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Baladins review: Let’s do the time warp again... and again

Baladins review: Let’s do the time warp again... and again

Time isn't as linear as you think

Time travelling, while incredibly appealing, comes with the issue of not being feasible for us mere mortals. I know, it’s a harsh reality that slaps me in the face regularly too. However, the blow it deals each time I remember this information anew is soothed now that I can play Baladins.

In all honesty, it wasn’t the time travelling aspect of the Steam game that first drew me to it – it was the RPG element. Any kind of RPG, be it a small romp or a large, sprawling drama, will always have my attention. The characters, the creatures, the outfits; it all calls to me as if I was meant to be an elf, only for my parents to have the audacity to be human.

Baladins is a far more cosy experience than the likes of Dragon Age or Baldur’s Gate 3, but don’t let its children’s storybook illustrations fool you – this story has drama. And it has action. The only difference, besides its aesthetic, is that this story is condensed down into just a six-week window... that repeats itself.

Ready to embark on an adventure in Baladins?

Outer Wilds players will know this setup well; you need to complete the task at hand before the world resets and you return to the start. Thankfully, Baladins follows Outer Wilds’ lead and starts you off with knowledge, and some items, from your previous adventures.

Note “some” because, even if you manage to make fantastic progress before the world ends and you reset, you won’t be able to keep more than one item. There are positives and negatives to this feature, which I’ll get into momentarily.

As for the amount of progress you’re likely to make each pass you take at the six-week deadline, that will vary on the character you choose; their strengths/weaknesses, and unique skillset will help or hinder depending on the obstacles you face. Not ignoring the fact that your movement is limited to four moves per turn, a number which isn’t easy to replenish without you ending a turn... which concludes the week. Consequently, every step counts.

I won’t go into detail about the reason behind time resetting, nor why the world is in peril and on the brink of collapse; that is a part of the game you need to learn for yourselves. You won’t have to wait long to find out either because, unless you’re some kind of god, you’ll face doom within your first run. The first six weeks aren’t designed to be beaten. You might make good headway, but Baladins isn’t meant to be conquered so easily.

Let’s return to those items I mentioned earlier shall we. You find or purchase items over your journey, with those useful in your current run or in one of your future ones. However, due to the reasons for the world ending, you can’t keep more than one each run. Furthermore, you need to use the same character for that item to remain in your inventory. Arguably, Baladins thrives in multiplayer mode.

When you’re soloing through this adventure, while still enjoyable, it makes advancing difficult. This is because the parameters for success or failure are narrower than if there were four players taking part. For example, if you only have eight Knowledge, any challenge that requires a higher number will test your skills to their limits. Whereas, if you’re playing with friends, you can combine your attribute scores to make the desired number.

For that reason alone, I’d say this game is better suited to being played with other people. I’m not condemning solo playthroughs – I’ve been testing it out solo – but it would be easier and more fun with others along for the ride. As much as I’m enjoying Baladins, and my determination to save its world has yet to waiver, I do feel that its repetitive nature won’t automatically gel with all players.

Another component that lends itself to this being better suited to multiplayer is the lack of depth to the characters. Even though they each have their own differing skillsets, we never get to know them on a deep, personal level; they feel more throwaway, thus making them better for those playthroughs when fun is all that matters rather than lore. Having ticked so many classic RPG boxes, it’s a shame that Baladins falls down here. The characters are screaming out to come to life more, but all we get from them are quirky animations and varying skills. They’re forever trapped in mundanity that doesn’t suit the whimsy of this universe.

Despite each run altering slightly, there’s a lot of familiar ground to recap, as you’d expect with an adventure centred around Groundhog Day mechanics. As such, I preferred playing in shorter bursts far more satisfying than a prolonged assault. That being said, I still occasionally ended up so gripped by the need to make some notable progress that I’d “have one more playthrough”. There’s something so compelling about this game that, even when you’re beginning to tire of it, you find yourself pushing through because you want the satisfaction of making a dent in its plot.

I also found myself playing longer than intended due to the way in which Baladins moves and acts like a board game rather than a video game. The pieces are all cut outs moving across a board, as opposed to some immersive, photorealistic world; it adds such unique charm, and helps Baladins be easily recognisable in a sea of RPGs. Granted, it still follows the same steps that many other RPGs do, but it could be argued it does so to adhere to the conventions of its genre.

Baladins is yet another indie experience destined to become beloved, and continues the long-held tradition of indies delivering more heartwarming, satisfying adventures than their AAA counterparts. If you can look past the initial onslaught of information that boarders on overwhelming, you’ll find what I loathe to refer to as a hidden gem. That turn of phrase has become so overused, yet there’s few other ways to aptly describe what Baladins is in such a concise manner.

Pros: Attractive graphics reminiscent of traditional RPG board games and pop-up storybooks, a curious tale, and simple controls

Cons: Limited movement, eventually becomes repetitive despite that being integral to the narrative, and better suited to the maximum number of players

For fans of: Outer Wilds, Dungeons and Dragons, classic RPGs

8/10: Very Good

Baladins is available on Steam, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation, and Xbox from 15 May. A review code was supplied by the publisher. Find a complete guide to GAMINGbible's review scores here.

Featured Image Credit: Armor Games Studios

Topics: Reviews, Features, Steam, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation, Xbox