A pair years in the past, a small Croatian improvement crew known as Room-C got down to create a brand new sport set in Arthurian mythology known as The Hand of Merlin. Following a roguelite construction and based mostly round high-difficulty, tactical gameplay, the discharge rapidly gained a passionate fanbase that eagerly awaited every new iteration because the title went by way of Early Entry on Steam. Now that the title has lastly reached 1.0 standing, it’s been ported to consoles, and we’re blissful to report that the ultimate product is an pleasing and intense expertise that’s nicely price your time.
The narrative in The Hand of Merlin is stored to a minimal, consisting of a bigger overarching occasion that’s stuffed in by varied smaller emergent occasions which change from run to run. The primary thrust of the story right here is that there’s a horrible Cataclysm slowly corrupting the land and killing off life, and the spirit of Merlin the Wizard is the final hero of the Spherical Desk who can do one thing about it. Although he’s, uh, sorta lifeless, he’s in a position to journey the multiverse and assist varied bands of heroes and adventurers of their quest to save lots of their world. In the event that they fail and die, Merlin bails on them and goes to a different universe to strive once more.
The story unfolds in a novel manner for every run, as varied occasions fill in and provide the alternative to make key selections that alter their outcomes. For instance, we bumped into one occasion the place the lord of a neighborhood city was tasked with figuring out the sentence of an imprisoned man accused (with out proof) of stealing from one other townsperson. The lord requested our band of adventurers for assist and we might choose from a number of choices for a way he could be dealt with, with presumably completely different rewards given to us relying on our choice. We loved this non-linear and considerably random method to storytelling, because it helps to maintain every run feeling contemporary whereas giving you a chance to insert your self into the narrative. Your adventurers will be as honorable or as dastardly as you’d like, particularly on condition that the one objective which actually issues right here is that you just handle to outlive battles so you’ll be able to struggle off the Cataclysm.
Every run consists of some maps coated in a number of occasion nodes, every of which is linked to a few others by one-way strains. Get to the top of a map and also you’ll have a boss encounter, and you progress on to the subsequent map for those who handle to succeed. Each node has a problem degree connected to it, and a few nodes will result in a fight encounter, a city or service provider, or an NPC encounter. You’re given an thought of the rewards you may get from a node prematurely, which helps a bit with planning, and plotting your course to the inevitable boss encounter on the finish of the map feels pleasingly troublesome. Typically, you need or want all the rewards you’ll be able to see from the upcoming nodes, so making a call will be robust, particularly factoring in what you could have to endure to get to the subsequent node that you just actually want.
Fight in The Hand of Merlin might be acquainted to these of you who’ve performed XCOM or Mario + Rabbids. You management a small crew of adventurers on an isometric, grid-based map and should resolve methods to get probably the most utility out of a comparatively small pool of obtainable actions. Every character can often solely do two actions per flip (together with shifting to a different spot) and plenty of of their skills have cooldowns that imply they’ll solely be used each couple of turns. Battles hardly ever have greater than 5 enemies at most, however a lot of the problem and depth comes from discovering probably the most optimum manner of routing them.
For instance, most assaults have successful proportion that decides the chances of if the assault will land. When you’ve got one motion left on a personality, it could be helpful to take the 40% probability of hitting that enemy simply on the sting of your assault vary, or it could be higher to forged a injury buff on a close-by ally for utilization subsequent flip. Normally, there might be penalties no matter what you go along with, so mitigating unfavorable outcomes turns into a big a part of surviving a run.
Each character has two bars—one for armor and one for well being—and any incoming injury will hit the armor bar earlier than it begins to eat into your well being. Everybody’s armor replenishes after every battle, however their well being can solely be restored in cities or throughout restricted occasions. If anybody’s well being will get to zero, they die for good and take no matter stats and gear they’d with them. Should you’re fortunate, you’ll be able to typically recruit new allies in a while within the run, however they then have to be correctly kitted out to be on par with the remainder of the crew and also you’re not all the time getting a category that correctly replaces the function of your fallen warrior.
In some ways, The Hand of Merlin proves to be a delightfully unforgiving sport, as one poor choice made wherever can convey break to a run that had an in any other case strong probability of succeeding. There isn’t a lot in the best way of meta-progression between makes an attempt both, so your success in future runs is basically dependent upon your personal capacity to be taught out of your errors as you slowly construct up data of how varied parts and mechanics have an effect on the end result of a run. These of you who don’t have the endurance or temperament for dealing with a slow-paced and extremely troublesome roguelite will wish to steer clear then; The Hand of Merlin is manageable as soon as you set within the effort to play the sport the best way it expects you to, however second possibilities are sometimes laborious to come back by.
There’s some type of meta-progression, nevertheless, and that is largely linked to the in-game achievement system. Attaining feats like restoring a specific amount of armor in a battle or successful a struggle with just one character in your social gathering will unlock achievements, and these typically will then unlock new adventurers so that you can choose on the outset of a brand new run or improve present ones to provide them an edge in the beginning of the subsequent journey. You too can play on more durable difficulties to get blessings and curses to affect varied odds for later runs and to farm a consumable useful resource for unlocking and bolstering sure fight spells. It’s not fairly Rogue Legacy, then, the place persistence means you’ll inevitably win finally, however there are nonetheless some avenues right here so that you can grease the wheels and tip the chances in your favor as you strive but once more.
It’s a high-quality sport, then, however one irritating side that we really feel bears mentioning is that The Hand of Merlin feels poorly optimized for the Swap controller interface. When it comes to efficiency, all the things is aboveboard, however the UI is needlessly busy and odd to navigate with simply the buttons. It’s clear that this was designed with keyboard and mouse in thoughts, because it takes a number of button presses to entry some submenus that clearly would solely take one click on to achieve on a PC. This goofiness with the controls doesn’t break The Hand of Merlin on Swap, nevertheless it does function an annoyance that sadly can’t be ignored.
Visuals in The Hand of Merlin are respectable, although unremarkable. The storybook-like sequences while you come to new nodes are a cute contact, however there’s a fairly distinct lack of persona to the visuals. That is about as simple as swords ‘n’ sorcery visuals get; fashions are easy and boring, environments are darkly lit and unmemorable, and there’s typically simply not a lot aptitude to talk of. It’s a bit disappointing, too, because the in any other case partaking gameplay feels prefer it’s let down by this utilitarian and no-frills method to presentation. We wouldn’t precisely name the graphics ugly, however they’re actually boring.
The Hand of Merlin could not convey something new to the desk, however followers of robust technique video games like XCOM will nonetheless discover a lot to like right here. The unforgiving roguelite construction and decision-driven gameplay provide up lots of partaking content material, even when these parts are held again a bit by the boring graphics and an interface that’s not very controller pleasant. Should you can overlook these faults and also you’re a technique sport fanatic searching for your subsequent repair, we’d recommend you seize maintain of The Hand of Merlin.