Stolen Realm Preview: Hexagonal Havoc

I'm the kind of person who gets lost quickly. Lots of characters, lots of attacks, lots of stats, you name it. When I wreak havoc, I crave clarity on what my fighters are really worth. In Stolen Realm, you can venture on a tactical adventure that’s easy to understand, but tricky to master. Let’s dive right into the turn-based dungeon-crawler Stolen Realm with this preview!

Stolen Realm Preview Hexagonal HavocSome strategy games take the numbers game just a bit too far. A game or strategy tabletop game with 15 stats and 60 derived stats risks becoming fiddly at best or inaccessible at worst. On the other hand, in a game where the numbers play a minimal role, strategizing isn’t rewarding. The game becomes arbitrary and frustrating. Not terrible if you’re playing roulette – but less fun if you boot up a game to bring your tactical A-game. 

This middle ground is what Stolen Realm shoots for. Since its initial release in October 2021, Burst2Flame Entertainment’s title has been expanding, balancing, and rebalancing to offer players an experience that rewards thinking ahead. With its cute and consistent hexagonal style, emphasis on dungeon crawling and looting, and its turn-based combat, Stolen Realm displays the essence of a solid RPG. 

Stolen Realm is available on Steam for $15,99 USD.

Stolen Realm Trailer

Story: Story?

Stolen Realm leaves you completely guessing where you are. Not really in a good way. Some games have you start in a mysterious setting, where you slowly learn more about where you are or why you are there. Stolen Realm doesn’t do that. Everything just kind of is. During my playthrough, I caught myself repeatedly as I was wondering why I was there?

As it turns out, minimal elements of a story do exist in Stolen Realm. Before you embark on your adventure, you live in a quaint little fantasy town. You’ve got your blacksmith, a potion maker, and a jeweler. It’s all very typical and idyllic. One thing fits the setting less – a large portal on the northeastern corner of the map. You walk up there, and suddenly some sinister figures emerge. 

The atmosphere is great! If only there was a little more flavor...

The atmosphere is great! If only there was a little more flavor…

Bandits! They’re trying to rob this defenseless town blind. You fight them off, but they swear they’ll be back. A wizard named Calen rudely interrupts your presence in this plain. He transports you to a series of tutorial battles, giving you “power” while you train. As you fight off the foes, Calen becomes increasingly cryptic. We’re “wasting our potential” and “we’re not yet convinced.” Also, it turns out that we have a brother, and that the wizard is a dragon who masterminds… something. If it sounds confusing to you, you’re not alone. The story and its pacing are very choppy and make very little sense. 

Anyway, the bandits raid the defenseless little town, and now it’s your job to come after them. It’s safe to say that the story in Stolen Realm is entirely subservient to its gameplay. There’s no grand or complicated tale, let alone lore or flavor. It’s a convenient setup that lets you slip into combat and adventure. Although I always like a little flavor to my RPGs, there’s nothing wrong with this per se. Some people just want to get going without walls of text, and Stolen Realm does just that. 

Gameplay: Taking a page from the Player’s Handbook

The second I booted up Stolen Realm, I immediately got immense Dungeons and Dragons vibes. From the character creator and the classes to the stats and methods of attacking – if you enjoy D&D’s combat, you’ll be pleased with Stolen Realm, too. 

The game features five different base classes you can let your character be. Each of them overlaps with their D&D equivalent. The Warrior serves the role of a standard fighter. They deal a ton of damage, but usually aren’t the most versatile or dextrous – let alone adapt with magic. Thieves, or in D&D language Rogues, do have that versatility, although they are far more squishy. Still, if you love sneaking around and outsmarting foes, you’d love a thief. The last three classes currently in the game, Wizard, Ranger, and Monk, mimic their D&D equivalents near perfectly. Wizards are the primary spellcasting class, rangers are long-range powerhouses, and monks just can’t resist throwing and kicking people.

If you know roughly how D&D works, you'll be fine in Stolen Realm, too.

If you know roughly how D&D works, you’ll be fine in Stolen Realm, too.

That’s not to say that the character creator is simplistic and lacking originality. Or that players have to slip into either one of five preconfigured molds. No, you can allocate points and abilities in any way you like. Every character has 50 points that they can divide into five stats. The game explains what each stat does excellently, so you won’t be left wondering what increasing a certain stat means. Want to make a buff wizard? You can! Want to make a necromancing thief? You bet. Thanks to this freedom, the character creator proves versatile, and lets players enjoy the game in ways they want. There’s also a fair bit of physical character customization. 

Dungeon Crawling High in the Sky

So, you’ve created your buff necromancing thief (or, in my case, a very basic warrior). After you play through the tutorial segment, you’ll find yourself on an elemental plane full of hexagons. It’s all quite serene – not unlike the atmosphere of Astral Ascent. Similar to that game, the levels are procedurally generated. After each area, you can choose from a multitude of paths that eventually all lead to the final boss.

Every crawl is different!

Every crawl is different!

