Realms of Magic is a solid, 2-D sandbox RPG in a traditional fantasy setting. If you’ve played Terraria, Starbound, WindForge, or Planet Centauri you know what to expect – crafting, base building, side-scrolling, okay-ish combat, and survival elements. At first it seems like RoM brings nothing new, dig a little deeper and you’ll find design decisions that make it an ingenuitive addition to the genre.
Should you Buy it?
Realms of Magic has the potential to be a really good game. Though not a huge departure from the Terraria formula RoM makes smart design decisions to freshen up a static genre. It thinks about genre staples and tweaks them in the hopes of creating a more intuitive gaming experience. From where I stand it succeeds. Decisions like automatically switching tools, an expandable inventory and breaking up the map into tiles instead of a continuous world make interacting with the game easier and more organized than similar titles. It feels different enough that, if you’ve played the other games on the market, you’ll find something novel here.
The game is in alpha and you can tell. The list of things they intend to implement is long. I experienced frequent frame drops and had trouble getting the game to run in fullscreen. It misbehaves in a way that you should expect buying an unfinished game. If you’re okay with the rough edges RoM might be worthwhile. The game currently reports around 10 hours of content which seems accurate, though it is technically a sandbox.
If you’re new to the genre this isn’t going to be the best experience you can buy for the price. It’s $9.99 and so is Terraria, and Terraria is complete. If you’re a veteran looking for something new it’s worth picking up.
You start by creating a character from one of ten races with a lot of customization options, though none of these choices affect gameplay yet. You get plopped down either in the tutorial or in one of the game’s sandbox areas and do what you do in any crafting game; chop down trees, create a crafting table and on down the tech tree. For those who need a little extra direction the game also has a “guidebook” which helps with the build order.
There’s a strong sense of progression with a leveling system that gives you talent points to invest in different skill trees, granting benefits such as extra hp, more bag slots or removing the stamina cost for jumping. Additionally everything you do levels up an appropriate profession skill. You dig faster, get new crafting options at each of your crafting stations, reduce crafting time, and so on.
There isn’t much of a sense of danger in Realms of Magic. Though you have a thirst and hunger meter you spawn next to a drinking fountain. Farming is quick and easy and for the first few hours chickens and wolves are a good source of meat. Unlike other games of its genre nothing changes during the night cycle. You need a light source to see but there are no zombies coming to break down your walls and enemies are no more aggressive in the dark. In one tile you don’t even have an enclosed home base because you don’t need one. This makes for a very chill experience which I love as a person with a complicated relationship with the survival genre.
A lack of danger doesn’t make RoM less interesting thanks to attention to the narrative. When I explored the town I was pleasantly surprised by how fleshed out the villagers were. There’s a nervous tanner who doesn’t like being outside the village walls, a woman who is afraid of her husband, etc. There are a couple of quests to pick up in town, nothing to constitute a full story but you can see the beginnings of an actual RPG forming.
Instead of one continuous map, the world is split up into tiles that you can access by reaching the edge of a map and quick traveling with the ‘M’ key. The map is pretty empty right now but includes dungeons, towns, a bandit’s lair, and many more sandbox regions.
I appreciate this organization scheme but it’s frustrating that areas don’t reset or regenerate in your absence. I built my base and killed some chickens in my first 30 minutes of the game. Six hours later their bodies were still there. There are two problems I see here. The first is that my base is decorated with chicken corpses and there’s nothing I can do to change that short of making a new base. The second is if you put a lot of hours into RoM, visit every tile, clear every critter and enemy out, you’ll eventually run out of enemies to fight and the resources you get from animals. You’d still be able to grow crops to take care of your hunger meter but this limitation would ruin the entire concept of a sandbox.
From a technical standpoint, here is where the ingenuity I referred to above comes in. Realms of Magic doesn’t reinvent the wheel but does a good job of improving the formula. The developers try to address issues such as inventory management, action bar organization, and depth of combat. Giving you the option to expand your inventory with 20+ slot bags makes it easier to be prepared for any situation and stacks in RoM go up to 999 which makes your bag space go a long, long way.
The action bar’s default keybinds are 1-5 and shift 1-5 making every slot easy to reach on default settings. You also get an action bar for combat which is completely separate from the bar you use for exploration. And maybe my favorite thing, with a torch equipped you can click the Z button and your character will begin holding the torch. You can do any action while holding it, making crafting 1000 torches to go mining a thing of the past.
Combat is where Polished Games hit their first major challenge. It’s not terrible, you have a weapon, a block, and some abilities from your talents which try and mix things up. But it doesn’t really work as well as the rest of their tweaks. The game has a paper doll animation style which makes take a bit of adjusting to. It’s a marginal improvement to the genre.
What’s Planned for Realms of Magic
The estimate currently given for RoM’s full release is 2-3 years. There is a city building and management system planned, additional talent trees, professions, items, enemies, and areas. The folks at Polished Games seem to be dedicated to the project. I have faith they’ll complete the game at some point but, who knows? Early Access is a fickle beast. Anything can happen in three years.
I had fun with Realms of Magic. It worked decently enough, the music and visual style were pleasant, and the game had clear intention and direction for a game in early alpha. There’s plenty of content currently available for a short, satisfying jaunt but obviously not a lot of depth. There’s a solid base here and building on the concepts already laid out will result in a good game. The planned base building and town management system, storylines, and involving the other races will get Realms of Magic 9/10ths of the way there. Aside from that there are some smaller fundamentals that need fine-tuning. There’s no auto sorting for the inventory for example but Polished Games has shown great attention to detail so far. I’m excited to watch this game grow and change over the next few years.