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July 2, 2016

Balrum - Review




Game reviewed: Balrum
Version: 1.12
Created byBalcony Team
Released: 2016
Formats: Pc
Difficulty: 7/10
Price$14.99

It is time for a review of the game Balrum and see how it stacks up to other RPGs and CRPGs. I bought this game just a day or two after the launch and one thing I want to credit the developers for is how fast they where putting out patches. I never had any technical problem with this game. The patches mostly fixed broken quests, missing items and so on and also trimmed the game mechanics a bit like improving mana regeneration outside of combat. Well done Balcony Team!

Gameworld & Story

The gameworld is quite large in this game. It comprises of about 10 huge maps which each take several hours to complete. Add to that dozens of dungeons, caves, towers and ruins to explore. I find the game size just about normal. Possible one more huge area could have been included. The gameworld itself is mainly consisting of deep forests, plains, mountains and small settlements with the occasional village here and there. Only two maps differs a lot. The Searing Desert which don´t require any more explanation and the undead land with withered trees and dead trunks.

I like the gameworld because it is a total black mass in the beginning and you have to explore and discovere what there is. There is no maps that tell you beforehand what lies ahead which means the exploration part of the game is quite good.

Storywise I have some issues. The mainquest in itself is quite ordinary but ok. What I do see room for improvments in are the dialogues in the game. They are quite dull and simple. Very seldom they add to the atmosphere or ignite any fire in you to know more. The developers have been better in creating the graphical gameworld and fill it with contents rather than sewing it together with a immersive story.

Rating: 3

Economy


There are a lot of items in this game. Not only crafting items, food and alchemy but also armours, weapons, shields and other stuff. You have a limited amount of gold which you need to repair your things or to buy healing and mana potions. The problem is that from midgame at the latest the best weapons and armours are always found and could not be bought. That means that in the latter parts of the game it doesn´t matter if you have a lot of gold. You cannot buy anything interesting with it. That said the balance in the game is still pretty good and few games could keep the balance to the bitter end.

Rating: 3

NPC & Interactions

The good thing is that there are a lot of places where you can interact with the environment in this game. From moving stones in puzzles, to pull levers or just put out lightsources. The NPC interactions are much more limited with fixed answers that seldom lead to any important consequences. Even though you will meet quite a few NPC:s in the wilderness their most important task is to act as trainer for high level skills or give you sidequests.

Rating: 2

Monsters, tactics & combat system

In the beginning you will have to fight a lot against the natural animals in the forests like wolves or bears and even spiders but later on in the game you will meet both undead and exotic creatures. They will gradually become much harder and have their level listed. Combat is turnbased and monsters have different speeds and combat abilities. They could either cast spells or have abilities to freeze, stun or poison you. You must adapt to different combat strategies in order to win. Some monsters are best to fight from a distance and some are best to close in as fast as possible on. You have a wide array of melee fighter abilities and a few dozen spells to choose from. I think the game succeeds in mixing a good amount of variety in strategies. I have not found any gamebreaking strategy that makes the combat easier but I relied on using a lot of mana and health potions and as a mage used the hit-and-run tactic over and over again. Be aware that if you depart too far from your adversary the combat will end and the adversary will quickly regenerate health so you cannot go back and rest and the contintue where you left off.

I am quite content with the combat system except that playing a mage in this game is making the toughest choice on difficulty. The high level - arcane level 4 - spells are not really good at all.

Monsters don´t generally use any special tactics. They just close in on you and fight to the death.

Rating: 3

Magic System

Magic in the game depends on intelligence which determine your amount of mana and wisdom which deterine your regeneration rate of mana. Both are very important for a mage but high core intelligence also allows you to equip more powerful magical items which in turn might raise your attributes.

There are around two dozen spells in the game. On paper they seem rather interesting. You have different levels of fireball, firestorm, freeze, transform into pig, silence opponent etc But I found that there are actually very few spells you need which you will use over and over again. Only against bosses might you have to change your tactics a little. Unfortunately playing as a mage is probably the hardest choice in the game. You will have to have some melee skills when you run out of mana. If you run away from your opponent you will find that they regenerate health quickly so you cannot return later on with full mana and expect the enemy to still be injured.

My biggest complaint about being a mage is your vulnerability. Even in the last part of the game where I eventually was strong enough to at least tackle a random enemy on the map, I was never able to defeat a tougher opponent without running out of mana at least once and having to resort to melee combat as well. Both requiring you to have lots of mana- and healing potions available. Add to that, that there is a limit of how many potions you could drink at once and you will find yourself quite constrained in battle. I would like to see either an improvment in mana regeneration, lesser mana costs for spells and an improved successrate or a combination of all to improve the mage in the game. Half of my spells miscasts during combat. Partly because I am wearing heavy armour which I feel I have to if I should be able to defend myself in melee combat when my mana is empty and I cannot drink any more portions.

Due to those facts which makes the mage underpowered  will deduce one point in my rating. The core system and the varied spells are otherwhise quite ok.

Rating: 2

Character generation & development

I really like the character generation in the game. You receive experience points when you complete quests (almost none when killing monters, which don´t respawn by the way) and after you get up a level you are given a few level points (LP) to use to buy skills or improve attributes with. There are many skills to choose from each with up to four levels and you will of course have to decide which skills to build up and which to skip altogether because you have very few LP in the game and must prioritize. Improvement in the game feels slow but give a tremendous amount of satisfaction when you raise a level or aquire a skill.

The game is tough and you can go anywhere and will die a lot if you don´t play it safe. You could specialise to become a warrior, archer or mage and a mixing with all three of them.

Rating: 3

Map design

The overland maps are very large and quite varied. Filled with forests, mountains or lakes but the best part of the game is the dungeons and caves which are irregular both in size and shape and makes them fun to explore.

Rating: 4

Manual

I found the manual doing its work pretty well without being too long or detailed but still contained enough information.

Rating: 3

Graphics, Sound and Interface


Graphics in the game is good with detailed animated graphics and a lot of items to pick up and explore. Both monsters and environment are very well rendered and you can zoom in our out depending on your playing style. I cannot say much about the soundeffects. They are there and do their job but nothing I remember now. Music plays in the background for the different set of maps and environments and add to the atmosphere.

Interface in the game is in general pretty good even though there are a lot of micromanagement in your inventory and between storing and comparing things. Not worse than in any similar game the the developers have improved these parts in later patches. I found the interface pretty good overall with clear messages and symbols indicating any bonuses or afflictions you have.

Rating: 3

Gameplay

I had very fun with this game and felt hooked from the beginning. I love the slow progress, the open world and the tough opponents. When you succeed you really feel enjoyment. The game is easy to play. The world is unexplored and black and it is easy to sink several hours into it at once. It reminds me a little about Eschalon and/or the Avadon games but this game is unique in its own. I am looking forward to a sequel but would like them balance the classes more, allowing for better items to be sold and improving the story a bit.

Rating: 4


Section
Rating
Gameworld & Story
3
Economy
3
NPC & Interactions
2
Monsters, tactics & combat system
3
Magic system
2
Character generation & development
3
Map design
4
Manual
3
Graphics, Sound and Interface
3
Summary CRPG value
26


Gameplay
4





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