But of course, every path is different. In some areas, you get to gather resources by fishing or harvesting plants. In others, you get to buy and sell items, while in the next one, you get to rest. My favorite ones are the areas that apply random effects to your party – this makes every adventure truly different. 

Hey, what’s that strategically placed explosive barrel doing there?

The main feature of Stolen Realm is its combat system. The game uses an advanced turn-based hexagonal system. It’s easy to learn but tricky to master. Essential in the fights is using conveniently placed objects, like fire or ice barrels, to your advantage. Rush in, and you’ll get bested. Preparation is key! Where are the enemies, how can I divide them, shield them from powerful attacks and make sure explosions blow up in their faces and not in mine?

Thanks to the multitude of weapons and abilities, combat is exciting and varied. The enemies are fortunately also not repetitive – the game makes it a real mission to keep hitting your protagonists with different enemies every time you encounter one. There are shrines on the battlefield, which provide boosts or handicaps to anyone standing in its area of effect. The battlefield changes every time you try an encounter. You may be fortunate, but you also may have to make the best of an unfortunate situation. The RNG can mess up your attempt, especially if you’re not careful.

In combat, you have to take advantage of everything around you.

In combat, you have to take advantage of everything around you.

Fortunately, you can adjust the difficulty setting. The real die-hards can even play on hardcore mode, which introduces permadeath to your protagonist(s). Otherwise, you can re-adjust the difficulty after a failed fight and try again. You also may have supplies that you didn’t know you could use. The interface sometimes makes it a little challenging to find exactly what you can do. For instance, it took me more time than I’d like to admit to finding out how I could use potions (it’s in the bottom right, by the way). The game is still in beta, so changes to the accessibility of the interface may be forthcoming. However, for now, doing what you want to do can be a bit of a search on the screen.

Lacking a crew? The game’s got you covered.

Another central feature of Stolen Realm is that you can choose to venture together! A party can be anywhere between 1 to 6 people, and the difficulty gets scaled accordingly. So although 6 people can hit more targets, the targets will also have more health than if the party consisted of a single hero. 

It feels great to play as six different versions of yourself.

It feels great to play as six different versions of yourself.

What’s great is that this mechanic isn’t exclusive to people with friends to play the game. You can create as many characters as you like and combine them in various ways per party. The game thus revolves less around completing the story and more about leveling up each character to their fullest potential. You can assemble your six-people squad in any way you like. Playing with 6 characters adds a lot of flavor to the game and makes it more dynamic compared to just a single player. It also captures the imagination a lot more.

Of course, you can also play online with your friends and have each character controlled by a single human. 

Graphics and Audio: A Polygonal Meyers-Briggs

I mentioned a couple of times that the game revolves around hexagons. The hexagons decide all the movement. They also influence attack range, areas of effect, and so on. The art matches this hexagon-centricity. The maps and houses sport a pleasant polygonal style, which gives the game quite a cute aesthetic. The characters also match the polygons, which to me gave off a 16-personalities Meyers-Briggs personality test (this one).

The style is very consistent, which makes the game great to look at.

The style is very consistent, which makes the game great to look at.

The game runs smoothly and is easy to control. Aside from the cute atmosphere and likable art style, the game uses ragdoll physics whenever a character gets taken out on the battlefield. In slow motion style, they get catapulted far back, where they fly and land cartoonishly – and just remain there as long as you’re battling. I love some funny ragdoll physics, and the game puts it to good use. Here and there, the graphics are still a bit wonky – like characters being able to stand inside each other – but with some polishing, these issues will surely be resolved once the game is fully released.

Hope you like it intense

The mood that Stolen Realm tries to set is pretty clear. It’s heroic as if you were embarking on an epic campaign. The soundtrack successfully cultivates this mood. The music is pleasant to listen to, although not always for the extent to which the music plays. The music barely changes during lengthy battles. 

Say that you’re in a tough battle, and you have to maneuver carefully so you won’t get stomped. While you’re strategizing, epic and tense battle music plays. After a couple of minutes, the music does become boring at best and annoying at worst. The music tracks play for quite a while, and the audio doesn’t accommodate listening to it for long durations of time. It simply lacks the variation or calm that makes these kinds of tracks pleasant. 

Still, it wouldn’t be a fair assessment to say the music is annoying or bad. The themes broadly work for their settings, and I’m always up for some music that makes me feel like the greatest champion of the land. 

Stolen Realm was previewed on PC with a game key provided by Jaleo PR.

For those craving to satisfy a tactical gap in your life, Stolen Realm is a great candidate to fill the void. The varying levels and enemies force you to adapt, improvise and overcome again and again. Although lore-wise the universe leaves a lot to the imagination, the combat system reprises a classic formula in an enjoyable and even innovative way. The classes feel unique and different, making it fun to mix and match and get optimal results that way. All in all, a solid game that I can’t wait to see develop when it releases fully.
  • Great combat system
  • Fun to play with six characters simultaneously
  • Cute artstyle
  • Diverse and well-balanced classes and attacks
  • Dungeon crawling is well-executed and fun
  • Overall lacking a story or a narrative
  • Unfortunate RNG can end your battle before it even began

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