Lords of Xulima is a great homage to the classic isometric RPGs of old. In many ways, the clunky, non intuitive, and downright challenging aspects of those games are featured in Lords of Xulima, and in other ways Lords of Xulima brings in some modern conveniences (in a good way) that should make the game much more friendly to those inexperienced in this sort of RPG.
With that said, there is a caveat. Lords of Xulima is probably not for everyone. The difficulty will be a huge turnoff for some people (even on the easiest setting), as will the sheer amount of learning and familiarity you need to have with the various systems and UI of the game to be good at it. That learning curve and the amount of necessary time to become somewhat competent will be a bit of an annoyance for a lot of people. However, I encourage you all to give this game a chance. It is a great window into some classic RPG games and is just a great game in its own right.
That brings up a conundrum in how to approach this review: from the standpoint of those who already like classic RPGs or from those that are unfamiliar with them. I will try my best to service both, but regardless I think this is a great game everyone can enjoy .
A mechanic that exemplifies this dilemma is food. Throughout the game you always have to make sure that you have a good amount of food stored for your travels. Sometimes you will go a good while without the ability to get some food so you better make sure you have enough to get where you’re going. There are a lot of mechanics that tie into time as well. For example, if a character is fatally wounded they need to spend 24 hours in an inn somewhere (if you don’t have a spell, potion, etc. that can cure them). And just the fact that walking around will slowly deplete your food, faster or slower depending on the terrain.
That type of “hardcore” mechanic can divide people and exemplifies many other mechanics in Lords of Xulima. Some may find it a chore to constantly have to search/purchase food and be wary of it. Others may find it a neat mechanic that keeps you engaged. For me, I think it is a mechanic that keeps you thinking and constantly in a state of mind to keep your party in good shape. It creates its own economy that you have to be aware of, making time/travel a commodity in many ways, rather than a straight tax on time because of its implementation with other mechanics.
Another daunting system to some will be the character customization. Lords of Xulima eases you into it when you first create a character, choosing from nine classes and nine different deities (different stat increases). But, the real customization in the game comes from the different skills and abilities you can acquire and purchase. Again, annoying to some, there doesn’t seem to be any way to respec (clear your skills and choose new ones). However, the ability to purchase skills helps to alleviate that problem, so if there is something you wish to have all you have to do is work toward it, nothing is restricted.
There are a lot of different skills to choose from too, some which are useful and some that don’t seem too useful (at least not what I found, but that could be my own ineptitude). Lords of Xulima may take some advice in the less is more department, but the vast majority of skills will have a use – especially when used in tandem with another.
Combat in Lords of Xulima is going to take a huge chunk of time. Some battles will take forever to go through and, at least to me, in an annoying way. Way too much of the game relies on RNG (chance, basically). It is difficult sometimes to develop a strategy to a certain encounter to only have it fall on its face time and again because a certain party member kept missing. In some ways Lords of Xulima seems to stack the RNG against you, at least to me is annoying.
Relying on RNG to a large extent is lazy game design. It can have its fun uses here and there, but in this case it forms an artificial difficulty in that it ensures that things will be messed up almost 1/3rd of the time (that may be a little exaggerated, but it is close to that).
It puts you in difficult situations that you have literally no control over (difficult situations not created by the developer either). It would not be nearly as bad if there was a more reliable way to recover from a bad string of RNG, but there isn’t. You could just go a whole battle getting screwed over by chance, which can get aggravating quickly.
With that said, the combat can actually be pretty fun, as long as that RNG does not play too big of a role. RNG makes it all the more difficult because there is a reasonable amount of strategy in the combat when you get more into the game. Having to move characters around your combat screen, when to use certain abilities, paying attention to the rotation of turns, and reacting to poor (or good) RNG make for a lot to consider on every turn and RNG makes it hard to assess a situation.
The story sets up an epic adventure. The main character, Gaulen, has been sent by one of the Gods of old to help end the conflicts between men. There is a pretty cool backstory and mythology to the game if you pay attention. However, the overall story is not so memorable as to cause too much excitement or to make many people return to the game. Lords of Xulima is not something that I will likely replay just to experience again, but the game has so much content I don’t think that is a worry.
The better parts of the writing come in the side stories and things that you interact with. Every place you wander to has something going on with it, some of which are more interesting than others. Those are where most will find enjoyment in the writing and storytelling. The epicness of the main story sets itself up for failure in a way as it sets high expectations, leaving the meat of interaction to small chunks as you explore.
Luckily, some Lords of Xulima’s biggest problems only come in minor presentations. The artwork is wonderful for the most part. The environments are very aesthetically pleasing as are the backgrounds in various combat areas. However, much of the 3D modelling leaves much to be desired. There are some that look pretty okay, but many that don’t look that great at all. Some NPCs in the game look quite nice, but that just may be because they are so tiny.
The voice acting is probably the worst part about Lords of Xulima, and it is not so terrible, but it definitely is not great. Again, some is alright, but most of it is just below average. Luckily, there is not so much of it that it becomes to much of an annoyance.
This was all general, as there is just way too much in Lords of Xulima to go into the specifics. For example, you have to go and liberate temples for the main quest, of which there are 8 and that took me over 10 hours to save even one. Lords of Xulima has a massive amount of content that will take too many hours to even guess to complete entirely, let alone just doing what is necessary to complete the main quest.
It is a great game to get lost with and makes me excited to see what Numantiam Games can do in the future, as this is a great title to debut with. You can get Lords of Xulima on Steam right here.
Numantium Games provided TechRaptor with a review copy.
Lords of Xulima is a great homage to classic RPGs which will satisfy fans of the genre and is accessible enough to newcomers.