Over the years, I have at least toyed with games in different genres, particularly ones which are ostensibly made for the younger set. So, yes, I’ve gone into the tall grasses hunting for Pokemon and I’ve put up with that insufferable prat Tom Nook, even though I’m definitely older than the intended audience. And I’ve had at least a modicum of fun playing those games. When the release announcement for Re:Legend came out, I figured it would be worth a try. I was understandably curious to see if the genre mixing could work as well as advertised. My curiosity has, for better or worse, been satisfied.
Re:Legend puts you in the chibi styled shoes of an unknown adventurer who’s forgotten everything but their own name. Washing up on the beach of a small village, you’re found by one of the local anthropomorphic residents and nursed back to health. Once you’re up and about, you’re given a small farm and expected to help out with different requests while trying to figure out who you are. Surprisingly, you seem to be the only person in town who can tame the local megafauna, known as “Magnus,” though your farm’s barn area is somewhat limited. As you progress, you’ll uncover new areas, new Magnus, new crops to plant, and new quests to work on. Moreover, seasons change, which means new crops need to be planted and old ones are no longer available.
The visual aesthetic in Re:Legend definitely leans towards the chibi as far as character and creature designs in most cases, though the larger Magnus are pretty darned impressive. The UI is pretty minimalist and contextual in a lot of spots, which for this type of game is the right move. However, it does suffer from a lack of mouse friendly actions for getting out of areas like the in-game encyclopedia. There’s plenty of particle effects and mood lighting to help enhance the environmental feel of the various locales you visit, as well as your attacks and those of your pets. It’s quite clear that a good deal of effort went into the eye candy, and that effort was not wasted. You’re not going to be finding outright ripoffs of creatures from Pokemon, though you can see some similarities here and there which could certainly qualify as homages to that series. This is not a bad looking game by any stretch of the imagination. It has a distinct art style and it sticks to it unapologetically.
The audio isn’t terrible in Re:Legend, but it’s also not what you’d call impressive. The music is pretty simple and loops consistently, not anything you’re going to tap your toes to or insist on blasting on your home stereo setup. Creatures have distinctive calls, mostly when they’re hit or when they die, though your pet Magnus also coo and chirp appropriately when you feed them or brush them. Environmental sound effects like waterfalls and the clanks of a pick as you’re mining are nicely done, certainly good enough for what you as a player are doing. There is no voice acting, not even a version of Simlish from NPCs, which is a little disappointing and tends to diminish the impact they have on you.
When it gets down to the nuts and bolts of gameplay, Re:Legend falters pretty badly. Certain individual systems are fairly well done, but the overall gameplay experience is maddening. The farming elements of planting, watering, and harvesting are all pretty easy to pick up. The aquaculture elements, a little less so, particularly when dealing with “pest” fish. Fishing, another easy activity to pick up. The basics of crafting are a simple timing minigame, and thankfully it doesn’t punish you by destroying materials if you flub. Combat is a little more involved, but still not impossible to understand the fundamentals. Taming Magnus, however, requires a degree of effort and keyboard mashing (if you’re not using a gamepad) that borders on the ridiculous. Character control with mouse and keyboard is somewhat awkward, but reported bugs using a gamepad doesn’t seem to suggest a particularly viable alternative. And when you put it all together, well, it doesn’t go nearly as smoothly as you’d hope.
The first major obstacle is time. You have a limited amount of time you can be awake during the day. Time passes at a rate of one minute for each second, which gives you 19 real minutes from the moment you wake up to the moment you pass out from exhaustion. And if you pass out, you wake up in the town clinic the next day and have to pay the nurse to be healed. You are expected to go to sleep in your farm’s bed, which may be quite a distance away depending on circumstances. Now, you can mitigate this by saving the game and quitting, then restarting, which immediately puts you back in your house. But the fact you have to engage in these shenanigans is problematic. Compounding this, with all the potential activities you have to take care of as far as maintaining the farm as well as fulfilling quests, doing jobs at the local guild, or attending town festivals, something is inevitably going to suffer. There’s no mechanism to hire hands for the farm to manage things while you’re off adventuring, which means you can be a gentleman farmer or a hero, but not both. And as a final insult, each “season” is only a month long, which means you’re going to be spending a number of virtual years in the town.
The next major obstacle is levels and level gating. Virtually every activity you perform in Re:Legend has a skill behind it. Every weapon type has a skill. Farming has a skill. Eating has a skill. God help us, even sleeping has a skill behind it! Levels in most of these skills ostensibly help your stamina, which allows you to do things like running, dodging, mining, logging, etc. However, the immediate benefits are not visually obvious, and while some skills are quickly built up, others are not. As you go up in levels, you gain attribute points which you can spend, and each attribute helps certain aspects of your character. In theory, you can go all the way up to level 99, but doing so requires an intolerable amount of grinding. And in the meantime, if you’re not grinding out levels, you’re likely to be getting your head handed to you by a targeted monster because you and your pets are not strong enough to take them on.
This leads into the final deadly sin of Re:Legend. There is an unconscionable lack of information about how all these systems act and interact. Your only way to gain insight on a Magnus is to either try and fail to tame it or beat it to death. In doing so, you learn about how to feed it, you learn what it can do on the farm and what items it will drop when you kill it. What it won’t tell you is what types of attack it’s vulnerable to, what resistances it has, or what the decay rate on its affection will be if you don’t feed it or brush it regularly. This is one area where Pokemon has Re:Legend beat. You’re never left guessing about the relative strengths and weaknesses of your pets. Skill milestones outside of the basic buff don’t tell you what’s going to come up next, such as when you’ll get a new combo or when you might be able to craft certain weapons and armor. Quest management is completely shambolic, telling you what you need to do, but not giving you a whole lot of insight on how to get it done and only giving you specific locations about half the time. And when dealing with boss monsters, you have no way to gain insight on what may or may not be working against them. You basically have to roll the dice and hope.
In the quest to make a successful fusion of Pokemon and Animal Crossing, Magnus Game Studio seems to have drawn too many wrong conclusions. The artistic qualities of Re:Legend are indisputably good, but the mechanical elements seem to be at cross-purposes to each other in one way or another. What’s really irritating is that, if you’re willing to forego one or more of those elements, Re:Legend can be fun. If you want to be a monster rancher, it’s interesting. If you want to be a questing hero, it’s a nice enough little romp. If you want to be the best darned farmer on your island, you can have a blast. The failing is that you can’t do all of these things at the same time, and it’s a crying shame the balance couldn’t be better struck.
Axel played Re:Legend on PC with a review code. Re:Legend is also available on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.