PAX South 2019 - Fell Seal: Arbiter's Mark hands-on preview

If you're looking for turn-based strategy similar to Final Fantasy Tactics, Fell Seal: Arbiter's Mark may scratch that itch.

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Turn-based tactical strategy games that take place on a grid have never fully disappeared from gaming, but it feels like there’s a small corner of the industry specifically attempting to capture the magic that most would recognize from Final Fantasy Tactics. 1C Entertainment’s Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark, developed by 6 Eyes Studio, is one said attempt and it feels like one of the better ones thus far.

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1C Entertainment is developing a pattern for publishing strategy-driven experience, the most well-known being Destructive Creations’ Ancestors Legacy which launched in 2018. Ancestors Legacy is a very different beast, modeling itself after real-time squad-based games like Company of Heroes. Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark, on the other hands, features grid-based tactical turn-based combat.

In my demo at PAX 2019, I started with a completely fresh campaign. I was introduced to an established Arbiter, Kyrie, and a young prospect. In the world of Fell Seal, Arbiter’s are the mortal agents of powerful beings called Immortals. Arbiters are tasked with maintaining law across the lands and guarding the land’s people. Kyrie and her companion are waiting to meet another Arbiter, but witness a gruesome murder. This is where I got a taste of the combat.

Being a huge Final Fantasy Tactics and Disgaea fan, Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark felt immediately familiar to me. The conflict started with story leads already placed on the battlefield and I had a roster of party members I could add to the fight. In this particular one, I could only add one, so I placed a healer, bringing the total to three. The battle was swift and the assailant, who turned out to be a high ranking political figure, was captured.

The first turn-based conflict played out in the typical rhythm, but the second is where more dynamic elements were introduced. My party was ambushed on the road and, throughout the fight, I learned that reinforcements were waiting beneath a trap door. In the portion of the UI showing the turn order, an event icon appeared. If I didn’t place a character on top of that trap door before the event icon’s turn came up, we’d have enemies to deal with. We destroyed all of the enemy units one turn before the event would have been triggered, but I had a player in place nevertheless.

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There were a few spotty moments in the demo like when a player attacked but the animation was turned in the wrong direction or when a streak of healing spells restored a while zero health points, but Fell Seal: Arbiter’s Mark is an Early Access title at this time. There are kinks that must be ironed out, but there has to be a solid experience underneath that makes it worth the wait. Thankfully, Fell Seal has all that and more. Stay tuned for more updates.

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