When indie gaming studio 1C Company announced their newest Early Access title, Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark, tactical fans waited with bated breath. Tactical JRPG’s have always been a niche genre, ever since the Final Fantasy Tactics series left its mark when it debuted back in 1997. Plenty of tactics games have been released since then but none have conveyed the classic style as much as Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark seemed to at first glance during its Kickstarter campaign. I’m happy to say that the title has lived up to the hype.
The story begins in the town of Gelligh, following protagonist Kyrie and her captain in training, Anadine, as they come upon an arrogant nobleman who just committed a brazen murder. After an introductory battle, the nobleman is taken into custody by Kyrie, fulfilling her duty as an Arbiter. Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark doesn’t take long to leave its mark regarding its lore. The game boasts an interesting blend of a medieval European style with steampunk fantasy. The land is filled with unique creatures, environments, magic, and political titles, such as the aforementioned justice seeking Arbiters. We soon find that corruption has been running rampant throughout the land though, forcing Kyrie and her team to take a stand.
Kyrie’s team is a broad one, as Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark features over 20 classes and 200 abilities. Alongside commonplace classes like Wizards and Rangers, Plague Doctors, Gamblers, and Gadgeteers not only expand the game’s lore even further but allow for a wide array of different battle strategies too. Variety is very important for success in Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark. While one lineup may dominate a certain mission at one point, it doesn’t mean the same roster will work on the next set of enemies the team faces.
One of the most interesting management systems in Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark revolves around how it handles a character being defeated in battle. If a character is taken down to zero health in battle, they immediately disappear from the field. While they can be revived by a potion or magic spell, they will automatically be injured following the battle. As a result, that character receives a 10% hit to their stats, which can stack if they are used in the coming battle while injured if they die again. The only way to heal the injury is to have that character sit out of the next fight. That means that character is going to have to be substituted with another. I found success creating characters that had similar roles, much like having a designated position in a sports team, subbing players in and out accordingly. Luckily, recruits can be purchased at any major city guilds, even higher level ones at a higher price. It takes a fair amount of time to be able to implement that process though.
After about eight hours of gameplay, the 11 man roster I had created was outfitted and upgraded to the point that they complemented each other splendidly. That only occurred because of about two or three hours of grinding at The Crossroads. After that grind, I was able to purchase more powerful recruits with the gold I earned, as well as upgrade my characters to the point where the wild beast at Timber Roads weren’t as bothersome as they were the first 10 times around. Grinding was less frequent as the game progressed, mostly in part to planning accordingly.
In short, if you are a fan of the Final Fantasy Tactics style of play then there is no doubt that Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark is for you. Alongside that playstyle nostalgia, this indie title also offers Unique lore, a broad playstyle, and a lot of clever tactical systems set it apart from other games in the genre.