Mysterious Realms RPG (PC) review
"The game with a title so uninspired, thinking up a clever pun feels like a waste of my time."
Thereís an equal chance Iíll either come back later to improve that tagline, or just admit defeat on this one.
On the surface, Mysterious Realms RPG is a game so generic that it actually considers Mysterious Realms RPG an appropriate title. The introduction is a text dump of broken English that might be poking at the fourth wall a bit, or it might just be bad. The gist? Fantasy shenanigans! You control a party of two who have to save the entire world, on the understanding that the entire world consists of one town and the small collection of monster nests inconveniently located scant meters away. The game looks like something from the Windows 3.1 roguelike shareware catalogue a la Castle of the Winds, with comparable depth. To be clear, you should not be expecting an off-brand Spiderweb Software game. Realms just ainít that deep.
Youíll find everything youíd expect to find in short order. Procedurally generated dungeon floors filled with goblins and spiders to ineffectually stab at. Hidden traps you might disarm, but probably wonít. Loot to horde and new weapons to discover or purchase at ye olde weapons shoppe. Experience points to reap and invest, skills to bolster, and delicious statistic points to engorge. It would be lusciously easy to write Realms off as just another shallow not-quite-Rogue game, but itís not. Because its combat is this weird jumble of deck building, colour matching and gem collecting that Iím now obliged to try and explain. Iíve not been looking forward to this part so, if I fail to explain it properly, I promise, itís actually pretty cool.
Okay. So. Each of your two characters have up to four abilities on tap, and these are all governed by superficial colours youíre randomly dealt at the start of each battle. Except, theyíre not just colours, theyíre also numbers, so each gem serves two functions upon being played. Using enough gems of a certain colour will enable you to use your abilities, while the numbers correspond to the amount of damage spending that card will inflict on the enemy forces. Except, those five gems are a shared pool across your duo. It means you have to try and balance out your cards so youíre not neglecting one line of attack and stacking all your hopes on one avenue of damage.
Except, thatís just the basics of it. You can cause bonus damage if you link together certain combinations of colours, and the gem stack donít refresh at the end of each battle. Which is great is youíve been building something and the stupid wood golem dies before you can unleash it. Or, itís bloody awful, because you panic dump resources into downing that fire elemental, and now your cards are a mess. Itís a constant battle of not only trying to win the war youíre waging, but trying to ensure youíre in a good place for the next fight that comes along.
Really Realms is carried by the unique strategy the gem/card arsenal provides, and itís not shy about this. Thereís no deep lore about the monster lairs; they just need to die because some moron built an entire village a mere stoneís throw away and have only now realised this could have been a bad idea. The townís stores don't just let you pick up a handful of healing items and some slightly less awful armour, but give you the chance to sink funds into your deck. You then have to make the tricky choice on where your money goes; building up your deck around your preferred abilities or equipment upgrades needed to keep yourself alive. Each becomes equally important as your dungeon delves climb in complexity.
Soon, youíll be triggering random events that might ask for a simple stat check, or might require you to sacrifice a card for the rest of the expedition. Or youíll discover ways to initiate trades or take on extra busy work tasks for bonus experience or items. Thereís occasionally clever touches applied to the late dungeons to make sure youíre not sleeping on them, but exploration is Realmsí obligation rather than its highlight. Thereís little to separate the low-end fantasy adventuring from the throngs of other games that have taken a swing at being My First Exile. But what does separate it, the multi-tiered deck-based combat, is the fevered machinations of a lunatic. It wonít make a lot of sense to people taking their first faltering steps into the novice dungeons where youíll mow through cannon fodder regardless of what you do, but youíll have to learn how it all fits together sooner rather than later if you want to progress. Itís unique, itís weirdly engaging and, above it, itís a hell of a lot more interesting than I was was expecting from a videogame that willingly labels itself Mysterious Realms RPG
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