Lords of Xulima Preview
Imagine an old-school rpg that features exploring, questing, turn-based combat and strategic decisions, and combines it all with the need to explore in order for the story to move forward. Lords of Xulima works this way, but it also has some of those old-school drawbacks.
Mathieu Simard from Numantian Games has been quite helpful in answering my questions about some of the design decions in the game, such as the steep toll the party has to pay in order to get into the first town, Velegarn.
"This is a 'tax' (toll) imposed by Prince Nengorth on the Village of Velegarn," Mathieu comments. "From a design perspective, this is meant to motivate the player into advancing the story and making the party stronger."
Exploration, Missions, and Progression
From the start of the game, where you go is up to you and your combat abilities. Some of these enemies might be too strong for you when you first engage them in combat, and the game has a deep progression system. Battles can be unforgiving. After gaining a level, you can try engaging the same enemies again, hopefully with success. Money and XP can be gained in different ways in the town, helping you to advance. Galvan, the instructor in the town of Velegarn, is in charge of the job board and will give you fetch-and-kill quests. Drogo, the farmer, gives you money if you harvest his cereal crops.
The extortionist guards can be killed too, removing another obstacle. I killed a guard to see what would happen later in the game. Guards will call you a traitor, but this is about the only thing they do that they might not have done before. They still expect a payoff to enter and leave town, and you still have the option to fight them. Killing any enemy, from these mafia-like guards to stationary goblin bands, will remove them from the map, so it's possible to liberate the troubled town from the thugs that guard its gates (and save yourself some serious cash in the process). Just don't try it before you've gained a couple levels.
Three difficulties to choose from
At the start of the game, you're given the choice of three difficulties: Normal, old-school veteran, or hardcore. The difference is that in normal mode you'll get more gold and experience than you get in the oldschool veteran or hardcode more. The enemies will be harder to defeat on hardcore than on normal. In hardcore mode the enemies have more hitpoints and block more, and critical fails in combat are more common.
The Main Quest
You play as Gaulen, the explorer, who has been given a task by the gods, the Lords of Xulima. The task is to go to Xulima, where the gods once lived. You're to find the keys to their temples, now serving as prisons for those that oppose the so-called "Impious Princes". To do this you'll need to travel to towns such as Velegarn, Sorrentia, or Nabros. Your journey will take you through mushroom forests, beaches, roads, caves, and golden woods, as well as palaces where you talk to princes. You will fight goblins, spiders, giant mushrooms, skeletons and, of course, the typical cave rat. During the main quest you have to cross at least two areas where saving is disabled. As a piece of advice, you'll need at least one point in the knowledge of terrains skill, as this will help you through dangerous areas such as swamps, forests, and desert. On at least one occasion, I felt that your skill as a player was more important than character skill, meaning that I had to steer Gaulen, the party's leader, through an area with giant mushrooms by using my own eyes to avoid dangerous areas around the mushrooms.
The main quest also takes you to a place called Sorrentia where you will need to follow a narrow path that will take you to see the person you'll need to see, as this person has a key to the the mysterious tower in Velegarn. Unfortunately for me (as I'm colour blind), it seems that you need to be able to distinguish one type of green grass from another. This meant that this part of the main quest didn't go so well for me. I found myself being back at the entrance to the Sorrentia Forest a lot.
Character creation is quite deep.
You can choose to go with the default party (choose quick start), or create your own. The default party consists of Gaulen, the explorer; Duilas, the bard; Kira, the thief; Ixus, the soldier; Alesia, the cleric; and Menon, the mage. Gaulen is the leader of the party and the character you're controlling while you're exploring. You can right click each character's portrait to bring up the statistics for a particular character. Ixus is a a soldier, which means he has more life points than, say, a mage like Menon. Being a mage, Menon has more power points (mana) than Ixus since mages (and bards) need power points to cast spells. Mages also get a spell (sparks) for free at level 1, while Duilas as a bard starts with the Song of Courage for free. Gaulen, the leader, begins the game with a point in Knowledge of Herbs and Camouflage. Camouflage can be used as away of shielding the whole party from wandering enemies that ambush you in certain areas, provided you have enough power points.
