Lost in the woods
Juan Ponce de León’s hunt for the Fountain of Youth is a legend far more emblematic of many adventures than most depicted in media. The conquistador committed the lion’s share of his days to exploring the New World, much of it allegedly in pursuit of eternal life, only to ironically wind up in an early grave. It was a fruitless venture, one fueled by myth, that ended in disappointment.
Other wayfarers have been known to scale mountains and search corners of the globe not for fabled treasure, but self discovery. However, for every Henry David Thoreau that dredges up answers in the reflection of Walden Pond, there are countless others who never manage to find enlightenment in the wild, leaving perhaps with just anecdotes, or scars, memories of their hardships.
The Legend of Legacy is the tale of seven pilgrims, each with motivations of their own for travelling to the mysterious isle of Avalon, and while they may find what they seek, the overarching journey is characterized by a dissatisfying emptiness, a promise unfulfilled.
The Legend of Legacy (3DS)
Publisher: Atlus USA
Release: January 22, 2015 (JP) October 13, 2015 (NA) February 5, 2016 (EU)
The expedition rings hollow from the outset, presenting players with a diversity of characters, all of whom have a unique opening sequence. It’s a seductive come-on, one that hints at a multi-sided story that never manifests. The narrative threads converge almost immediately and then vanish, leaving players to explore Avalon with little impetus for hours at a time. The script is sapped by an absurd lack of dialogue, which prevents the cast from distinguishing themselves and essentially renders them stock characters.
The Legend of Legacy, hamstrung by its sparse narrative and superficial characters, is forced to lean squarely on a repetitive formula. From the time it begins to the moment the credits roll, players will travel to a location, explore every nook and cranny there to create a maps, then sell that to a merchant. You can then pay the merchant for new destinations to explore, map, profit on, and repeat.
Much like the story, The Legend of Legacy‘s exploration and combat components manage to leave a strong first impression, but they lose their effectiveness over time. It’s almost as though FuRyu stumbled across an ingredient list for an excellent dish, but got the proportions all wrong. Individually, elements have the potential to be wonderful; they just don’t come across that way in the melting pot.
The turn-based battle system has some promise, allowing players to switch between various combat formations. Depending on the formations, individual characters will receive bonuses pursuant to their roles in battle. A defender will use a buckler to shield allies from damage, while a support character heals, and someone else attacks. While there are only two formations at the outset, players are given the ability to create their own — an option that would be enticing if the battle system were deeper and it felt necessary.
What might have been a strategic highlight soon curdles and becomes rote. The experience suffers from diminishing returns, with systems encouraging players to settle on a finite number of battle strategies and seldom deviate from them. Rather than have characters level-up, individual skills do. So, repeated use of, say, a sword will make a character more proficient with that type of weapon. But should one give that character an axe, bow, spear, or even a larger sword, they’ll be back at square one, meaning it’s beneficial to to decide which characters and weapons to use early on and stick with those choices, rather than experiment at all.
In addition to impelling players to perform the same actions again and again, The Legend of Legacy doubles down on the repetition with a shortfall of enemy variety. The species of monster from a forest environment might reappear in the desert or alongside one another as palette swaps, a small irritation that just serves to compound a feeling of monotony that’s pervasive throughout the game.
Even endearing qualities, like the pop-up book-style visuals, which sees terrain and scenery sprout out from the ground, can cut both ways. Aesthetically, environments look very nice, but have a way of concealing enemies. And in a game with far too many fights for its own good, stumbling into a battle on accident due to a bit of poor camera positioning can be so exasperating.
It also feels too focused and even reserved to a fault. At a time when many of its peers seem so enamored with heavy-handed tutorials and overabundance of side content, FuRyu is running in the opposite direction. This is an experience that could desperately use something to do other than plod along the critical path, or do a better job explaining some its more mystifying gameplay systems.
If this appraisal sounds overly critical, it’s because it comes from a place of love. The Legend of Legacy comes so close to being a compelling role-playing game, but it just doesn’t do enough to earn the amount of patience it requires of players, let alone reward it.
This may be a story about a treasure hunt, but it certainly is no treasure.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]