Not an RPG and not an RTS but a very interesting mix both. Not only does it do both a great deal of respect, but does it well. There’s a big world for you to explore and it’s there for you to make your mark on. Armies are yours master and their commanders your companions. Some of the time perhaps a little less than willingly.
There’s something to be said for this particular combination of genres. Rather than just being a simple RPG or RTS, it has elements of both. Yet, woven together they produce a game that is extremely solid. From starting out, seeking answers to the Bloodburn, there’s always a clear objective, clear path forward. There’s always an obvious goal to reach for. Yet, in search of this goal you will encounter a number of characters to come with you, to help you out along the way. Again, this is perhaps one of the best games for that I’ve seen. Everything has a certain feeling of being in place. From an elven mage who helps you on your escape to a dwarven archaeologist, a demonologist and orc shaman, each character you find brings not only new abilities but new options.
Starting with the main, character focused gameplay, you have a number of skill trees with which you build your character. White Magic is the magic of healing and buffs, Elemental magic the fireballs and earth, Shape changing allows the character to take other forms. These give you your abilities to choose from, though you’re limited to three. Four quick slot bars await you, going to from your full combat spec, to your passive, auras, boosts for more strategic combat. It’s simple, fast and completely changes up how you can approach a situation.
However, this is not the only combat you face in this game. RTS base building, raiding and assaults also take place. Territory is the key to the RTS mode. Rather than building a simple base, you need to spread out. From the need to have iron mines or quarries close to their resource, you also have to make sure that the roads between and back to your main castle are secure. Losing resources in transit is a tactic I became fond of using, if not just starving the enemy of resources with quick raids.
Where this differs from most is that each outpost can only have a set number of workers. Some of the time you will give them to resourcing, lumber, food, iron and stone. Others you will put down a watchtower, protecting the path to your base from attack. While they held off repeated attacks, I was able to build my force, equal mix of elven archers and infantry, too much for them to resist.
Yet, I can still improve my three armies. During these missions, blueprints are available and can have dramatic effects. Some increase the health of buildings, others reduce their costs. Not only that, the units have a number of upgrades too, damage, health, cost, all of which can be improved, if you have the blueprint. Some are quite hard to find and others you will simply buy, for having too much gold.
Audio and Visuals
What has kept me coming back to this game was the visual style it had. From the get go it just was so consistent, so focused on the time it wanted to show. Very little felt out of place. There are certainly oddities in the items your characters can equip, but they also feel in place. The chests of treasure, items waiting to be reassembled in inventory, look right. The weapon, shield, armour, all of it could be easily forged, dyed, painted, sewn. Not only that the characters themselves have a sense of being possible, even with being elves, dwarves, orcs. Someone cared enough to make sure they could function.
In gameplay itself, effects unlocked from the characters are easy to find cues for. Auras are obvious, so too are the effects of spells and other abilities. Some of them are quite nasty, requiring the bodies of defeated foes to be triggered. Others restore resource piles, trees regrowing and stone reappearing to be mined. All of this has been easy to see, no matter the map I was on.
Here is another title I was able to get lost in the music, the sound. I was able to enjoy some maps more for the music that accompanied it. Not only that I also thought the voice acting was pretty good across the board. A lot of the named characters have personality. Not only personality, they express it well through the tone they present. It’s easy to see who gets along with who by how they’re speaking.
Competitive multiplayer is certainly present and makes for an interesting game or two with the mechanics. Co-op is possible, though I’ve heard it’s not without bugs, flaws. I’m yet to try it, so your experience may vary.
Like other hard reviews for me, this one has plenty of strengths and plenty of weaknesses. It’s very honest to the RPG genre and the RTS genre. Territory control and resource management are important factors. So too is map exploration in both modes. Finding the merchants, you will need to improve your armies and the side quests takes time. Some of the levels could do with a finer zoom, a little less density. Yet, each time I loaded up my game I was sucked in very quickly. Plans were refined and often thrown out. Levels were occasionally replayed, to see if I couldn’t find more. I returned to other areas, looking for items I could have missed, upgrades that would make the difference between using one army or another.