacks at times, which is highly encouraged as it leaves attackers momentarily open. However, timing is crucial to success when it comes to defending and knowing the exact moment to do so at all times against every enemy while being swarmed is close to impossible. The Exemplars also serve as your shields: if wiped out, unless you’re quick to revive one of them, you’re always guaranteed a game over. A game over is incredibly frustrating when fighting a standard group of enemies, as getting one against them will have you start the level all over again. Boss fights allow you to restart immediately, which is excellent since the odds are good that you’ll need to restart until you can figure out an effective strategy. But to reach bosses, you have to survive a long string of combat first. Patience and grinding for more powerful gemstones are required to advance, which is a shame since the action is entertaining if everything falls into place.
This version of Rise to Glory is the “complete” version with all the content initially included in the Switch port. They did add a new Exemplar named Aleister for this particular collection. Still, the lion’s share of the focus for additional upgrades went to the collection’s second game, Fallen Legion Revenants. Revenants now has difficulty modes alongside a fusion system for the armor pieces called Archeus so that you can create even more powerful variations to aid you in combat. It also adds equipment that allows you to boost stats and uncover more Deathblows to customize Exemplars’ movesets further, even faster combat speed and balance tweaks, a new Exemplar named Winchester, and new combos called mana chains.
The events of Fallen Legion Revenants occur in a miasma-filled world where people get sick and turn into hideous monsters before dying. A castle floats in the sky, housing the last healthy humans, though it is more or less a prison in fancy dressings run by a maniacal warden named Ivor. After being falsely accused of treason, his right-hand Rowena is executed and comes back as a Revenant: a type of ghost capable of wielding magic and leading Exemplars in combat. She partners with the strategic Lucien to overthrow Ivor’s rule and save her imprisoned son.
Revenants‘ battle mechanics will be familiar if you come into the game having already played Rise to Glory. Three Exemplars join Rowena in her departures to the hostile world below, each with their own dedicated controller button. Rowena has access to three magic spells, and she gains mana points as you progress. A magic ability or a Deathblow costs one mana point each, and you cycle through them using button commands.
A new layer of strategy to combat comes from the placement of tiles on the ground that affect targeting and the like. Melee fighters always target enemies on the closest tile, while you can have long-range fighters target others. Some abilities can push or pull enemies back and forth over the tiles. Others target a specific tile. Using the controller’s directional arrows, you can move characters out of the way. These tiles add one more aspect of combat to consider, but are incorporated well overall.
The key components of combat are blocking, healing, and staggering opponents so that they’re vulnerable to more potent attacks. I found that the battle system in Revenants is well polished compared to Rise to Glory, feeling much more fluid and smooth. Additionally, weapons and armor to boost stats and equip different Deathblows to the Exemplars have more finesse than the gemstones and traits utilized in the first title.
On the other hand, the parts where you must think politically or strategically as Lucien could use some more work. You must manipulate events from the shadows by gathering information and acquiring essential items to help Rowena’s efforts. Often you’re hindered by other castle residents who don’t know what you’re doing. In addition, these stages are usually timed and dependent on trust levels between Lucien and the other characters, adding some unnecessary frustration. I’ll admit to inadvertently messing up at times, resulting in less-than-ideal outcomes for battles and later story events. It’s a shame because these segments are an exciting aspect of the game when they work out.
Points tally towards one of two epilogues depending on how you-as-Rowena respond to Lucien’s suggestions or what you choose to do while on the ground. Decisions made throughout the game impact the ending you can get; there are several alternate endings to see, which adds a lot of replayability to the mix. Truthfully, I enjoy the overall story and characters more in Revenants. The back-and-forth between Lucien and Rowena is excellent, and I appreciate that the Exemplars get lines of dialogue and personalities in this title. The supporting cast is also more fleshed out.
Both Rise to Glory and Revenants feature gorgeous, 2D side-scrolling graphics and character portraits that look hand painted. I love the designs of the Exemplars in both games, and the visual-novel-style artwork that appears in certain key story scenes is lovely in both titles. The music is also phenomenal, with tracks that help keep the adrenaline pumping during hectic fights, such as “Frigid Clash” from Fallen Legion: Rise to Glory and “Cast Aside Any Doubts” from Fallen Legion Revenants. I opted to go with the English voice acting and found it wonderfully suitable for the characters with spoken lines.
I can’t say Fallen Legion: Rise to Glory / Fallen Legion Revenants is a flawless RPG collection. At times, it borders on outright aggravating, given certain design choices. However, it isn’t without its appeal or charm either. The two games found within can be brutal but also oddly rewarding, and this collection is easily the definitive way to play them. Given the subtle improvements to Revenants in combat especially, I wouldn’t necessarily mind a return trip to the Fallen Legion series in the future, provided some additional tweaks and improvements to the decision-making/strategy segments in particular.