Review – Maglam Lord
With a couple of reviews under my belt, I think I’ve done enough to establish myself as a degenerate. Nothing more I could say than fan service is my bread and butter. I never shy away from salacious content and firmly believe that there are competent games with not-so-innocent appeal – arcade shooters, addictive dungeon crawlers, and riveting JRPGs. Maglam Lord is an amalgamation of genres, fusing stabby bloodlust with a dating simulator. That’s right, killing crabs and murdering rams by day, only to whisper sweet nothings into the ears of potential lovers by night. What truly caught my eye in the pre-release screenshots was the battling setup. It reminded me of action side-scrolling romps, and that was plenty to sell itself to me immediately. My next game to cover was calling, but could it live up to my intrigue?
JRPGs with an anime aesthetic tend to come with baggage – a stigma if you will. These days, people are expecting some degree of perversion. Whether it be an explicit photo or innuendo, anything smutty counts. Well, Maglam Lord doesn’t consist of content that constitutes vulgarity. Sure, there’s a twosome of women with pronounced curvature, but then again, they’re both sensibly covered. Truthfully, the subject matter here has a knack for, rather shockingly, being weirdly sentimental. What it does share in common with others like it, however, is quirkiness. Lunacy is ever-present as characters infuse conversations with silly quips. In an attempt to be inclusive, when asked to select a gender, regardless of choice, The Demon Lord Killizerk is always referred to with they/them pronouns. I just wanted to recognize this progressive step before diving into the nitty-gritty of the writing’s quality.
Overall, the narrative is decent but does take a bit of time to gain steam. The pacing isn’t ideal but once it kicks off, I was genuinely enjoying myself. In the opening minutes, Maglam Lord jumps directly to set the stage. It’s during this phase that either a person fully commits or steps back. For clarity’s sake, my session lasted upwards of ten hours before it got to that point. Otherwise, the story coasts by with light exposition that doesn’t paint a clear end destination. Once it became evident, though, my mouth was agape at the realization of foreshadowing – in a portion I wrote off as nonsense, too. It reveals itself to be an important plot device that ties every single preceding revelation together. It also helps illustrate the bond two characters share. Their familial link was touching and believable. Regrettably, inconsequential literary fluff does disrupt investment.
Now, it’s essential to drive home the motivation behind the dating aspect. You see, Killizerk is the last of their kind, meaning they have to procreate. I know, with a premise like that, it’s a wonder how sexuality isn’t predominant. In actuality, it’s contrary to that, with some wholesomeness. For example, a robot makes Killizerk a special blend of coffee or a female warrior that shares in a personal discussion. The relatability of both incidents had me revisiting my dating life. It isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, though, because one crucial element was missing – playful jabs. There’s a noticeable absence of teasing when compared to the main story, thus hindering potential. It contributes to weighing down their personalities, making everyone come across as merely insipid. The building blocks are in place, but refusal to harness banter dulls the sense of camaraderie during these dates.
One thing the JRPG community is privy to is that there’s a massive pond of cliches that games love to fish from. Maglam Lord is no different, casting a net far into the metaphorical water. Normally, this brings a long thread of illogical plot points to push the story forward. For instance, having invisible walls is one that frequently flounders into games. In a twist, however, while that trope’s alive and well, it’s given an interesting revitalization. The utilization is clever, interlacing flawlessly into the narrative and bulking up the penultimate mystery. Sure, the writing does wane through mediocrity due to poor structure, but don’t allow it deter you. The goofy dialogue always drew a cheesy smirk and there were a few chuckles sporadically happening. There’s a certain charisma baked in that entices me to keep going, regardless of the leisurely start.
You could argue that the gameplay loop of Maglam Lord is the most pleasing aspect. While the core premise is to fight for survival of your species by finding a mate, there’s still another. The second conundrum is that Killizerk’s magical prowess has depleted. To conserve what remains of their internal stash and recover it, they have the innate ability to transform themselves into one of three varieties of weaponry – a sword, spear, and an axe. There’s no disputing that it’s an exciting concept and one that nullifies finding more robust equipment during the overworld travels. Instead, it uses a forging system, and my first impressions were lukewarm – seems to contain limited choices. Well, hush my mouth, baby boy; each one comes with further variations, tripling possibilities, and bettering in ranks. Of course, while potency boosts, it also asks for additional materials, thus leading to a little grind fest.
I’m aware that folks swear against having to battle to gather resources, level up, and break the bank repeatedly. Despite my love for doing so, I can acknowledge how repetitive it becomes. Luckily, Maglam Lord strives to cushion that ordeal by introducing a few turning cogs. The first is combat directly inspired by the ‘Tales of’ franchise. While not completely identical and quite watered down, it retains that quick nature. I was bouncing between battles and map traversal in a Thanos snap. The second is the skill execution also changes, being streamlined. I was no longer pressing directional and button combinations, only focusing on one. The issue is it causes this system to devolve into a mindless masher. Having several abilities to call on seamlessly was sacrificed for ease of use. Thankfully, what saves this monotonous affair is the rapid slaughtering of monsters.
