Currently playing: 7 mages, Drive to Moscow, Ravenloft: Stone Prophet

January 1, 2015

Lords of Xulima - Review

Lords of Xulima is an isometric old school inspired RPG from the spanish developers Numantian Games. I had never heard of the game a month ago when I read about it by chance on CRPG Addicts blog. After some research into the game by reading reviews, checking out gameplay etc I decided to buy it. This game turned out to be a rare game and after 30 hours into it I feel I can give you a pretty clear opinion of it.

The game plays out in a beautiful 2D-isometric perspective where your party is represented by the explorer Gaulen, the main character in the story and the only one with the fixed starting class of explorer. At first glance the game resembles the earlier Heroes of Might & Magic and King´s Bounty where you freely could wander around until certain mainpaths is blocked by monsters. The combat reminds me of Might and Magic X.

The game relies on its own gameworld of history, fauna, bestiary and lore as well as its own implementation of character classes and skills. You are Gaulen, an explorer and you have been chosen by the god Golot to be sent across the world to a the continent Xulima where evil and trouble has taken over. Four princes, all heirs to their good father has turned evil and all temples has been taken over and terrible things are said to be happening there. It is up to you to find out what has happened and why and find a way to relieve the land from this evil. 

Tha mandatory character is the explorer Gaulen and you have to add five more classes to build up a party of six persons to take on the adventure that awaits you. You will not be able to roll or adjust attributes but you are free to select a deity which will boost you in some way or another. Each class has its preselected skills and starting equipment.


The barbarian, my mainfighter

Exploring in the woods

When the game is starting you are standing on the beach just outside the first village. There is a short tutorial that will teach you how to move, fight and gather herbs. After that you are on you own and you will soon find out that this game relies on longtime planning and careful use of your limited gold.

The game is said to be non-linear and that you can go anywhere you like. Well, that is really not the case since all important ways are blocked by encounters far too dangerous for your little party to handle for a long time. This means you have a few different routes to take at a time, slowly leading you to where the game expects you to be led. In really non-linear games like Morrowind you can go wherever you want geographically without having to fight your way through. In the beginning you are so weak so you are very limited in where you could go which means the game is pretty linear but gradually you are given more and more options as your party levels up. But even at level 20 I am still restricted to take one map at a time (the huge gameworlds consists of interconnected gaming maps).
The freedom you have it to choose in what order you will be able to tackle the obstacles the map has.
Should you enter this tower or castle now or should you first clear out the forest ? What might these mighty beasts guard on the trail ahead of me ? And so on...

This is a clear example of Ogres blocking my path. I have no way to bypass them.
So either I feel strong enough or have to wait until I become stronger.
The estimated difficulty of the combat is shown as Troublesome.
There are a few unique touches implemented in this game which I like. Take combat for example.
There are several types of damage you could deal or be dealt like burning, poisoning, bleeding, stunning, sleeping or get silenced. Each of them is unique in that every monster has their own special resistances and different weapons give different types of secondary damage. Swords for example inflicts bleeding which injures the enemy over time so that they loose hitpoints each turn. Maces inflicts stunning that make opponents dizzy and loose a couple of seconds which delays his attack.

Of course certain monsters are also immune to different types of effects caused by weapons. Swords that inflict bleeding are of no help against treemonsters for example. They can´t be bled but they can be poisoned or burned. To counter this I have at least one character specialising in each weapon type.

This system is of course not unique but it is implemented very well and it shows that the developers have studied many systems before designing their own.

Another thing I like greatly is that the effects of combat stays only while at combat. As soon as the combat is over any remaining poisioning, bleeding, stunning or whatever is removed. The only thing that remains after combat are sickness or curses. This means you won´t survive a combat and then die by the result of it a few minutes later. The same goes for food. If you run out of food, that only means you have no means of resting and are heavily penalised in combat, not that you begin to starve and loose hitpoints.

Food

Food is the key in this game. You need food all the time and it gets gradually more expensive the more days of food you buy and the more experienced your group is. I normally buy 3 days of food. I find that cost to be the perfect balance between cost and the range it allows me to travel before having to get back to town to restock. Food is constantly depleted when you are moving around. Some terrains requires more food than others and could be handled better by improving certain skills.

If you invest skillpoints in hunting you could get some hours worth of food
after certain combats or manage to find food in nature.

