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Lords of Xulima – Review

LOX_GameLogoLords of Xulima – Review

The Lords of Xulima game was released in November 2014, and is a classic rpg with turn-based combat.  It is a game whose style is decidedly retro, looking back to the older gameplay styles we saw back in the late 90s, and is likely designed for people who loved those games back then, and are used to playing them.

Brief Summary

Good Points Bad Points
1.  Good combat
2.  Nice amount of objectives/quests
3.  Interesting time vs money strategies
1.  Poor game pacing
2.  Not enough information on spells/abilities
3.  Game difficulty is prohibitive
4.  No skill respec

Character Creation

In the game you control the six party members that make up your group.  You can (and I urge you to) customize these characters to suit your playstyle.  There is a selection of 9 different classes to choose from, and each of them have their own strengths and weaknesses.  Unfortunately there really isn’t enough information on them at the start to base your decisions on, either what they are capable of, or what sort of skills they might eventually get.

The issue with the lack of information for the standard edition of the game is that choosing a group that doesn’t work that well longer term isn’t usually a problem in a game.  You play for a few hours, then you re-roll a new group and start over.  However Lords of Xulima is such a long game that you might not come to that realization until you are 30-50+ more hours into the game, and that is prohibitive to wanting to reroll and redo all that stuff again.

You can read the manual for the game here, however it isn’t really that in-depth.  For that you really require the DLC deluxe edition that comes with a game guide listing them all.

UI

The user interface of the game is fairly simple and easy to understand.  For your characters’ main inventory, gear and stats you double click their party profile picture at the left hand side of the screen.

The little bag icon at the top of the screen lets you use items and skills outside of combat, such as teleport crystals or heal skills (click on the character with the heal skill and it will show up). This is useful as a quick way of doing these without opening the full inventory.

The maps are useful, and you can add notes to the regional maps.  You will want to do this a lot to keep track of mobs, locations etc that you will have to come back to complete.

Skills, Talents and Leveling upLoZ-level-up

The leveling system is much like you might expect in these sorts of games.  You kill things, complete quests etc and you gain experience, and when you get enough experience you level up.

The game deviates a little from the norm though in how it goes about that.

Each level up gives you stat points to add (strength, speed etc), as well as a certain number of skill points that get put into skills.  Different character classes have different skills to choose from and more skills will be unlocked as you level up.  What I find somewhat different to other games is that you can only add one point increase to each individual skill each level up (so you can put, say, one point in Fast Reflexes and one point in Immunity, but you cannot put two points in Fast Reflexes).

LoZ - levelup iconNote: When you level up a character, a small gold icon to the right of your character turns up.  You double click your character portrait to bring up the character screen, then click the same icon to the right of their name to bring up the Level Up panel.  Once you have opened the Level Up panel, you have to level your character, though you don’t need to use all your skill points, only adding the stats.

On the surface, this seems okay, but what you have to remember is that there is very little available information to players who didn’t purchase the deluxe package of the game, so you are not going to know what each of the skills can really do, or how powerful they are compared to other skills.

While not entirely filled in, I found this link useful for checking skills of the different classes and what those skills do.
Lords of Xulima – Skillsheet by Kordanor

What is also of note is that you also CANNOT RESPEC.

This poses a problem, especially in a game as difficult as Lords of Xulima, especially the latter aspect since you will have a limited number of skill points you can gather in the game, and using them in skills you will later shelve is annoying, losing you skill points.  However on the other hand, not putting skill points into skills leaves you underpowered for the hard mobs/groups you will encounter.  There are ways of getting extra level ups in the game, but it is still one of the challenges you will face.

Time vs Money food mechanics

 

LoZ food

One of the interesting mechanics in the game that I found was the time vs money aspects that are mainly based around the gathering of food.

For each step you take in the game, the game time moves on, which in turn decreases your store of food.  You need to have enough food to go adventuring (because starving isn’t fun and has real detriment), so you can either buy food from suppliers, or you can gather it from food sources such as fruit bushes, or if you have the correct skills, off fallen enemies sometimes.

There is never a time in the game where you can ignore the food thing, because for every little side trip you make, your food is going down.  Buying is by far the easiest way to get food, since there are food vendors in every town, but the more food supplies you stock up on, the greater the price is, so if you buy a 3 day supply of food, then come back when you run out and buy 3 more days, that is a lot cheaper than buying a 6 day supply of food.

It is possible to gather enough food without having to pay for any eventually, by keeping note of where the different food bushes are and doing a round of them when you get low.  The food on them refreshes after a few days.  If you travel via roads, rather than over rough ground (saving time/food), you can get most of them with minimum effort.

