When you're a PC enthusiast, it can be frustrating to wait expectantly for a game console players have already enjoyed. There is a worse scenario, however: finally receiving a game that's as boring as it was on other platforms. Faery: Legends of Avalon, first released last year on Xbox Live and later on the PlayStation Network, is a dreadfully dull role-playing game that treats you more like an errand boy than a hero. As a fairy recently awakened from stasis, you flit about four different environments doing favors for random inhabitants that you care nothing about, sometimes stopping for a bit of turn-based combat that would have been considered primitive two decades ago. Faery makes a few efforts to rise above the tedium, providing a certain amount of flexibility in how you level up and giving quests an element of choice. There's also some initial pleasure in flying around the game's colorful world. But in spite of its visual vibrancy and sparkling music, Faery is a joyless series of odd jobs and banal battles without any semblance of a good story to give them proper context.
Legends of Avalon at least tries to brighten its tedium with some twinkling production values. It isn't beautiful, exactly, but the world is vivid. Characters and environmental features alike are cel-shaded, which highlights the bold colors of a looming tower and the severe facial features of a huge tree's aging inhabitants. As a winged fairy, you flutter around four different environments, starting with the island that functions as a hub world. The way in which some of these worlds are put together does exude a certain cleverness. A desert world is actually a giant scarab crossing the sand. A ghost ship floats in murky waters inhabited by vain, haughty mermaids. Quaint huts are tucked into the branches of the giant tree Yggdrasil. The accompanying music is boilerplate fantasy, but flute glissandos and celesta chords give it an enchanting air, as if a pageant of pixies may prance through at any moment.
Despite the game's attractive look, its utter lack of originality is soon wholly apparent. This is in part by design: the areas and characters are pulled directly from famous legends and stories. The Flying Dutchman, Arabian Nights, and Norse mythology are all pasted onto this world without so much as an ironic wink or a bit of sly charm. Many characters, such as a poetic troll and the squat residents of a pseudo-Arabian village, have a unique look to them. But for the most part, Legends of Avalon has no clear identity. There is not a word of voice acting that brings the dialogue to life, and while there are attempts to give characters a bit of flair (phonetic spelling meant to indicate a Cockney accent, for example), almost every line falls flat. Your own character, for example, can sometimes respond to characters with a generic "nice" or "mean" comment using a dialogue wheel ripped right out of Mass Effect. Most often, your reply is either totally saccharine or utterly cruel and delivered in a short sentence that grants no insight into your own persona--or anyone else's. Furthermore, grammar errors and misspellings present in the console versions weren't corrected, making it even harder to take this story seriously. In fact, this version of Faery hasn't made any notable fixes and improvements, and the sluggish mouselook makes using an Xbox 360 controller a more comfortable option than a mouse and keyboard.
Without good narrative context, Faery: Legends of Avalon quickly turns into one meaningless fetch quest after another. You make your way through its small worlds doing odd jobs like collecting water jugs, searching for a hairbrush, and locating an eccentric artist. At best, this simply means traveling from one location to the next and pressing a button. At worst, it means aimlessly flapping around until you happen on the proper trigger. This is frustrating in the interior of the dark ghost ship, which is poorly lit and cluttered with objects that make it difficult to find your way around and see the telltale sparkle that indicates an interactive object. Poor signposting and unclear dialogue make finding a key figure nestled in the dense branches of Yggdrasil an absolute chore. At least these quests come with a reward: experience points. Leveling up allows you to choose spells and skills, as well as improve ones you have already chosen. You can focus on certain elemental skills, such as air or fire; choose defensive spells, like heals; and put skill points in passive abilities, such as a boost to your hit point total. The equipment you find in treasure chests and earn as quest rewards further augments the effectiveness of your chosen abilities.
The game occasionally gives you choices on how to proceed, which usually means either finding a peaceful solution or doing battle, though neither option is that enjoyable. Peaceful solutions entail more random gofer work, while violent ones involve participating in Legends of Avalon's ridiculously easy turn-based battles. As you roam the lands, you happen upon potential team members, all of whom have different attacks and spells to choose from in combat. Battles are so easy that it's almost impossible to lose, but should you somehow find yourself struggling, you'll have more health potions than you could ever possibly need. You can position your three party members in the front or back, but you needn't give this option a second thought: just pelt your enemies with different attacks and spells from the front line until they fall over dead. Some enemies are more resistant to certain attacks than others, but there is no mana bar to manage, and there are precious few buffs and debuffs with which to concern yourself. It's all disappointingly threadbare.
After five or six hours, Faery: Legends of Avalon presents another all-black or all-white decision that makes no difference one way or another, because the game immediately ends the moment you make it. That sounds frustrating, but it's actually an appropriate conclusion to a game that ushers you from one insignificant decision to the next. Choice is good, but it rings hollow when you have no investment in the potential consequences. Thus, Legends of Avalon amounts to a bunch of bland missions separated by elementary turn-based battles that inspire only a few faint yawns. Pass on this particular fairy tale and you'll exponentially improve your odds of living happily ever after.