If you don't want to go with the default party, you can always create your own. Gaulen is in your party by default, since he is the party's leader, appointed by the gods of Xulima themselves.
You can choose your characters to be one of these nine classes: Arcane Soldier, mage, thief, cleric, explorer, paladin, barbarian, bard and soldier. You'll need to choose which god you'll pray to since each god grants every character a different ability. If you create a thief character you'll want to pray to Valvet as this god grants you 5 extra ability (or skill) points. If you create a soldier or a barbarian you'll want to pray to Kersket, who grants you 3 extra strength points. Each deity gives you extra ability when you pray to them (e.g. you get 5 extra power points if you pray to Alnaet.) You'll need to make a balanced party, since combat requires you to use both strategy as well as tactics. So you'll need to have a thief, a soldier, an explorer, a cleric (for healing) and a bard who can sing songs of courage.
After you've chosen a custom character, you'll need to choose which weapon they'll start the adventure with. For example, a soldier can start the adventure with any weapon, from swords to daggers to axes, even polearms. A mage can only choose either daggers (knives and daggers) or pole weapons (spears, polearms, staves). Bards can choose ranged weapons or daggers.
The Leveling System
Leveling up in this game is complex. You'll need to assign new points correctly, remembering that a thief needs to be leveled up differently than a soldier or a mage. As you level up you get 2 ability points and 4 skill points per level. If you don't spend every skill point when you level up, they can be saved for later. At first a skill will cost one skill point +1 to upgrade, and after that, it's only the base cost. Still, you definitely don't want to spend all of the skill points you get when you level up.
You'll need to spend the 4 skill points you get per level wisely, remembering that a soldier needs strength and constitution while a mage needs power points and agility. Different characters have different weapons skills. Soldiers, for instance, have skills in every weapon. As soldiers level up they can choose to level certain special attacks. Mages only have two weapons skills - daggers and pole arms. Mages have four types of spell schools: fire, earth, frost and energy. Thieves have weapon skills like swords, daggers, bows, and crossbows, as well as thieving skills like lockpick and trap disarmament.
The armor skill allows you to wear heavier armor, meditation helps you to have a clear head and you get more power points (for spells). The fast reflexes spell means that you can dodge and evade damage more easily. The perception skill allows you to find traps, secret doors, or treasure more easily (a must have for any thief). You'll need to upgrade the armor skill for soldiers, the perception skill for thieves, and the varous spells schools for the mages. This gives your party the edge it needs in order to survive, both during combat and during exploration in this game.
Numantian Games has made an effective turn-based combat system. Combat in Xulima is essentially dungeon crawler style, heavily reminiscent of games like Wizardry, and your characters are shown in a grid much like the combat screen in the old Might and Magic games. You can switch the characters around by clicking on them or on the empty spaces in the grid. This is especially helpful when one of your characters can't reach an enemy for an attack.
Note that a character with a traditional melee weapon, like a sword or dagger, can only attack from the front line, while a character with a polearm or bow can only attack from the rear. Every time you defeat a (new) enemy, there's a bestiary that gets updates. This is a nice feature, as this keeps track of the enemies and their strengths and weaknesses.
The Interface and Gameplay
You view your character from a slanted top-down perspective. Note that you only ever see Gaulen, the party's leader, on screen. The point-and-click movement is mostly fluid. There'a a full day and night cycle as well; in order to see better at night, you'll need to have torches with you at all times.
The inventory also doubles as a character information screen, and helpful tabs can display skills and all other relevant information about a character. Whenever you defeat an enemy, information about them will go into your bestiary. The map is split between a world map and a regional map.
If your characters have a status ailment, such as wounds, curses, or excessive inventory weight, a debuff icon will display on the character's portrait. Right clicking the broken bone icon, for instance, will show if the wounds are normal or special (and if you'll need to sleep for 8 hours or for a full day to have your hit points fully restored). I really like this feature, as this means you can see how many hours you need to rest to get fully healed.