If you choose to not spend the time gathering the food, then you have to fork out more money as time goes on for food, taking away money that could be spent on training or better armour or weapons.  But on the other hand, if you spend time gathering, its a lot of time running around.

Quests

There are a variety of quests in the world that will help you level up, give you coin etc.  Most will be worth doing, while others won’t be.  Part of this is due to the fact that all your coin is put towards getting better armour and weapons as well as leveling up and getting more skill points.  Sometimes there are item quests later on that you can hand in for some experience and gold, but on the other hand, consuming the items will give you stat increases which is, depending on the stat, far more useful for you.

In general though, the quests are fine, and I had no real gripe about them.  Some of them have quite interesting puzzles.  Not too difficult, but they add more interest to the game.

Combat

The combat in the game is good, and I enjoyed it a lot.  It is basic turn based combat, but the slight difference in this game is the fact that you, and your enemies attack in a sort of basic formation, with melee at the front and more ranged or longer ranged melee behind.  This acts as an extra layer of interest for those used to these games.

Xulima_combatI found the combat challenging enough to be of interest, yet simple to understand.  The only annoyances I have about the combat is the fact that the combat itself cannot be speeded up more (it only goes up to 2x animation speed), and the variety of mobs in areas is really limited, so if you are trying to clear an area of enemies, you will be fighting different groups of the same type over an over and over again.

Pacing

The most detrimental thing to the game, in my opinion, is the pacing of it.  They have made a big deal of the fact that game offers at least 100 hours of gameplay per run-through.  However while this might seem like a selling-point at the point of purchase, when you actually get into playing it, that amount of time actually really drags.  There are several reasons for this:

  1. There are a set number of enemies, so as the game progresses, finding enough mobs to level up grows more difficult, slowing the game
  2. There isn’t a good UI to indicate what areas of the map have been enemy wiped.
  3. Different areas of the map have different enemy types, so you are farming the same mobs over and over again
  4. Turn-based combat is slow by nature, and although it can be speeded up here a bit, there are not enough speeding up options

These issues mean that while the initial gameplay is varied and interesting by going from one map to another, gaining exp and leveling up fairly well, by further into the game you are held back by the game mechanics and you have to constantly seek out and grind the same monsters over and over, if you can find the parts of the map you have not completed yet.

For me, this issue was so bad that I quit the game several times, and only the fact that I was wanting to complete the game to be able to write this review kept me coming back.  Frustrating and annoying doesn’t even begin to cover it.

Gameplay difficulty

It is well known that Lords of Xulima is a difficult game, even for those with prior gameplay experience of these types of games.  As someone who has played quite a lot of games like this over the years, I would say that in many ways the game is prohibitively difficult, and the difficulty settings pretty much try to shame you into not choosing the easiest option.  Ignore it.  The easiest setting is actually what other games would call ‘Hard’.

The harder game difficulty is there for pretty much hardcore strategy gamers.  Ones that have played the game on the easier setting, know all the tricks to get the most efficient leveling etc, know the best way of dealing with the game.  The harder setting, in my opinion is not, despite what the setting says, for people that have never played the game before.

I can totally see the point of having these super hard modes in the game.  Lords of Xulima will be the type of game that will undoubtedly attract players who really want this sort of challenge.  However, I feel that the game could have done with another easier setting being available for players wanting to get through the game faster, because lets face it, not everyone has the patience or wish to play the same game for over 100 hours.

Story

I am in two minds about what to think of the story.  On one hand it is pretty darn simplistic, and gives a basic premise to the game and not much else.  There are bits of world lore scattered around, but not a great amount.  On the other hand, despite this, and despite guessing that there was little story to the main plot, I did want to see the final story reveal at the end enough to return to the game when I had told myself that I was done struggling with it.  So yeah, the story isn’t great, but it is enough I think.  It gives a reason for the game, but I doubt very much people will feel a massive investment in the story.

Conclusions

Overall my impression of the game is mixed.  If you had asked me when I was still playing the game in the first say 30-50 hours, I would have told you it was a great game, interesting and challenging in different ways despite the small issues with knowledge of skills etc.  However now I have (finally) completed it, my opinion of the game is so vastly different due to the horrendous pacing that I really cannot give it the glowing review I would have done at the start.  The game was torturous to finish for me, but on the other hand, that doesn’t actually stop it from being a good game for the first half of it, or even the first three quarters.

If you like challenging games, or if you like turn based combat games but don’t tend to finish them, I would say that this game is for you.  Its the pacing alone at the end that lets this game down really badly, so if you aren’t likely to finish it anyway or like super hard challenges in difficulty (with the harder modes), this game is for you.