The third and final bullet is a nifty tiny implementation that blows the idea of grinding wide open. Basically, it multiplies the experience points earned. We’ve already established that Killizerk can become one of three armament types. These also correlate to the weakness that monsters have. A straightforward way to think about it is each one comes with either a vulnerability, neutrality or resistance – the latter state is the key. See, changing up weapons mid-battle is effortless. By doing it, the. targeting a resistance, damage output becomes minuscule. That allows you to accumulate a combo counter by hitting consecutive strikes. By achieving five, a bonus is given, boosting experience by five percent, but by hitting sixty successive strikes, it effectively doubles. By harnessing the type that an enemy is impervious to, noted by a tiny icon, the damage stays minimal. As a result, grinding becomes much more palpable.
Furthermore, there’s not much need to scavenge for anything else. See, to continue the above trend, money doesn’t hold the same significance as it does in other titles. Pieces of equipment, for example, can be adorned by numerous characters – unless otherwise stated. Purchasing any from shops isn’t a viable option since those procured during exploration are typically stronger by comparison. Speaking of diligence, scattered throughout the various areas are endangered species. Be warned, though, because a few are well-hidden and had me searching every nook and cranny. Once you locate one, they unlock one of several rewards – think of them as critter collectibles. Fortunately, if, by chance, you manage to miss one, don’t fret over it. Side-quests are where they reside, and those are usually repeatable. The only real downside is redundancy manages to squirm its way into some.
Rather egregiously, a few areas here and there are obscenely large despite not needing all that damn space. It makes the most simplistic quest an arduous one. For example, depending on size, tasks that ask to assemble supplies usually are a breeze, but when accompanied by a mammoth map, it’s a slog. There were many times that I’d lose track of areas I had already rummaged through. To complicate matters, it’s ridiculously easy to gloss over the sparkles that are supposed to represent items. I couldn’t cite the number of times I was forced to backtrack, meticulously scanning every pixel. Hell, even by doing that, my frustration was causing me to turn up empty-handed still. Thankfully, this isn’t overly common, with most side-quests condensing the overall area. It makes me curious why exactly this doesn’t pertain to everything. I never left like quitting, at least.
Maglam Lord sports this claymation-like graphical style. Every character has a glossy sheen that, while it doesn’t look overly terrible, does show its age – a bit of a strange statement, given this is a brand new game. Their resolution doesn’t fare too well either, with blurry outlines. Ironically, it’s the monsters that seem to pop, almost like they’re meant to be the focal point over the heroes. The visuals, unfortunately, aren’t much preferable with environments. They’re all bland and seem to follow a basic template of the different locales – forest, castle, and so on. Nothing about them is unique; none of the level designs stuck out. Then again, niche titles don’t ordinarily boast impressive 3D modelling. The artwork and the character portraits are a whole other story. Everyone felt distinct, although a case could be made that these designs are cookie-cutter, too.
Not only am I a filthy degenerate, but I tend to gravitate towards dubbed voice acting, because I struggle to find the cadence in some performances of another language. Yeah, that’s not an issue with Maglam Lord, because it was pretty damn good. Every actor and actress had a clear direction with every line they delivered. I love that I could sense the anger or snarkiness. Sure, some points could stand to be slightly improved on, but nothing is perfect, after all. As for the music, well, it’s hit or miss, with the bulk of the score not being overly memorable. I want to focus on something I’ve preached about for years – tracks should amplify the emotion of a scene, especially in JRPGs. So, imagine my surprise when a cutscene meant to be sad was accompanied by equally sad music.
Maglam Lord is a mixed bag of positive and negative with exaggerated curvature on women meant to distract. The premise of a Demon Lord seeking to breed is ludicrous, but it’s also expected. This is a JRPG intended to be silly and not taken seriously. However, that doesn’t mean the writing is godawful, because I was surprised by a twist. What began as a narrative that appeared thrown together was hiding a heartfelt tale. I loved the clever use of a trope, and the voice acting was key to infusing personality into characters. Though, it’s worth mentioning that they tend to fall within archetypes that we’ve seen many times.
Tiny technical performances can be found, like a slight delay when pausing. I did notice a minor slow down in combat, too, but it’s never a disturbance. In all honesty, it gives strikes an illusion of impact. Voice acting is excellent, but the majority of the soundtrack suffers from genericism. The character art is superb, but the environments are bland. Maglam Lord is an imperfect, tarnished hidden gem that will excite fans of niche entertainment, but do it at a discounted price.
Character portraits are beautiful. Everyone is drawn fantastically and have a unique look. Sadly, those environments are desolate. They are the epitome of basic but hey, it’s serviceable.
Half RPG and half visual novel. Luckily, the game tends to venture into the adventure side of things more often. Battles were smooth and quick, while the collecting aspect was a fun callback to my N64 days.
Tracks are, for the majority, forgettable. They do, however, sound good when playing, never coming across as annoying. What helps is there is a song that helps amplify the emotional weight of a scene. That’s a plus.
Fun Factor: 8.0
I had fun hunting for loot. I still had fun with some of the insanity that characters were spewing. The mystery intrigued me and the forgiving was fun. Maglam Lord being generous with loot helps with that.
Final Verdict: 7.5
Maglam Lord is available now on Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4.
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.
A copy of Maglam Lord was provided by the publisher.