PLATFORM: 360 (Xbox Live Marketplace) 
PRICE: 1200 MS Points

Set in the world of Fairies (er, “Faeries”), trolls, goblins, giant wasps, and the rest, Faery: Legends of Avalon tries to fill the RPG void in the XBL marketplace with an open-world, turn-based fantasy game. Level up your custom character, battle against evil critters, and travel between different worlds with your companions as you unravel the mystery of Avalon’s dying magic.

The Pitch 

You have reached a level 2!
                                    -Text popup that displays upon reaching level 2


The Play

Hey look, it’s a reasonably priced, substantially lengthy RPG on the Xbox Live Marketplace. What is this new devilry?

This new devilry is, unfortunately, a lot like a bunch of old devilry. Faery: Legends of Avalon might have been a nice diversion on the original Xbox, but as it stands, it’s a bland, sterile mashup of dated role-playing mechanics and repetitive fetch quests that will glaze the eyes of anyone older than ten, and likely bore the young ones, too. It’s a shame, because Faery offers a colorful palette of worlds that would have been more fun to explore with better writing and a sharper focus.

Faery starts up with a robust character creation screen, allowing players to custom create their own avatar. All my custom creations ended up looking like crosses between a chimpanzee and Zelda from Pet Semetary, so they went straight into the incinerator and I chose a preset. After that, it’s off to the races as you begin investigating Avalon’s rocky hub world (pictured above), interrogating villagers and fighting monsters as you fly around the island. You’re not confined to paths, or even the ground – Faery lets players soar across the island at will. This sounds like more fun than it is. Faery’s characters fly a lot like Julian Sands’ Warlock – stiff, and while standing up. It’s like playing a game in debug mode.

You’ll talk to villagers and solve their problems, but these problems are never interesting and typically involve you picking up a magic item from somewhere else and carting it back. Bioware’s dialogue wheel makes an appearance, but it’s apparently all for show, as good or evil actions don’t drive the story one way or another (although they do sway companion influence). Combat is a dated clone of FFVII’s Active Time Bar system, and wears out its welcome after the first twenty minutes. There’s a very simple level-up system that lets you craft various upgrades to your character with earned skill points, although your party members will all auto-level.

It does borrow a lot from various other (better) sources, but it’s clear that French developer Spiders spent a lot of effort refining Faery’s art design. While the environments lack detail, there’s the occasional spark of originality in the bestiary amongst the staple giant bees and killer crabs, and the multiple worlds are distinct and playfully composed. The writing, including the poorly written dialogue that was obviously never screened by a native English speaker, is an embarrassment. At one point, the tutorial asked me if I’d “like to learn more about combats.” Yes, the combats. I would like to know more about those. The game also congratulated me on reaching “a level 2″, which was very kind, if a bit formal.

Welcome to the combats

Here’s a good summary of Faery’s problems: there’s a tree world that has your Faery hero talking to villagers and fighting off giant wasps in an attempt to save the level’s giant tree from dying. The maps are all 2D and don’t tell you about locations until after you discover them, so you’ll spend most of this level clipping through ugly, poorly rendered branches looking for resolutions to whichever fetch quest you’re currently working on. Your tenth random wasp encounter will test your patience, especially since you can’t flee from battle. Here’s the thing: an RPG needs at least one pull – a clever combat mechanic, a compelling story, snappy dialogue – to keep the player grinding. The best ones have multiple pulls, but so long as there’s a single good one, there’s a reason to keep playing. Faery doesn’t have one.

If you’re able to find a reason to keep playing, you’ll be rewarded with ten hours of content, which is admittedly strong for a marketplace title. You’ll also hear one of the best scores composed outside of a triple-A game, which was a genuine surprise given Faery’s relative quality.

The tree level is just one huge, annoying orgy of branches.

The Replay

It’s a turn-based RPG, so no, there isn’t any replay here unless you want to slog through all over again. Did I mention it’s 10 hours long?

The Verdict

While it’s nice to see a full-fledged RPG on the XBL Marketplace, Faery leaves a lot to be desired. Youngsters who are new to RPGs may find Faery a worthwhile stepping stone to more interesting games down the road. Others may find this game’s borrowed mechanics, clumsy writing, and shoddy combats very low on charm.

4 out of 10