Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Rimelands: Hammer of Thor (Switch) Review

An isometric, turn-based RPG with inspirations from Norse mythology? That was enough to get me interested in Rimelands: Hammer of Thor. When I perused the weekly sales and found it ridiculously cheap? That made it an instant buy.

What I got was a fun little rpg with some uncommon mechanics. Areas are divided into invisible grids, and each square moved is equivalent to a turn. This wasn't an issue when moving around the few town or cleared areas, but became important when an enemy was nearby. Being turn-based, enemies move or take an action when you do. Depending on speed, units may even get two turns in a row. This was great when it was to your advantage, but annoying, or at worst deadly, when not.

There are three basic types of attacks and a defense for each: melee, ranged and magic. The range for ranged and magic didn't always seem consistent. I'm not even sure it was listed anywhere. Sometimes it felt right, and sometimes I'd swear I was close enough, yet could not attack. A few times, it felt like enemies had a farther range than I did with the same abilities.  That's not good.

To resolve an attack, the aggressor rolls a number of dice based off skills and equipment.  More was always better. The die can either come up with a skull, double skull, an "x", or a shield icon. These determined the number of "attacks" done, and the damage. A skull is a hit, a double skull is a double. The other two add nothing to an attack. If the defender has any defending dice, those are then rolled. Each shield icon will block one skull, but the rest do nothing for defense. If you block all skulls, there is no damage. Otherwise, numbers appear above the target to show the HP damage done. I do not know how the damage number is calculated. It felt slightly random. I was not fond of that, but once you start getting more dice, it becomes less of an issue. Unfortunately, that feeling never went away completely.

Battles were usually over quickly, but multiple enemies or a boss made them take a lot longer. We aren't talking JRPG long though. If you are outnumbered, a fight can go south fast. Sadly, this happened a lot. I wasn't surprised that I went with a ranged character for my first run through the game, as that is usually my go-to. It's possible that affected the character's survival. I tried to offset these encounters by moving into an advantageous position whenever possible. Enemy AI isn't great either. At times they refused to follow me, despite being in the middle of combat. Other times they fled when low on HP, making them easy targets for ranged abilities. Even if multiple enemies can be very difficult, health and mana regeneration outside of combat is super fast, resulting in little time lost before the next encounter. That didn't really help with the few cheap bosses in the game though.

Your character has three separate skill trees at her disposal, and the player can choose which one(s) to put your points in. Persuing multiple trees can certainly work, but I found it much more beneficial to stick with one. I only got enough points to fill out one of the three. The skills themselves are hit or miss. Some are really great, like the the first ranged damage one. Others look great on paper, but just are not worth using. There are ranged ones that poison an enemy, or even stop them from moving. They sounded useful, but they didn't work on most of the enemies you would actually want to use it on. That's not good. Sadly I didn't know until I actually bought the skills. These bad choices didn't seem to hinder your game progress, but having an option to redistribute points would have been great.

The game also contains a pretty rudimentary crafting system. Items can be broken down into parts that can be used to make some unique equipment. The system is functional, but not very good. You can't break everything down, and the distinction seems random. You have to also pay money to break it down, as opposed to making money selling it. Most things don't give many crafting supplies, either. Even breaking down a lot of things results in being able to make maybe 1-3 good pieces of equipment. There's only a handful of recipes, so maybe that problem solves itself. Regardless, it's an area that could have been capitalized on much better.

I played the game exclusively in handheld mode, and it looked alright. Even then I could tell the graphics were pretty plain. That's not really a problem, but it's worth mentioning. What was more of a problem was how dark the game looks. The few outdoor areas were usually passable, but any of the numerous indoor areas were just too dark. Some ridiculously so. I turned up the screen brightness so I could see better, which I haven't had to do before on the Switch. I suspected it's because the areas themselves are not great looking, but I don't think that's the point. I want to be able to see where I'm going. On that note, I also would have appreciated a map. The areas were not too complex, but I'm a stickler about exploring every corner for experience and items. One last thing to note about the graphics is at least the different armors changed the look of the main character, even if it was hard to see it clearly.

The weakest part of the game was the story and dialogue. It gave a brief backstory when starting, but no real explanation for any characters, and barely anything to mention how they are connected. If I didn't have some knowledge of Medieval lore, I would have no idea who Oberon and Titania were, let alone why they would have something to do with this game's story. There's almost enough story in the game to be able to follow along with why you are doing things, but that's about it. The dialogue would be fine if it wasn't trying too hard to be funny. Every character from the main heroine, to random townsfolk, to the final boss all have to say some silly quip at some point. I'm glad the game doesn't take itself too seriously, but I think it's too far in that direction. Not every character is Bruce Campbell, but the writers really want them to be.

Overall, Rimelands: Hammer of Thor was a fun RPG. The battles are different, and done well. The skill trees and abilities can be fun to mess around with. Most other aspects are not that great, but it didn't detract from my enjoyment. The game is about 6-10 hours, and offers a few dungeons after the main story. I'd definitely recommend RPG fans check it out, especially if it's on sale.

The Good:
Fun battles fill this RPG that won't take too long, and won't cost much.

The Bad:
A bit unbalanced, a bit too dark, and a story worth ignoring.

The SaHD:
Seriously, spend the dollar for this game when it's on sale. It's worth trying.

(Rimelands: Hammer of Thor was purchased by the reviewer)