Zoria: Age of Shattering (PC) Impressions

Baldur’s Gate 3 has some potential competition!

CRPGs are often long and complex games that require patience and a certain obsessive mindset to master. They can easily become time-sinks, taking anywhere from 50- to 100-hours to complete – especially if you happen to be a completionist who has to see and do everything that the developers and game designers have on offer. Zoria: Age of Shattering is shaping up to be just such a game and that is a damn fine thing to see.

Zoria: Age of Shattering Visuals

Like any good CRPG, the game puts you in charge of a protagonist thrown headfirst into a quest that starts simple but soon grows in complexity and importance to the world as the narrative progresses. However, if you want to effect world-shattering change, you going to need to form an adventuring party and there is no shortage of NPCs to recruit with a wide range of skills. Thankfully, this preview starts you out with an interesting set of NPCs to recruit and your fighter will soon head out with the help of a magic user and ranger. It’s a decent starting party and you’re going to need those companions as combat can be tough.

And tough is what you want in a CRPG that is following in the gigantic footsteps of the now-dominant Divinity: Original Sin series. That series, especially the second one, set the difficulty bar high. High not because the challenge is overwhelming, but rather because it pushes you to try different tactics and approaches to get past each hurdle. You need to understand and fully master the gameplay mechanics to reach your goal. Zoria: Age of Shattering delivers that same challenge. Environments are a lot more dynamic, in that obstacles can provide you as well as the enemies with cover and, because the game doesn’t rely on the traditional hexagonal movement system or even a grid-based battlefield, movement in combat feels more natural.

Zoria: Age of Shattering Equipment

Combat is turn-based, rather than real-time-with-pause, which opens up options for a more considered approach to combat that will challenge you to think of the best way to approach enemies and take advantage of your team’s strengths. Ensuring that your tanks become the focus of attention and take the brunt of attacks, all while keeping magic users and ranged characters out of harm’s way while they assist from a distance, is key to survival.

Visual information is a key part of the gameplay, and the visuals follow the tried-and-true Baldur’s Gate formula of having you play from a somewhat distant three-quarter perspective. For a game like this, I enjoy being able to see more of the map as it allows you to assess the tactical possibilities laid out before you. However, the perspective can also be isolating in that you never really feel like you are a part of the action – a problem when you’re controlling what’s meant to be a digital representation of yourself in a story. Similar to the control conceit in XCOM, where you are identified as the commander giving your troops directions from far away, you can sometimes feel like a wizard sitting in his tower watching the action through some sort of scrying device.

Zoria: Age of Shattering Combat

Now that said, the distance does allow you to admire the beautiful maps that are on show. Like an updated Baldur’s Gate II, these maps are wonderfully crafted and give you a true sense of the time and place in which the game is set. Each map evokes both a sense of wonder and whatever atmosphere the designers intended for that level. There are some wonderfully creepy maps that ooze fear and dread, while others have you admiring the natural beauty of the world.

While Zoria: Age of Shattering feels nearly complete and ready for release but, as I played a preview code, there are some things that I hope can be changed or tweaked. The most notable, on the UI side, was the lack of a waypoint indicator on the screen. It was difficult to get used to at first and I got lost several times while trying to navigate from the map screen as the ability to rotate the screen means that the directions and landmarks you work out from the map screen can get jumbled in your head. These are minor issues and the addition of some onscreen waypoint markers would go a long way to alleviate this minor frustration.

Based on this preview build, Zoria: Age of Shattering is shaping up to be one of the better and more complex Kickstarter-funded games on the horizon. If you are a Bioware fan of old, or a fan of the Divinity: Original Sin games, put this on your wishlist as I suspect it has a chance to stand toe-to-toe with Baldur’s Gate III.

A preview code for Zoria: Age of Shattering was provided to gameblur by the publisher.

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