Review: Mysterious Realms RPG

Store page / View this review on Steam

Review copy provided by developer via Curator Connect

I’ll be completely honest, the name “Mysterious Realms RPG” does not inspire much confidence. But that’s probably the worst thing I can say about this odd little gem, because it does make good on the other claims it puts forth. For a game with such a generic name, it offers a surprisingly unique and engaging battle system, one that requires a fair bit of strategy and foresight to get the most out of. Even the adventuring throws in a few neat curveballs alongside the spiders and goblins and traps you’ll be dealing with, enough to justify more than a few hours spent in the dungeons below.

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Your town seems to have failed the first rule of real estate, selecting a location smack dab in between a goblin mound, unquiet catacombs, and an ominous forest. Fortunately they have a pair of heroes to raise their property values, an aspiring magus and an armor-clad bruiser. Together they must venture forth into the dungeons of their homeland, delving deeper and deeper into randomized halls and tunnels until they find and crush the evil forces ruling these places. And perhaps, once all three sites are purged of darkness, they can turn their gaze to the villain behind this whole mess.

It’s a generic fantasy quest in a generic fantasy land, don’t get too hung up on it and look at the pretty crystals instead. The notable part of Mysterious Realms is its vaunted combat system, a fresh mix of deckbuilding and color matching mechanics. You have a set of 18 gems, four in each red, yellow, green, and blue, and two silver ones. Every turn you are dealt five of these gems, and your two characters can each use up to two gems to attack with. Attacking deals damage equal to the number on the gem, and that color is added to the character’s mana pool for special abilities. Each character can have up to four abilities which require either one or two points of mana in specific colors to use.

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So that’s simple enough, right? If you have an ability that needs a red and a blue, use those gems and then use the ability. But there’s more to it than that, because your two characters share the same five gems every turn. Enemies also take extra damage every turn if hit with a specific combination of colors. And your hand of gems persists between fights, so if you’ve got a good combo ready at the end of a battle you can save it to open the next fight with. You can level up specific gems using crystals between missions to make them more powerful, and your silver gems have power equal to your equipped weapons. Oh, and of course your ability effects combo off of specific gems being present or in specific places on the board.

This all makes for a shockingly engaging battle system where you need to pore over each turn to see if you can delete a foe with a clever combo before they get their turn. Enemies are no slouches as you get into deeper dungeons, with powerful attacks and status effects to blunt with your own items and gear. Dungeons also have hidden events to stumble over that prompt skill checks you can influence with items and gems, as well as special shrines and NPCs that offer item trades, extra experience, and more. To beat a mission you usually have to clear all the monsters, but sometimes you get additional quests to collect specific doodads or light torches or trip events.

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The structure of the game has you repeating harder and harder dungeons in each of the locations to unlock more dungeons, so don’t expect a sprawling journey or narrative (of any kind) to interfere with your dives. There’s a fair bit to do in town in terms of upgrading gems and gear, unlocking new skills, and gearing up with consumables, but aside from the multiple currencies it’s still standard RPG fare. While the progression structure is nothing new, the clever battle system should be more than enough to keep you cracking skulls and banishing ghosts for the half-dozen hours or so it takes to beat the game. It’s always a pleasure to find something unique in little indie titles, and Mysterious Realms deserves recognition for going the extra mile with its strategic battles.

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