It's hard to be a fairy in videogames. Remember, Navi in Ocarina of Time is universally derided, and Rare has basically gone on the record stating that Kameo just shouldn't have happened. So when a studio decides to take a fairy and make it the main character of their game, they are certainly walking on thin ice.┬áThis hasn't stopped Spiders Game Weavers, a Parisian game studio known previously for converting and porting titles. They have their very first original game, Faery: Legends of Avalon, coming to Xbox Live, PlayStation Network, and Steam in early November, and, yep, it stars a fairy. A somewhat badass fairy, but a fairy all the same. Oddly, the game is also a traditional turn-based RPG with a rather lovely art direction. Grab your pixie wings, magic wand, and put on your Enya CD, we're about to go to a land of magic and wonder in Faery: Legends of Avalon.
It's hard to be a fairy in videogames. Remember, Navi in Ocarina of Time is universally derided, and Rare has basically gone on the record stating that Kameo just shouldn't have happened. So when a studio decides to take a fairy and make it the main character of their game, they are certainly walking on thin ice. This hasn't stopped Spiders Game Weavers, a Parisian game studio known previously for converting and porting titles. They have their very first original game, Faery: Legends of Avalon, coming to Xbox Live, PlayStation Network, and Steam in early November, and, yep, it stars a fairy. A somewhat badass fairy, but a fairy all the same. Oddly, the game is also a traditional turn-based RPG with a rather lovely art direction. Grab your pixie wings, magic wand, and put on your Enya CD, we're about to go to a land of magic and wonder in Faery: Legends of Avalon.
Faery: Legends of Avalon (Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network, Steam)
Developer: Spiders Game Weavers
Publisher: Focus Home interactive
To be released: November 2010
Faery: Legends of Avalon tells the story of how humans and fairies lived together in a world where magic is real. However, people stopped believing in magic, so the Fairy King decided to separate the worlds. Unfortunately, like all fairies, the less people believe in magic, the more they begin to fade. When we are introduced to the game, the Fairy King has summoned you to help remind people of the power of magic and stop all of the magical realms from disappearing.
All of this would be super damn cheesy if it wasn't for the art direction. Spiders clearly has a capable art director and a team of designers who can make their characters and world look moody and distinct. While the game isn't gruesome or creepy, it is certainly walking the line of Victorian-era etchings and traditional fantasy drawings. The color palette is a swatch of muted greens, red, blues, browns and grays, and while I would be disdainful toward such drabness, it all comes together to make a really striking, unique and ethereal universe.
Helping build this are the different worlds you can enter. By traveling through magical mirrors, the player can go through different magical environments inhabited by genies, fairies, elves, gnomes, ghouls, giant enemy crabs, animals like robins, sparrows, raccoons, and seagulls, and a lot more. Each of these worlds usually contains some NPCs offering quests and challenges. Levels tend to be self-enclosed worlds with lots of areas for you to fly around and explore. There is no walking, and enemies can range from ghouls in caves to wasps in wasp nests. After the initial fairy island (a somewhat drab and dark world), you'll go enter the level around the World Tree, then the dark Flying Dutchman (inspired by Wagners opera), and finally the City of Mirage, a 1,001 Arabian Nights world built on the back of a giant beetle.
As you play, you'll be given challenges, and many of them have multiple ways to complete them. For example, the wasps in the tree could just be fought outright, or you can collect potion ingredients and smoke them out of the tree. Helping out will be the companions, and they are pretty variable. There's an assistant fairy who will fight with you, a bookish troll, a big-nosed, top-hat-wearing guy who will summon raccoons, birds and insects to fight in battles with you, a baby dragon, a genie, and a tom-boyish pirate korrigan. Each of them have special abilities and they can be controlled in battle like your own character.
You'll want to be smart about which ones you take into battle, as enemies will have weaknesses to certain types of attacks. Battles themselves are simple turn-based RPG battles. Players will be given a certain number of action points, and magical attacks either have to wait a certain number of turns, or you need to have enough action points. I was shown a fairy at a high enough level to have three action points, so she was able to summon fire, then do a weaker fire attack. It plays like Final Fantasy XIII's battle system, only turn-based and simpler. Honestly, the battles felt like the least-interesting part of the game, so if you want to avoid them, it's as simple as flying over some ghouls, or whatever. Interestingly, there's three difficulty levels which can be changed on the fly, so if battles are too easy or hard, problem solved.
Personalization is surprisingly important to Faery: Legends of Avalon. From the get go, you have the choice of a male elf or female fairy, their names, and their facial features. While they default to basic characteristics, they can be customized quite a bit, and it needs to be said that the faces in this game are rather stunning. Spiders has all the characters in the game built with bold lines and painterly effects, and this attention to detail applies especially to the faces. What is impressive is how the player fairy is actually more customizable than most other games, and the fact that this is a downloadable title lends some more credence to the title.
Customization bleeds over to how your fairy looks after going up in levels. This is a very traditional RPG, at least when it comes to battles and menus, so players will be required to place the best equipment and spells upon their player. With 16 sets of armor, which also change the appearance of your fairy, players will be setting up the best equipment available. It's when you get to spells that things become much more interesting. Wings can be changed early on to anything from butterfly to bird wings, and they each correspond to spell types, such as fire or ice abilities. Unfortunately, it looks like once you get set on a wing spell tree, you're stuck on that. However, as you gain more spells and attacks, the wings will change in appearance, and even double in size. It is somewhat of a cool effect.
More than wings, however, players can add tails, horns, antlers, tattoos, auras, and tracks that all change the appearance of your fairy and add more abilities to your character. By the end of the 14-hour game, your fairy is going to be almost imposing, with large wings, grasshopper antennae, a scorpion tail, and some floating aura familiars. Again, it's a neat effect, and coupled with how pretty the game looks, it's very satisfying.
This customization also applies to how you interact with other characters. While there is no over-arching good/evil system, depending on how you act to characters impacts how they treat you. For example, if you act like an icy bitch to the Fairy King, he may not treat you so well the next time you see him. Another example would be the Sphinx, who as the protector of the poor people of the City of Mirage, will be icy to you if he catches you trying to kill them all. It's a little bit of good/evil that makes acting one way or another more dynamic.
A cool little side effect of this is that each player will have a personal “fairy tale” that is recorded in a book. Your character's appearance, coverage of your adventure, the order of your actions, and even how other perceive you will all be recorded, and you can trade you fairy tale with other players and friends on your friends list.
If you can't tell, I'm pretty impressed with Faery: Legends of Avalon. While the idea of playing as a fairy is not appealing at all, the world that Spiders has created is impressive and distinct. I'm very impressed with what they have done with the art direction, as there is more style and beauty in this game than in many others. While I am concerned that the battle system might be secondary to everything else, I think over all the game could be a pleasant surprise for players in early November.