Seeing as our site is called Gay Gamer, and my nickname on said site happens to be NaviFairy, I don't see any way how I could not review Faery: Legends of Avalon. You would be forgiven for never hearing of Faery before, as an RPG released on Xbox Live Arcade with little fanfare or publicity to back it up. Faery probably flew right under radar for most gamers, which is a shame because it's really a charming downloadable quest. Charming, sure, but is it really any good to play? Great even? Read on for the full review.
Right from the start players will choose their leading fairy's gender and can customize their facial features, including eyes, cheekbones, hairstyle, and skin color. I know these are pretty typical features for RPGs these days, but it's rare to see this kind of customization in a downloadable XBLA title. Once your fairy of choice is created, your journey begins in Avalon, land of the fairies. Avalon has been separated from the other mystical worlds, and the fae king Oberon tasks you with restoring the link between each world. And so begins a quest spanning from the world tree Ygdrassil, to the haunted Flying Dutchman, and even to the Arabian Scarabeid as you encounter all manner of fae beings, trolls, fawns, mermaids, dragons, goblins, and djinn. This is truly a fantasy buff's dream in terms of casting, and with darker undertones highlighting the plot it's easy to get swept into Faery's world.
Faery is an RPG of the turn-based variety, while managing to introduce some new elements into the traditional battle system. The biggest shift from tradition is the complete lack of MP for you character's spells. Instead, all attacks, whether magical or physical, are treated more or less the same. To balance this, some enemies can only be damaged effectively by magic or physical attacks, so with both being equally important it makes sense for there to be no restrictions on magic usage. As characters level up they gain multiple action points per turn, with a maximum of three. More powerful attacks, both magical and physical, can use two or three of these action points, or you can choose to perform three basic attacks. Figuring out how to best use your action points each turn adds an extra layer of strategy to the game.
Character customization extends beyond the game's initial character creation. As you level up, you can add new features to your fairy, each accompanied by new abilities and stat bonuses. For example, one of the first customizable options are your wings, which can be in the style of a butterfly, dragonfly, or a bird. Each of those wing styles are associated with an element - lightning, fire, and air respectively - and guide what element your character's magic will be. Later on you can add a tail, horns, antennae, tattoos, and other features to further customize both your appearance and abilities. The character customization is a strong aspect of Faery, and so it's odd that players are only able to customize the main character. All other party characters advance automatically, which feels unnatural when you the game gives players so much control over advancing the main protagonist's abilities.
As much as I loved the fantasy world presented in Faery, there's no sugar-coating it, the story isn't written well. Or perhaps it is well written, and just poorly translated from developer Spiders' native French. There were some lines of dialog that I had to re-read five or more times to figure out exactly what a character was trying to say. Over the years I've grown accustomed to the broken Engrish of poorly translated Japanese RPGs, but occasionally Faery's nonsensical grammar would creep into quest objectives, leaving me unsure where I should go and what I should do there. Through the tired and true RPG method of talking to every character multiple times I managed to get through, but if a game is going to have a menu option dedicated to listing quest objectives, it would be nice if those quest objectives were always clear.
Faery's visual style is mixed with some brilliant scale and disappointing choices. Faery is at its best when flying, soaring through fantasy landscapes and admiring how tiny your fairy is compared to the birds, trees, and flowers of the world. And with the ability to fly anywhere, the comparably large world feels even bigger. However, Faery also has a tendency to throw you into dungeons with enclosed corridors or tunnels. These sections are more difficult to navigate, in part because of the controls being designed for flight, but also because they are often just too dark to see where you're going.
The final piece of Faery is how your choices shape the game's story. The conversation system in Faery takes cues from Mass Effect, though without always designating which response will be perceived positively or negatively by other characters. This encourages more actual role playing, making each conversation feel like it has real weight. However, that weight is mostly an illusion. Though there are often multiple ways to complete an objective, each method gives roughly the same amount of experience points, and has no bearing on the game's story. The few decisions that really matter come from conversations with the game's two male and female romance options. Yes, you can romance your party members in Faery, though disappointingly there are no same-sex romance options. I know, a game about fairies where you can't actually be gay completely boggles my mind too. In fact, one of those romance options is even a different gender depending on if your own fairy is male or female. I guess you could say that Faery too that from Mass Effect 2's playbook as well.
Faery is the very definition of a middle of the road RPG. The mechanics are solid and its world is enchanting, but a number of small annoyances build up to chip away at the spell it casts. It doesn't help that Faery: Legends of Avalon doesn't have a proper ending, with a cliffhanging leading into an apparent sequel. That being said, I enjoyed Faery far more than I didn't, and am now anxiously waiting for the sequel to see how everything wraps up. It's an RPG that should satisfy your appetite in the time between bigger releases, but it's not quite a main course on its own.