By Phil Schipper / January 9th, 2015
|Title||Lords of Xulima|
|Release Date||November 14, 2014|
When humans need help, they call upon the gods to back them up. But, in Lords of Xulima, it is the gods that need help. They call upon a human named Gaulen to enter their land, Xulima, and reclaim their temples. This is your journey.
Gaulen takes five companions along on his journey. As you begin the game, you create these five characters, choosing their names, photos and, most importantly, their classes. The nine classes are typical RPG fare, such as bard, thief, mage or barbarian. You’ll then choose one of the nine gods to give the character a slight boost in a particular aspect, and a starting weapon for the character to use. Once you have them all picked out, you can place them in a two-row formation and begin your journey.
Xulima is a vast, uncharted territory. You’ll only learn what’s out there by exploring it and revealing the map through travel. As you do, time passes and your food supplies slowly run down. If it runs out, your characters get a nasty debuff (or just die on the highest difficulty), but it tends to be rather easy to find or, at least, buy more if you keep an eye out while traveling. You’ll also spend time and food any time you want your characters to rest and regain their health and magic.
This will happen quite often — the enemies are everywhere in Lords of Xulima. You’ll find them waiting for you at key points along the paths, with clear ranges for where the encounter will start, how many are in the group and even an estimation of the difficulty at the current level. However, in many hostile areas, you’ll also run into normal random encounters. In this case, you have the option to try to avoid the battle, but, by combining these two types of encounters, you end up with a lot of battles on your hands.
They tend to be rather challenging ones, too. Normal attacks — from both sides — are most likely going to generate either bleed damage, stunning effects or hindering wounds. Depending on the type of weapon or attack, each character and enemy is usually geared towards one particular type of damage. For example, a thief’s shuriken throw does a fair amount of normal damage, but it really shines in the amount of bleeding it causes on the target. You’ll need to have a mastery of these types of damage to make your way past the bosses, who have massive pools of health to get through. They also tend to deal a lot more of the same back to you, making healing more urgent than ever.
This unconventional system, not to mention the emphasis on initially unclear terms like “attack rating,” gives Lords of Xulima a rather high learning curve. It took me at least three failed attempts (including one with the default party) before I built a team that could carry me through the game. Part of this involved not only the class selection at the beginning but also the skill and statistic choices you make when each character levels up, which can range from pure power to specialized battle techniques to unique skills that help your party on the map.
As in many RPGs, it’s important to manage your party’s items and money wisely in order to keep going. It costs vast amounts to even partially equip your party, let alone getting enough potions, lockpicks, torches and other essentials to survive out there. Money can also buy you extra food, skill points to spend and even blessings from the gods in order to temporarily boost your party’s stats or experience gains. With so many uses for money, it’s tempting to sell even the things that might turn out to be essential and not buy anything at all, but that’s just a recipe for a Game Over.
The good news is that you can save at absolutely any time outside of battle, and even in battle you can still stop and load a save file if things aren’t going to your liking. It’s an extremely useful ability, and, if you keep enough save files, you can usually find some way through any situation.
There’s a lot of options in Lords of Xulima. Sure, at first, you’ll be looking for all the easiest possible areas to explore, hunting down everything and still hitting a point where all possible paths lead to “challenging” foes (even in the areas with random encounters, it’s possible to eradicate all the enemies, so experience can be strictly limited–no grinding your way out!). Around the time you’ve reclaimed the first temple, though, a lot of former roadblocks will be beatable with your new strength, unlocking a diversity of paths that spans most of its varied game world.
From there, you finally have the free reign that the game’s description touts. There are still some areas that are gated by titanically difficult enemies (though you could, in theory, still defeat those enemies in order to skip to other zones), but most of the world is open to you. The only exception is some of the temples, which are locked up by the four Impious Princes. It seems that, although Xulima is supposed to be a land for gods only, it was once ruled by a great human king who revered the gods. After his death, his four sons took over, worshiping the evil god and causing the corruption that you were sent to defeat. Thus, you must defeat all of them and cast the evil god out of the other gods’ temples in order to purge the evil influence.
The graphics in the game resemble fairly realistic illustration paintings. They’re not a grand spectacle, but they definitely convey this sense of classic fantasy that Lords of Xulima seems to be going for. I particularly like the animations of the enemies in battle. They also come with these cackles, growls and short voiced lines that really stand out. The music, on the other hand, is not nearly as memorable. It does its job, but comes across as a little cheesy in some situations.
Overall, Lords of Xulima is a grand adventure that does everything it set out to do, although with a few negative consequences. The time limit imposed by the food and blessing system means you’ll probably have to set out multiple times in order to clear each area, which doesn’t exactly add much more fun. One could remedy this by looking for the fastest route to the end if not for the fact that they desperately need every drop of the limited experience in order to progress. And one doesn’t find any of this out until the last minute anyway, often resulting in a need to restart the game that only adds to that repetitive frustration.
The upside is that, since its release, there has been more and more support for the game. If you don’t want to pay Numantian for the player’s guide or the Talisman of Golot DLC (which guides and helps you get through more easily), there are some great guides on Steam that give you some strategies to manage your skills and stats for each class, taking a lot of the weight off.
Maybe you like the challenge of figuring it all out yourself. If so, you’ve got a lot of great content to discover–at least 70 hours’ worth, just in pushing your way through the main quest. By bypassing the elemental weaknesses cliche and adding major status effects to every weapon, Lords of Xulima has changed the way strategy works in a turn-based RPG. Plus, how many games let you make a party out of all your friends? Get it for $19.99 USD on Steam.
Review copy supplied by publisher.
Lords of XulimaNumantian GamesPCRPG