The only way to restore hitpoints or mana (except for using healing/mana potions) is to rest. Resting 8 hours heals you completely and restores any light wounds. Resting 24 hours revives any dead and restore fatal wounds. Wounds affects your combat capabilities very negatively.

In the first five levels or so my group was constantly hunting for food and almost all money was spent on food. Then gradually I got more money and it allowed me to start buying better equipment. Now at level 20+ food is expensive but don´t seriosly threat my economy anymore. I have let my explorer Gaulen to specialise in the skill hunting which gives me some food after fighting animals and allows me to find more food in the wilderness.

Items and Equipment

Each village has one shop that replenishes itself after a few days. This is very good since there is a reason to look through if there are any new interesting items to buy. I find the prices in the game to be relatively cheap. It was only during my first five levels or so I had trouble buying what I wanted. After level 10 I always had enough money to buy what I wanted. That requires that you save gold though and not spend everything on food or buying skillpoints from trainers. The only problem is that the shop never holds any highlevel items that are extremely expensive. So even if you have a lot of gold you could not buy exceptionally good items.  Also most of the unidentified things you find when you are out adventuring is not better than what you could buy in the shop. These two things are my only complaints. Other than that I think the system works very well.  

You could compare equppeditems with shop items easily

Random encounters

I also really like the way random encounters are handled in this game. Each map is filled with fixed encounters and random ones. The random ones seems to trigger after a certain amount of time (time only moves when you are moving). You always get the chance to try to disengage from a random encounter but if you fail you will be ambushed. The explorer class has a certain skill called camouflage which allows him to use his few powerpoints (like mana) to automatically succeed in avoiding combat. That is a powerful skill since it always allows you to avoid at least one encounter if you have power points enough and could give you time to get back to safety. I have never found myself in a situation in where I cannot return back to safety (or rather, you could always reload if you fail to flee an encounter). 

Opponents have two ranks just as yourself and the farther rank must use ranged weapons or spells

While this might seem to make the game easy that is really not the case. You can never escape an ongoing combat for example. Each map has a fixed set of random encounters. When you have killed them all you receive a bonus in XP and will not be bothered by them anymore. This system is very well implemented. Each encounter is random from a fixed set of encounters.

I remember the torture and terrible frequency of random encounters in Dragon Wars, Bard´s Tale III or Curse of the Azure Bonds. It is not fun to grind forever and with no way of returning back to safety. Here you can do that by using the camouflage skill, try to avoid the encounter and if all that fails and you are trapped somewhere, you might have bought some teleporter stones back to your starting village (I don´t know if you can use them in combat though).


The trees are taking burning damage every round


There are much to like about this game. Other seemingly small but not unimportant things are a great user interface, good font and message handling. With message handling I mean the small area in the upper right of the screen that displays XP earned, any level up increases, items found etc. I like to watch this part of the screen every time after a combat to see if any one of my party is eligible to level up.

The graphics are well drawn in 2D and very colorful without being cartoonish (something I hate). Monsters in combat are very well made with their own voices or natural sounds. There is always beautiful music played in the background but it never takes over and it never really catches on. The leadtime is well done but never makes an impact like in Legend of Grimrock II or Might & Magic X.

Despite having played for over 30 hours the gameplay is still very enjoyable. The huge world is divided into maps filled with villages, caves, towers, castles, huts and whatever you could wish for. You will travel through huge forests, snowy landscapes, deserts, beaches and all kind of terrain you could think of.


You must use torches or magical lights in the dark

Typical dialogue with the trainer in my second village

I haven´t found any technical bugs in the game. Loading times is great and everything works smooth and quick.

As in all RPGs, combat and completed missions gives you experience points. Every class has its own level requirements but as soon as you are ready to level up you can click on the character and select the upgrade icon anytime. While in the levelup process you are given two points to spend on attribute upgrades like strength, constitution, speed, agility and energy and a certain amount of skillpoints depending on your choosen class. You will also be given a few hitponts and powerpoints depending on your class. You may only increase your skills one step at each level upgrade. Any unspent skill points there will be saved to your next level advance.

At certain levelthresholds you will be given new skills to choose from so there is always something to look forward to. You even get hints at the previous level which new skill will be available in the next. A perfect system and very well implemented.

At some points in the game you must solve puzzles

Indoor environments are filled with hidden doors, traps and buttons.

