RPG. A popular everyday acronym standing for “role-playing game,” it is also a term that is generally thrown around anytime a game includes any sort of storytelling, character development via numbers and skills, or party mechanics among other qualities.
Lords of Xulima is a role-playing game, or RPG. It does a fair job of emulating the characteristics of the genre but this is a game that caters to a very specific breed of RPG-gamer: the one that doesn’t care about meaningful characters, style, or the good parts of the genre.
Lords of Xulima, which is pronounced “shoo-LEE-ma” but spelled “Xulima” because it looks way cooler, does things… bizarrely. At the start, the player chooses a difficulty and is told they’ll be controlling Gaulen, an Explorer, after a long, poorly-voiced monologue explaining why Gaulen is doing what he’s doing – working for a god.
OK. Awesome. Nothing strange about that. However, the player is then told to either accept a default party or create one consisting of 5 additional characters from a range of classes. The player is given some control over them, such as starting weapon and what god they worship, that is, what bonus they’ll be granted.
And right from there, the game starts – with a very, very, very, very long and pretty boring monologue from Gaulen. While it does a fair job of introducing the player to the world and the story behind it, it lacks any sort of context and might as well not exist. By the time the game started I was ready to quit for lack of any vested interest.
But before I could, the game world loaded. Like some games, Lords of Xulima offers tips at every loading screen that are incredibly valuable; unfortunately, the game loads so quickly they’re almost impossible to read. Slightly more ready to quit, the isometric world appeared.
Lords of Xulima is handled with the mouse and keyboard which covers all of your basic needs for movement, navigating inventories and character screens, and interacting with the world. In a fit of genius, the game includes a feature whereby the right-mouse button is solely for bringing up the tooltip for whatever it’s highlighting. If it matters, you can get some information about it.
In a fit of madness, this is seemingly the only way to discover anything about the game save for long-winded non-interactive tutorial texts. And the interface isn’t exactly intuitive, which leaves the player at something of a disadvantage while playing for the first time.
And there is a lot to learn. Lords of Xulima spares no detail in its RPG adventures; consequently, all the wonderful gameplay antiques of the past make a gleeful comeback. Enduring wounds, hunger and food, and wandering tribes of ridiculously difficult monsters are all present and annoying.
Once the player gets the hang of the system, stumbling about from town to combat and back again becomes a fluid process stymied by the incredible difficulty the player will face from the start even at the lowest level. The player’s party isn’t exactly made of hero stuff just yet, and what’s more, the stilted combat system is absolutely unforgiving to mistakes and failures. Odds are new players will start the game with a fresh party, then proceed to scrap it once they figure out how the system works.
With a combat system highly reminiscent of Might and Magic (with the graphics to boot), the first thing most players will do is find the button that speeds it up. Playing out in a turn-based fashion with nothing new to the concept, Lords of Xulima does introduce the pain of formations with wonderful features like ‘units on the far left are completely unable to attack units on the far right in melee,’ and incomplete descriptions of status effects and how they work in different situations.
This would be the part of the article where the game’s music, graphics, and storytelling redeem its slightly-below-average gameplay, yet we’re going to see the exact opposite here. Graphically, the game is simple and forgettable except for a few path-finding issues. The ambient sounds and background music are similarly trite, echoing games from the 90s.
The story is mostly depicted through walls of text found while wandering like bad treasure, or in conversations by NPCs. Said characters have little to no special qualities, and it’s strange that they aren’t just called “Person A” or “Innkeeper 1.” The artificial party members are even worse, speaking neither in combat nor while adventuring and having absolutely no impact at all on the game outside of dealing damage in combat and finding traps. Oh, and there’s a couple of boring minigames for disarming traps and picking locks.
Lords of Xulima isn’t a bad enough game that it’s unplayable, and that’s actually the problem. Worse is that it advertises over 50 hours of gameplay. 50+ hours of colorless text, trite combat, and nary a “No one is faster than Chiktikka Fastpaws!” to spice up the “fun.” It’s still in beta, but the good money’s on none of these things changing for the better. If a good RPG is what ye seek, better get some wind in yer sails and search for greener pastures.