Developed by Room-C Games, Croteam and published by Versus Evil, The Hand of Merlin is an Arthurian themed turn-based rogue-lite RPG that was previously available in Early Access but has just made its full release on Consoles!
Now if you have already played The Hand of Merlin through Early Access on PC then you will be pleased to know there have been a lot of changes to the game for the full release. New heroes who can be recruited to your party and have their own unique passive abilities, new enemies including the enchanter, witch and basilisk, overhauled hero skill tress and new difficulty modes to name just a few! Its clear the devs listened to the feedback from the early access players and tried to improve as much of the game as they could for the final release.
The games story finds being sent across the multiverse with a company of up to three heroes on a journey from Camelot, Albion to Jerusalem at the behest of Merlin himself who has tasked you with saving the world from the impeding danger now that Arthur has been killed in battle. It's a great combination of classic Arthurian legend with a mix of cosmic horror to spice things up. The games narrative is written by Jonas Kyratzes (The Talos Principle, Serious Sam 4) and Verena Kyratzes (The Lands of Dream, Serious Sam 4).
The combat is a turn-based and set on a square grid for movement. You will need to make use of high ground and cover, set up ambushes and coordinated attacks, harness synergies between different Hero classes and skills in order to succeed. Cover found in combat is destructible, and if you have ever played a game of Warhammer you will be used to the half/full height benefits to different styles of cover. You use your action points to carry out actions during your turn (move, attack, skills, spells) so you really have to think about how you're going to tackle each enemy and encounter.
You also get to enjoy the traditional RPG elements like levelling up your heroes using renown and unlocking new skills/improving attributes like HP and defense. Skills are chosen from a random selection of three that are presented to you, so you need to pick the best one that fits your team of heroes. You can also grab new weapons and armour from merchants found in each of the towns you visit or from hermit artisans in the wild. Relics can also be purchased at these merchants (as well as found around the world) which are imbued with magical powers that can be used in combat.
Each of the journeys (run) lengths vary (usually around 3 hours long), but you will play through four different areas before reaching the final battle. The standard difficulty seems easier than other rogue-lite games so you you will probably be able to complete the campaign after only a couple of attempts. If you're a player who prefers more of a challenge in their games then you are also in luck! The game features a hard mode which provides a greater challenge with tougher enemies and more more complex resource management. Once you beat the game you unlock the Endless mode in which you fight endless waves of abominations until you die, and if you want a real challenge there are Hard Mode+ and Hard Mode++ to unlock as well.
There is alot of content to be found in the game and with the rogue-lite nature there are plenty of reasons for some replayability. With the random interactive encounters that change every time you play and the alternate dimensions aspect creates a unique experience with every journey you undertake. You will also be able to mix up your runs by changing the skills loadout to something that suits your preferred playstyle.
While the graphics are nowhere near terrible compared to similar games in the genre, I felt that while the environments where detailed they all felt abit drab and forgettable. The dark murky colour palette doesn't do it any favours and make its feel generic. Audio wise the game has a decent atmospheric soundtrack however barring the early game introduction there wasn't any narration which was a shame.
Overall despite having a couple of shortcomings it shows a lot of premise with a solid gameplay loop. With the developers being as committed as they are, I have every faith that with an update this game could really shine. I really enjoyed the non-linear aspect to the story progression and the mix of turn-based combat and rogue-lite mechanics made for a very unique experience set within a very interesting Arthurian based plot.
The Hand of Merlin was released on 14th June 2022 and is playable on Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S. The game can be purchased HERE for £24.99. The game is also available on PC and other consoles.
We were provided a copy of the game for this review. Big thanks for that!