Platforms: Win, Mac, Linux
It’s been a really really long time since I’ve played an old school party based RPG, so long in fact, I’m struggling to find any other titles to compare it with. Combat, although turn based, lacks the more strategic aspects of a grid style tactical combat. It has a distinctly classic feel, without any of the attendant issues of actually playing an older game. Considering the campaign is estimated to run more than 60 hours, I’ve seen only a tiny bit of the world, but what I’ve encountered is polished and easy to understand, while still maintaining a more than adequate challenge.
There are three difficulty settings, and while choosing a difficulty, you’re explicitly told that there’s no going back here – difficulty is not adjustable once chosen. I went with normal – which is as easy as it gets, by the way – and have gone out of my way to avoid most encounters that are more difficult than advanced. I want to take some time to figure out what I’m doing before I suicide my party. Speaking of which, you do have the option to allow the game to choose your party for you, but since I can never resist tweaking things, I felt the need to build a party myself.
The main character, Gualen, is uneditable, and cannot be removed from the party. The other five party slots you can fill as you please, even duplicating classes if you like. I wanted something balanced with a fairly strong front line, so I selected a bard with a short bow, and a divine summoner who can attack from the back. Had I given my cleric a different starting weapon, he would also have been on the backline, but I chose to start him with a mace; this has proven a bit problematic given his low base health. I rounded out the party with a barbarian and a paladin, meaning there were four classes I didn’t use, and still had no duplications. With each character you create, you can also choose which god they worship, granting a bonus.
If you’re looking for a game that holds your hand, this isn’t it. Don’t expect to find exclamation points over the heads of quest givers. I wandered around for quite awhile without anything in my quest journal – you get off the boat, and it’s up to you to find your own way. To be honest, it feels a little weird considering the game is not an open world affair; areas are tied to story content, and must be explored in the order the plot dictates.
In a game this size, an hour is next to nothing, really, but I have yet to find anything not to like. All the critical information you need is available, even if you do frequently have to hunt for it. Mousing over enemies will let you see their difficulty and combat radiance, allowing you to sometimes avoid a fight you’re unprepared for. Healing is done via a rest mechanic, and to assure you don’t abuse that mechanic, you have to make sure to always have food stores with you. If you plan to be out after dark, make sure you’re carrying torches. I appreciated these small additions, although CRPG purists may not.
Combat is initiative based, and party placement is important, however, movement isn’t part of the equation here. You can change party members position in combat, but it costs the turn of the party member doing the switching (the member switched with will still have their turn at the normal time). It’s not a combat style I’m all that familiar with, and I definitely made some errors that resulted in (temporarily) losing party members to some fairly easy early encounters. Thankfully, downed party members aren’t gone forever – they’re returned to full health with 24 hours of rest. However, due to the gold cost of keeping your food stores full, you still want to avoid the death of party members as much as possible.
Lastly, there is a collection and crafting mechanic, in which you can craft permanent buffs for party members after gathering enough of the required herb, so it’s worth stopping when you can to pick the flowers. In all honesty, this delighted me more than it should have, and since this ability is tied to the main character, I was glad I had been unable to drop him from the party at the outset.
I managed to pick up Lords of Xulima on the last summer sale for a measly $6, and I’m blown away by it. I would have been happy with the purchase at full price, to be honest. However, given the lack of a demo, and the strange hybridization of RPG sub-genres, I felt safer waiting for a sale. If you like party based RPGs, and think you’ll enjoy the somewhat unconventional combat, Lords of Xulima should probably be a must buy. However, if the combat sounds uninteresting, you’ll probably be better off giving it a pass, seeing as the game is exceptionally combat heavy.