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Realms of Magic Early Access Preview: Not So Magical

Early access title Realms of Magic may look similar to games like Terraria, but in truth it's more of a standard RPG that also happens to have crafting. 2 years since its debut on the platform, a lot of work is still needed to turn this into a polished game.

Realms of Magic Preview

When looking through the ever growing list of early access games on Steam, it doesn’t take long to run into a game featuring survival elements, crafting, or some combination of the two. It can be hard to differentiate these games from each other, and many end up forgotten after a few months. Realms of Magic may be in early access, and it certainly features crafting as a main mechanic, but its main focus on traditional questing and action RPG gameplay sets it apart from the crowd.

Realms of Magic is currently available in early access on Steam for $14.99/£11.39/12,49€.

Story

In Realms of Magic’s current state, there’s little in the way of story. The character creator, which offers a selection of different races, gives some backstory to certain regions of the land, and there are a few books to find throughout the world. Aside from a few lines of dialogue from NPCs though, you’re mostly left in the dark when it comes to the setting. In fact, it’s rare for characters to have more than a few words to say, outside of quest givers. Improvements to villages and their residents are planned for the full release, so for now we’ll have to settle with what little the game gives us.

Gameplay

Crafting

Crafting in Realms of Magic

There’s a variety of items to craft

Most of your time will be spent either roaming through areas for quest objectives and materials, and crafting said materials into equipment upgrades or consumable items. After a brief tutorial that teaches the very basics of the game, you’re dumped into the world outside a village (the only one in the game currently). Movement is simple, letting you sprint for faster traversal across the map, and the default jump is higher than you’d expect. Some races have movement bonuses, such as goblins gaining an extra jump, but otherwise movement is similar across all characters.

Your first order of business after creating a new character is to pick up a quest, along with raiding every single container for materials. There’s no pesky morality system or guards to stop you, so robbing everyone blind is the key to gaining resources early on. Crafting is simple enough: you interact with the workstation relating to the item you’re crafting, such as an anvil for metalwork, and choose what to craft from a list. Unlike crafting in games like Minecraft and Terraria, the items you can craft are not just limited based on the materials you have on hand.

Realms of Magic also requires you to level up your professions before higher tier recipes are unlocked. You’ll naturally level most of them as you upgrade your equipment, so it’s never a huge hassle. Higher profession levels for crafting also reduce the time it takes to create items, so creating simple items becomes faster over time.

Questing and Combat

Combat in Realms of Magic

Rats don’t put up much of a fight

After kitting yourself out with a new weapon and armour set, it’s time to complete your first quest. Questing is an incredibly simple affair, usually amounting to little more than killing every enemy in an area. Travelling to a new place can be done at any time, though the map isn’t particularly large currently. It wont take long after leaving the village’s confines before you run into an enemy, usually a large rat or wolf. Combat is underwhelming, especially early on. To start with, you only have access to a basic melee attack that is slow and lacks any impact, while also leaving you vulnerable to a counterattack. It’s not until you start gaining levels where combat starts opening up, albeit only slightly.

After increasing your proficiency levels, killing enemies or completing quest, you gain experience towards your overall level. The main benefit to increasing your level is skill points, which can be spent to buy talents. Talents can range from basic upgrades to your stats, to increased inventory space and movement options. Each talent tree can look intimidating early on, but most of them are just stacking stat increases instead of unique abilities. This illusion of depth is actually a problem with a lot of Realms of Magic’s systems, as many talents end up being mostly useless.

Magic (or Lack Thereof)

A prime example of this is magic, which requires MP to cast. There are four different talent trees relating to magic, each with a their own set of spells. It might seem like a good idea at first to try out some magic, but there are a few key areas holding this style of play back. The first is that most spells are actually quite ineffective over just using a melee weapon. Nature magic, which allows you to summon creatures to fight for you, is especially bad. Summons are usually ignored by enemies, and the amount of skill points required to fully level up one type of magic is way too high compared to the benefits you gain.

Magic in Realms of... Magic

Magic can look flashy, but currently it’s a waste of talent points

The second drawback to using magic is that there are no magic related buffs to any equipment you craft. Increased defence may help out close range fighters, but ranged spellcasters would benefit more from something like increased spell damage. Crafting overall makes melee characters far more powerful, as they can keep increasing their damage without relying on talents. It’s a shame that a game with “magic” in the title has little focus on using it. Combat overall isn’t anything special even after leveling up a bunch, often devolving into a game of hit and run for every enemy encounter. Over the course of early access Realms of Magic has received a few updates to magic during its time in early access, so this is something that will hopefully be fixed before release.

Lack of Interesting Content

I’ve mentioned nothing about gathering, and that’s simply because it’s not very engaging in this current build. As with weapons and armour, gathering tools you craft have different levels of strength. Better tools let you cut down trees, mine and dig faster, though there aren’t any interesting items to craft that can improve gathering. No way to gather large areas at once or improve the amount of materials you receive. Even farming is redundant, since you’ll find more than enough food by killing animals or raiding the many crates and pots throughout the land.

Realms of Magic’s biggest downside right now is a problem many early access games have: a lack of content. Sure, you can craft better equipment and follow the main questline, but there are only a handful of quests overall. With how easy it is to find materials, you’ll also outlevel most areas easily as well. There’s not much incentive to keep playing after a few hours of adventuring, outside of crafting every single item. Most areas on the map are nearly identical, and we can count the amount of biome types on one hand. The game’s roadmap promises some major changes to the world for the full release, reworking the entire map and adding much more content. Hopefully this will be enough to keep things interesting outside of the game’s opening hours.

Realms of Magic Trailer

Graphics and Audio

For the most part Realms of Magic is not a bad looking game. Sprites are large and detailed, and I never encountered any framerate drops during my time playing it. Little details, like blades of grass blowing in the wind or trees falling to the ground after being cut, really add to the game’s charm. Realms of Magic‘s artstyle is pleasing overall, going for a medieval look that stands out from other early access crafting games.

If there was one glaring flaw though, it’s how characters are animated. The game uses simple rigs for characters, meaning that they’re animated like puppets instead of using individually drawn frames of animation. For movements like running and jumping this looks fine, but attacks and gathering look goofy due to the way your character swings their arm. It’s a noticeable blemish on an otherwise solid visual style.

As for the audio, it takes a more subdued approach. There are a few ambient music tracks that set the tone for each area, but they’re not too memorable. Instead, it’s the sound effects that really add to the ambiance as you explore. From the sounds of boots stomping along the floor to a gentle breeze passing by, the sound design makes travelling through the same areas just a little bit less repetitive. Combat does suffer from the worst sound effects however, adding to the lack of visual impact from attacks.

Summary
In its current early access release, Realms of Magic feels poor in some rather important areas. Combat lacks any skill, with magic being held back by the talent system, and there's not a whole lot to do outside of the main questline. The framework is here for an interesting take on RPGs and crafting games, but as of right now there's little reason to play this. The promise of a huge 1.0 release is enough to keep me interested in Realms of Magic, so I'll be ready to check out the finished product next year.
Good
  • Solid profession system
  • Nice sprites
Bad
  • Lack of content
  • Poor combat balance
  • Illusion of depth

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