Checks Out Lords of Xulima

I had the pleasure of being offered a copy of the Lords of Xulima beta a week or two ago–and so, of course, I took it upon myself to give it a go, recording video all the way. The results:

So, what’d I think?

My first impression was almost entirely positive. The game’s art style is lovely, its musical score is great, and it just comes across as very polished in almost every respect. The mixture of Baldur’s Gate-like isometric exploration and Might and Magic-y first person combat works much better than I expected, making for a legitimately compelling experience. I particularly enjoyed the game’s tendency to scatter hidden goodies all over the world map, rewarding careful exploration.

Lords of Xulima has a well-designed lock-picking mini game, as well as a trap disarming mini game that is somewhat less interesting (but still pretty neat). It also features a food system to limit the amount of resting you can economically perform between fights, and (this is especially clever) terrain effects on the amount of food you consume while moving around.

Enemies on the world map never ever move, which is a bit strange, though I didn’t especially mind it. The only time this ever seems to become an issue is when it constricts the game’s level design in order to force you into certain combats. (More about that later.)

From that initial playthrough, my only real complaint about the beta version of Lords of Xulima was the difficulty of the game’s battles. They seemed pitched about right at first, but quickly became much too difficult for so early in the game. I was apparently not alone in this impression, so much so that the developers recently renamed the game’s easiest difficulty to “Normal” to encourage players to select it. (I was playing on the medium-level “Hardcore Veteran” difficulty, spurred on by in-game text which labeled it the difficulty the developers intended the game to be played on.)

With all respect to the developers, Hardcore Veteran is definitely not the difficulty to play this game on. I restarted Lords of Xulima on Normal after recording the video, just to see how different it was. Normal is perhaps a little bit too easy for my tastes in its “balanced” battles, but since you’re forced into dangerously unbalanced battles so often, this compromise becomes more than worthwhile. All in all, Normal is far more enjoyable. Your money goes farther, leveling up occurs more frequently, and most importantly, your characters will not be getting one-hit-killed by the game’s low-level enemies. What promised to be a brutal grind enabled by constant save-scumming instead became a delightful experience.

Beyond the difficulty issues, my only real criticism of the Lords of Xulima beta would have to be that despite its Baldur’s Gate-like appearance, it can be deceptively linear, with numerous areas gated behind special keys and barriers. I found myself wanting to explore the world Eschalon-style, but found that once I’d exhausted the initial region, the game became fairly linear. Perhaps it will open up again later, after its first few hours.

In short: on the basis of its strengths, I would strongly recommend Lords of Xulima to most wRPG fans without reservation–and in the same breath, recommend that they play on Normal difficulty. The game has been available in beta for about a month, though its price has dropped dramatically in that time span. You can now buy into the beta for $16.99 via the Humble Store or via Steam.

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  • Rya.Reisender says:

    My main concern is the difficulty as well. The developer didn’t really make a secret out of that they like their games difficult.

    It’s good to hear that the easiest difficulty is quite playable, though. I’ll most surely use that one!

    I think I’ll get this game once it’s released. I like many of the design choices the developer talked about in his blog.

  • BarryB says:

    Sounds like they’ve got some balance issues, if difficulty ramps up so quickly. That was one of the things the Might & Magic series did so well (at least, until Van Caneghem sold out to the Dark Side of the Force): create a illusory go anywhere playing field in which difficulty increased gradually, and you could always go back to grind a bit, getting more gold and goodies to toughen up before moving on.

    Damn fine looking game: sort of a modern graphical version of some aspects of M&M II. Will be interesting to see the reviews when it hits.

  • BarryB says:

    Had a chance to watch a friend play. She complained rapidly about the narrow bottlenecks that prevent you from advancing “all over the place” until you do a great deal of grinding which has to be done with invisible wandering monsters once areas are cleared. Also, the small number of spells (which apparently are compensated for by buying extra levels), and the very few quests available at any time.

    Despite its looks, I can’t see myself buying this one. It sounds kind of cheerless.

  • Jan says:

    For me this is the best RPG game in a very long time. So much more fun than DoS, Wasteland 2 and Shadow Returns for example. The difficult is just right and if you love a good challenge like me you should give the game a try.

    I especially enjoy leveling up and clearing the areas like described in the comment above. For me it’s not about grinding because every fight is a strategical challenge which is fun to play.

    Lords of Xulima is beautifully, has a tight and exciting gameplay, interesting puzzles and a wonderful interface with a well thought keyboard input.

    If you like Wizardry, Might and Magic, Lufia or Dragon Quest this game is made for you.


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