Review – Disciples: Liberation
Sometimes a game ends up being more than the sum of its parts. Sometimes it ends up being what you’d expect. And sometimes, despite doing everything “right”, a game just fails to come together. Sadly, Disciples: Liberation ended up as the latter for me. Despite seeming like my kind of game, nothing it did ended up landing with me. That’s not to say it’s a bad game, or that it does something wrong. It just feels generic, unambitious, and bland. It falls short of being the kind of game I would choose to sink the required time into for a game like this. Especially when compared to similar titles, some of which have came out this very year.
Disciples: Liberation is a strategy RPG, in the same vein as Heroes of Might & Magic and King’s Bounty. Much like King’s Bounty II, Disciples: Liberation also leans far more into the RPG side of things than previous titles in this franchise and others. Unlike King’s Bounty II though, it plays things far safer and much more uninterestingly. There’s three main parts of the game. The personal RPG elements, the base/army building systems, and exploration and combat.
You play as an orphaned mercenary trying to make your way in a gritty dark fantasy world. The story is equally generic as the character setup, with plenty of talk about fate, destiny, great evils oncoming, and bitter racial divides between factions. It ends up exactly as you expected when you started, with multiple endings depending on which factions you choose to most closely align with. It’s a far cry from King’s Bounty II’s alignment system, which was a lot of fun to roleplay through. Here, it’s a fairly binary choice that allows you to basically choose your story path and ending from the first quest. Replayable, yes. Dynamic and interesting? Not really.
Unlike many other games like this though, you’re not just a commander of an army, but a warrior yourself. And you have a fairly robust customization system across four classes, multiple skill trees, and a full equipment system to create your own hero. This is the strongest element of the game, and though unimaginative it does at least do what it sets out too. There’s a decent amount of options and it’s very possible to specialize across specific builds. Balance is a bit screwy, but that’s definitely nothing new for strategy or RPG games. Let alone for one that does both.
Base and army building is the near opposite. As far as building your base goes, most mobile games give you more options and customization. There’s a handful of slots, a handful of buildings, and you kinda just upgrade as you get materials to do so. Focus on the buildings of the factions you already chose to support, and that’s your biggest decision already made. No thinking required here. Army building has a lot of units to play with, spread across the four factions. And while faction mixing is allowed, you’re generally encouraged to stick to whatever faction you’re most popular with. The problem is that balance issues make far too many units simply inferior to others. And the other issue is due to the battle system and map design which is by far the biggest limiter on the game’s fun level.
Combat is turn-based across a hex map, a lot like King’s Bounty II as well. The difference is that, while that game did interesting things with its maps via layout and obstacle changes, Disciples: Liberation does nothing. It’s essentially the exact same small map every time, maybe with some things sprinkled across it. What’s the point of strategy when every map is the same? You find one strategy and stick with it, because battles will never require you to change. Not to mention how long battles can drag on, due to self-healing mechanics for whenever you skip a turn. Turn-based battles usually take longer than real-time ones, that’s true, but this is probably the worst example of battles dragging on I’ve ever seen. And it feels like that with every single battle, which very quickly wears the most robust of patiences down.
Finally, there’s exploration, what little there is of it to talk about. There’s two main exploration modes. The overworld, which you trek across astride a random horse. Then there’s the dungeons, tombs, sewers, and other fantasy staples that you explore on your own two feet. Though cosmetically different, there’s not a whole lot of changes mechanically-wise. That’s not nearly as much of an issue as how boring exploration is though. Maps are fairly linear, and what secrets they have are way too easy to stumble across. The sense of discovery and venturing into the unknown is just beyond the scope of what this game was willing to do. The dungeon and overworld design is neither vast and labyrinth or compact and homely. They’re just corridors linking other corridors, and you’ll quickly realize there’s no point where the game changes or opens up.
Disciples: Liberation was a game I started out intrigued by. It seemed my thing, and I wanted to like it. After I started playing it though, I moved from wanting to like it to simply wanting to like something about it. Eventually, I ended up just playing it to get through it, which is the death knell for any game. After all, if a game’s not fun, what’s the point? With Disciples: Liberation, I just don’t know. I found the combat repetitive, exploration dull, and RPG mechanics generic and wasted on the rest of the game. This is just one of those times where there’s so many other better games, and I just can’t suggest this one over them. Like King’s Bounty II for example, now that’s a strategy RPG worth sinking hours into.
It looks pretty good for most of the time, but that makes the times it doesn’t stand out more.
Functionally, the battle and party/army system works exactly as you’d expect, but as time drags on, it quickly feels repetitive and generic.
I’ve heard far worse voice acting and the soundtrack, while underwhelming, isn’t terrible.
Fun Factor: 4.0
It’s just not fun. Story and characters fail to drag me into the world, gameplay fails to engage me, and the game as a whole was simply unremarkable.
Final Verdict: 6.0
Disciples: Liberation is available now on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S|X, and PC.
Reviewed on PS5.
A copy of Disciples: Liberation was provided by the publisher.