Sword Legacy: Omen stands as proof that you need more than great ideas to make a great game. Developers Firecast Studio and Fableware Narrative Design have created a good game here, with an interesting premise and clever mechanical twists, but it is buried under poor execution both thematically and technically.
Sword Legacy: Omen’s story is compelling on the surface: Uther, the father of the legendary Arthur Pendragon, seeks to unite the broken country when the castle he resides in is sacked and his Lord, Leof of Mercia, is killed. He sets out on this quest with another major figure of Arthurian myth, Merlin, as well as original characters presented by the game. Unfortunately, the execution left much to be desired: Uther does seek to unite the various forces in the country to combat the man who killed his Lord, the Duke of Wessex. His task is not portrayed as either a noble quest or a grim tale of revenge, instead Uther’s motivation is found in rescuing the Damsel in Distress, his Lord’s daughter, Igraine, who was kidnapped in the attack. This spoils what might have been an interesting premise by turning it to the same old story we’ve all seen a thousand times. Nor is the story helped by the fact that the characters are bland. Uther is annoyingly short-tempered, Merlin can’t seem to decide if he wants to be a wise riddle-speaking sage or a cranky fourth-wall-breaking snark, and the rest of the party are stock fantasy characters that are weighed down by personality flaws that, rather than give them depth, only succeed in making them unlikable.
The presentation of the story also weighs down the quality of the game. A problem I encountered across the board is that the interface has lots of little delays for no apparent reason. The game seemingly does not want you to advance, delaying your ability to move to the next text box in a dialogue for a few seconds, and delaying when you can click on objects in the environment after you perform an action. This rears its head the most in the exact worst spot; In major story cutscenes, where you should be most invested, you are not allowed to manually move the dialogue forward at all, which means text bubbles six words long will remain on screen for 10 to 15 seconds, immediately breaking any immersion. I read the dialogue, and then wait for the game to continue the scene for what feels like an eternity, repeating this every time I get a little more dialogue until the scene ends and I can go back to trying to play the game at a decent pace.
On the audio-visual side, Sword Legacy: Omen performs better, but not without hiccups. The art style has a storybook aesthetic shared by a cousin in the genre, The Banner Saga, which always allows for beautiful presentation. Aurally, the game has decent, genre-appropriate music for battle and menus. The occasional bits of voice acting, as Merlin narrates the transition to every new chapter, are adequate. The problem arises in the rest of the dialogue scenes, especially the conversations that occur as you travel between cities. There is no voice acting for these, which would not be an issue, but there is also no music. The game opts instead for background noise matching the scene, which works when the characters are in a busy tavern but does not when the characters are in the middle of a seemingly-silent forest. This lack of sound could go unnoticed if the player was engaged in the dialogue, but again, the game introduces lots of small delays that break the flow and cause my attention to go elsewhere, making the lack of any real sound extremely notable.
The gameplay resembles the story, interesting ideas marred by poor execution, the controls being the only exception. They’re standard for the genre, WASD camera navigation and a hotbar for abilities. For every interesting idea, there is a strange hiccup. The characters do not heal between battles, making health management much more important. Oddly, the healer character can only heal during battle for seemingly no reason. Sword Legacy: Omen places heavy focus on facing, with 8-directional orientation that can be changed separate of movement. The 2-dimensional storybook art style makes it difficult to determine which of eight directions the enemy faces. This can turn what should have been a back attack to instead come from one tile off, and there is no way to tell where the exact position is, except to move and hope because movement cannot be undone. Outside of combat, the art style also makes it difficult to discern what is and is not interactable in the environment. No visual cue will appear unless you’re very close to the object, which makes interactive elements easy to miss. The progression system, where experience points are distributed to the group as a whole, allows the player to swap party members more freely to try new strategies. This unique concept is made to feel mostly wasted by an extremely linear path that makes experimentation, and any additional playthroughs, feel like a chore instead of a joy.
Sword Legacy: Omen is littered with shortcomings across all aspects of the game, and seems to go out of its way to prevent you from becoming immersed. Unless you’re in desperate need of a new Turn-Based Tactics RPG, having played every other major game in the genre, and are prepared for a frustrating experience, I would recommend picking up any of the other great titles in the genre before picking up Sword Legacy: Omen.