I don´t wan´t to know in advance all skills or spells that will be available for my class progression so for me a level upgrade is very exciting. Your skill points will never be enough to let you learn all new skills or improve all existing ones. Far from it. You have to carefully take your picks and not spread them out. As in all true CRPGS, specialization is a must to survive. I love those compromises that has to be done all the time. That also mean that if you are not used to this you might find yourself stuck after having played for several hours due to bad character planning and specialisation. This is not an easy game (at least not on veteran mode which this game is meant to be played on).

Gold is so far a scarce commodity even at level 15. Sure, I have enough gold for food but that´s about it. Most of my gold has gone to pay trainers for giving me one skill point extra for every party member. The price is gradually increasing for every new training you ask for which means you have to get more and more gold in total if you are to use trainers. Another way to get skill points is to gather herbs. There are herbs to improve all character attributes and resistances as well as giving extra skill points. Naturally they are hard to come by and you will have to prioritize who should get them and also develop your herbal skills to get more herbs.


Here I complete a sidequest

Finally, the balance in the game is very well made. I am playing on veteran mode. The difficulty setting this game was meant to be played on. It is quite hard and tough and I have died many, many times and wandered around to look for ways out since most ways are too hard to tackle. For example, even at level 20 I thought I was stuck because the only way I could go was to the desert but it was guarded by stonegolems that I had tried to tackle a few levels ago withouth having a chance against them. Now I made a new attempt and barely managed to survive with two members. This success did open up a whole new map and village for me but I was afraid I was stuck.

All this challenge is also very rewarding when you manage to overcome them.

Yes the game is very combat oriented but the good thing is that if you are tired of random combats you could use the explorer skills camouflage to avoid them or trying to flee. I use this a lot if I am returning back to town without any supplies left and are more interested in levelup and check the new inventory in the shops rather than stay and fight several more combats.

Small features of note

  • Opponents such as thieves, burglars or bandits can steal gold and items from your inventory and run of with them during combat if you are not careful. That makes them quite nasty and you should take them out as quickly as possible as to not let them run away. 
  • If your group is particularly powerful against a random encounter the opponents might try to flee instead of attacking you, you are then giving the opportunity to hunt them down.
  • There are teleporters on nearly all maps which has to be activated. That means you can travel faster between the regions.
  • Monsters drops different kind of loots. Animal could drop eggs or fangs which helps you by stop bleeding, treat poisioning or whatever. Certain monsters like trees give you different herbs but most items are found in chests or when you loot indoor environments.
  • There are quite many traps in the game and I recommend that you train your disarm traps skill since they do quite much damage. The same goes for lockpicking.
  • There is an automap that automatically points out locations of interests and fill your journal with entries. You could also make your own notes.
The Beholder is always a pleasant surprise

For being an indie game this game really did impress me. If I could wish for some improvements it would be to have more npcs and dialogues, more descriptions of environments and events. The story is also very linear and there are not much variety in the sidequests given. I would also like better stock of items. Let them be much more expensive but available. Finally the documentation of ingame spells is lacking. Fireball for example is said to target one enemy, yet it damage the adjacent ones as well. This is not stated in its description which allows you to make mistakes in choosen spells for your mage.

After 30 hours the game starts to become a little bit repetitive. You come to a new village, get new quests, have the same kind of shops and start over in that particular region. But I am still enjoying it a lot.

My final rating is a solid 4 out of 5 in gameplay and together with its CRPG value it puts it just under Might & Magic X and Legend of Grimrock II.


Section
Rating
Gameworld & Story
2
Economy
4
NPC & Interactions
2
Monsters, tactics & combat system
4
Magic system
3.5
Character generation & development
4
Map design
4
Manual
3
Graphics, Sound and Interface
4
Summary CRPG value
30.5


Gameplay
4


The title theme is very well done and can be listened to here

4 comments:

  1. A very nice and detailed review for the game. I am glad i found this during its kickstarter campaign.

    One minor thing: you can also escape from ongoing battles. It is found under the helmet icon in the command bar during combat. It also works very reliably but it is done individually for each character. If you manage to pull out at least one character, the journey continues even if the party is defeated. This is very useful when trying to avoid the giant mushrooms in the starting area.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Very nice Review of Lords of Xulima, Saintus. I am following your Blog for quite some time now, i like it. :)

    I bought Lords of Xulima (Deluxe Edition) recently on the last Steam-Sale and had a quick Look at it with the Standard Party. Today I am planning to start the Game with my own self-made Party, finaly chose my Characters. :-)

    Greetings from Germany,
    Maverick

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks for reading my blog and good luck with your party.

    ReplyDelete