Just Like Old Times
Anyone who played the early installments of series like Dragon Quest or Final Fantasy will recognize the style faithfully recreated in Fantaseel Interactive’s Fateful Lore. But it takes more than nostalgia to make a good game. On the surface, Fateful Lore seems like a fitting tribute to JRPG’s of old, but underneath it is lacking substance.
The plot is straightforward: You control an unnamed protagonist who must quest across the land of Damerel to defeat the evil demoness Daglaxaak. To do this, you must visit three towers and restore the power of the crystals atop each. There are no other memorable characters or twists and turns along the way, just a no-frills fantasy adventure.
Old-Fashioned Dungeon Crawling
The gameplay of Fateful Lore is just what you’d expect from an old school JRPG. There is top-down perspective while exploring cities and dungeons, turn-based side-scrolling combat using weapon attacks, magic spells and potions, and random encounters that yield experience and gold to level up and buy new weapons and armor. Stylistically, the game also emulates the retro RPG format, with cartoony enemy sprites. Some foes, like the bucket of slime, are clear homages to Dragon Quest. Fateful Lore also tries to recreate the oddball sense of humor of Earthbound. There are puns and jokes in the NPC’s dialogues, many of which fall flat. A few of the descriptions of enemy attacks elicited a chuckle from me. However, you will fight most of the enemies so many times that any jokes that do hit will grow stale.
The preliminary stages of Fateful Lore are compelling as you gain your bearings. After a while however, its flaws become all too apparent. Over the course of the game’s seven to eight hour length, there is little to no variation in the story or gameplay. You move through the map, fighting enemies and growing stronger, until you reach a town where you can restock on potions and buy the next set of weapons and armor.
The magic system is disappointing because the spells are weak and don’t do enough damage considering how much MP they consume. There are only two status effects that you have access to: paralysis and poison, neither of which have any real impact. So, ultimately, combat consists of mashing the attack button until your health runs low and you have to use a potion. As long as you have enough money, you can buy enough potions to lather, rinse, and repeat this strategy.
Turn-Based Button Mashing
The weapons and armor upgrades you buy don’t have any effects other than slightly increasing your attack or defense. When you reach the next town, you have to buy them all over again to keep up with the next batch of powerful enemies. Buying a new sword in Fateful Lore feels like necessary busy work, and not at all like an accomplishment or an exciting but risky splurge of resources. Theoretically, you could opt not to buy new weapons and armor, but the only other thing you can spend gold on is potions, and you’ll always have enough money for both. In this way, Fateful Lore offers neither decision-making opportunities nor a sense of urgency. The most obvious and simple course of action is the only one.
Fateful Lore offers some moments of satisfaction, but overall it’s a pretty bland game. The entertaining silliness from enemies redeems it slightly, but the sheer repetition of uninteresting battles means it gets old fast. Don’t expect to dive into an immersive story where high-stake decision making is a must. However, if all you look for in an RPG is the endless grinding of levels to overpower a goofy cadre of enemies with brute force, then Fateful Lore might be for you.
Is it Hardcore?
Fateful Lore hits all the classic notes of a retro JRPG. It just doesn’t do too much else.