The graphics in this game might not be the most photo-realistic out there, as they have a somewhat cartoony look and feel to them. As I like this feature in a game, particularly in an rpg game, the use of the various shades of green in the game didn't bother me. Grass, trees, bushes are all done in some variations of green. For example, if you go to Sporia Forest and Sporia Plain, the grass there will be darker than the grass in Velegarn Town.
The buildings in Velegarn town are well done and leave you with the impression that you're in a small town. The pine trees both in Velegarn and outside Velegarn are well done, but don't expect to see the wind move through the trees. There's a point in the game where you'll need to go the beach, and you'll find that the beach feels fairly realistic in terms of colour and ambiance.
Music and sound
The background music gives the appropriate atmosphere for the adventure. At times it can be a bit monotonous, but you will be so engaged exploring the story that this really doesn't matter. The battle music is suberb; it really captures the tension and the suspense of the brilliant turn-based combat. The combat sounds are spot on. Melee impacts and magic sound dramatic and deliver a sense of realism.
People to see in Velegarn town
Terry, the innkeeper
Here you can listen to rumours or rest. Resting for 8 hours will restore all your life points and power points as well as healing regular wounds. Resting for a full day will restore all life, power points, and heal all wounds.
Galvan, the instructor
Galvan will train you in the skills you choose to have increased, for a price. Galvan has a job list on behalf of the people in Velegarn town. If you want to proceed in this game, you'll need to complete all the jobs on the job board. This gives you both experience points and the money you'll need. And you'll need money in this game - at least to enter in and out of the town gates (until you knock off the brutish guards, that is).
Maleria, the food merchant
In this game, you'll need to have food with you on your journeys. Every time you rest you'll consume food. You can buy the food you'll need here. You can buy food for up to 5 days. When you level up, the maximum amount of food you can carry will increase. Buying food for five days at level 5 will cost you 274 gold coins. The more food you buy, the more it'll cost. If you have food for two or three days at your disposal, buying food for five days doesn't mean that you have food for seven days. You still only have food for five days. To me, this is one of the more flawed concepts in this game.
Morwick, the merchant
Here you can buy weapons, potions, other gear, such as expendable "town portal" crystals that whisk you back to Velegarn town. In Morwick's shop, hovering over a given item will display its stats. Please note that your characters each have an individual weight capacity determined by their strength score, and every equippable item has a weight.
You can put on armours and weapons which exceed your weight limit, but with a price. Your combat damage as well as your speed will be lowered. If your maximum weight capacity due to your strength is 22 and your wear gear (armour, cloak and weapons) which amounts to a strength penalty of 26, your combat damage as well as your speed will be lowered. In this instance, your combat initiative wil be lowered by 10% and your combat speed will be lowered with 10%. If you have an armour skill of 4, this means that your maximum weight capacity is increased by 8 as each point in armour skill increased your maximun weight capacity by 2 points.
Also, each equippable item has certain skill requirements. I like this feature since it requires players to think about how they'll spend their ability and skill points when they level up during this game.
Alania, the priestess of Febret in the temple
The Febret priestess can heal and cure curses for a price. The price for healing depends on how much damage the individual character has taken. She also offers free blessings from each of the gods.
Blessings from Taliet increase the party's speed, while blessings from Valvet increase the party's strength. Getting a blessing from Alnaet increases the party's power points. You can get other blessings from Alana which will increase the party's agility, constitution, resistances, experience points as well as in defense and evasion.
Drogo, the farmer
Drogo will always pay cash for anyone willing to harvest his field.
I had a lot of fun playing this game, as I found it strikes a near perfect balance between exploration, combat, and a sense of freedom. The graphics might not be the prettiest out there, but you will be so engaged in the story and exploration you will see that the graphics are not the game's main selling point. The game's story, exploration, and turn-based combat fill that role very nicely.
Information aboutLords of Xulima
Developer: Numantian Games
Play-time: 20-40 hours
Voice-acting: Partially voiced
Regions & platforms
· Platform: PC
· Released: 2014-11-14
· Publisher: Numantian Games