Balrum – What We Think:
Balrum is an open world RPG which has enjoyed Kickstarter success and launched for PC, Mac and Linux. Using an isometric top down perspective, Balrum uses familiar methods to bring its world to life but sets itself apart by fusing its myriad quests and adventures with a deep crafting system that allows for player creation on numerous levels – ranging from naming your own crafted objects (armor, weapons or other gear) to building structures to facilitate your survival.
Survival is a key element of Balrum; food and water are essential, and running out of either can lead to uncomfortable situations like starvation or death. Thankfully, Balrum is reasonably kind with its opening area (a small village tucked away in the northwest of its world) and resources are not too scarce to begin with.
That isn’t to say that swift and painful death isn’t a distinct possibility for new characters. I made the mistake of opening a chest in a neighbor’s house. Rather than reprimanding my nosiness or asking me to close the lid, the neighbor proceeded to beat me and my pet dog to death. Combat is turn-based in Balrum, and it took surprisingly few turns for these villagers to overpower my character.
Choose Your Own Adventurer
Once I navigated past these unexpected hostilities, I began to find a wide variety of resources available in the village, and I was soon equipping myself for adventure. Balrum has a very simple character creation system that basically comes down to whether you want to be a good archer, swordsman or wizard. I opted to focus on the former two options. NPCs around the starting area are all reasonably helpful and dispense a healthy amount of side quests to get things rolling. Some also introduce the various crafting possibilities presented by the game.
And the Boys in the Back Said Everyone Attack
Having explored the village to my satisfaction, I decided to launch my first expedition into the wilds. I soon found out why other villagers weren’t doing this: giant spiders, roaming bears and over-sized rats stalk the lands. Having dealt with a couple spiders I was pretty confident about seeing off a giant rat. This rat, however, seemed to be some sort of wizard-vermin, as it began casting “mirror image” on itself, creating numerous copies which all swarmed in unison.
Outnumbered, I did what any honorable adventurer would do: I led them back to town. Turns out my neighbors are as good at killing rats as they are at killing me; the problem was soon resolved.
Balrum is slow to start with, as there is a little too much NPC dialogue text to read through, but once it gets going, the game presents a mysterious world that is a pleasure to explore. Crafting options are varied and detailed, with options ranging from alchemy to smithing. Animal training skills can also be advanced in order to trap bigger animals and train them to fight as a companion. I was mostly eager to adventure, and Balrum certainly delivers in this area; old caves, creepy woods and ghostly castles can be found in the wilds.
Balrum uses simple but effective visuals that manage to create a beautiful and somewhat mysterious environment. Wisps glow as they hover through woodlands, and the ambient light creates an engrossing atmosphere as day turns to night. The music conjures a sense of melancholic heroism for combat and reinforces a feeling of quiet mystery when exploring.
Balrum is a deep and well-rounded RPG survival experience. Whilst the game can get bogged down in NPC dialogue as tutorials are delivered, it otherwise does a good job allowing players to choose their own path. No single aspect of Balrum overpowers its other features; survival is important but easy to manage, crafting is deep but somewhat optional, and exploring is there for the intrepid when village life grows dull. This is definitely worth a look for fans of survival or RPG adventuring.
Balrum is available via Steam.
Watch the trailer for Balrum below: