Realms of Magic is a 2D fantasy RPG developed and published by a Polish studio, Polished Games. What a great name for a Polish developer. Realms of Magic has been on my radar for several years, and I’ve been playing it off and on while it was in Early Access. A few months back, Realms of Magic left Early Access, so I decided to give it another shot. Better late than never, right? I knew this would be tough because, quite frankly, the game is massive. I guess you could say this review has been in the making for two years!
I’m not joking when I say there’s a lot of content in this game. It’s expansive, with so many features and things to do. It’s a grab-bag of all the things you’d expect to see in an RPG survival game, but this time from a 2D perspective. You have a full-fledged story, side quests, over a dozen crafting professions, farming, building, meticulously hand crafted towns and dungeons, magic, and a very extensive character creator with racial attributes and stats. This is not a “casual” game by any means — it reminds me of a home-grown pen & paper RPG.
From Humble Beginnings
Just like tabletop games, there is a surprising amount of diversity in your pixelized hero, such as your species. Each species has special perks and attributes. You have 10 species to pick from and they range from dwarves, dark elves, goblins, lizardfolk… A lot of great options here! There’s 9 species to pick from, and each one has their own benefits and disadvantages. There’s another species, Cursed, coming in the next update as well.
Realms of Magic funnels you into the main story slowly. It starts out with simple goals and slowly introduces the crafting system as you do odd-jobs for folks in the fine town of Woodbury. It’s here that you’ll get your bearings on the controls and crafting.
At any point, you can leave the safety of Woodbury to head out into the open world. The world map is a grid, and scattered throughout are various towns, camps, and dungeons. If you’re following the story, you’ll spend a lot of time killing monsters and humanoids in these areas. Most of these areas are locked, meaning you can’t just tunnel through the ground to your objective. These maps are meticulously hand-crafted and showered with loot, monsters, and secrets. Additionally, many of the secrets are not difficult to find, but are very easily missed if you aren’t paying attention or are in a rush. This includes the castles and towns, which are not safe either; there are quests that’ll have you killing lots of creatures (sometimes at your own whim 😈), and often times there are monsters lurking in the sewers.
Other tiles on the world map are pure, untamed wilderness. These sandbox areas are randomly generated with animals (both hostile and friendly), bandits, ore, and treasure. Seeing as the wilderness areas are unlocked, you are free to tunnel, dig, and chop down all the trees you want. It’s perfect for homesteading, and really digging into the crafting and building aspects of Realms of Magic.
Each chapter of Realms of Magic covers a section of the world map, and each chapter has different enemies, gear, loot, and materials to obtain.
The Perfect Homestead
One of the things I really appreciate about Realms of Magic is how much freedom is given to the player. When you decide to create a safe house to stash all your loot, you can approach it however you want. It’s not like there’s a lack of furniture to put in your base. Quite the opposite really, there are hundreds of purely cosmetic decorations among the thousands of items in this game. There are many crafting stations including forges, anvils, mills, alchemy stands, looms, cooking pots, and many more. Within each of these stations are hundreds of item recipes. There are even animal coops for raising livestock, and dozens of crops to farm! It truly is a lot to take in.
With so many crafting systems, Realms of Magic can seem somewhat grindy. You’ll want to at least reach a certain level with your professions so you can make new armor and tools. As you go through the main storyline and reach endgame areas, the enemies become a lot tougher and deal more damage. It’s beneficial to upgrade your equipment either by making it yourself, or purchasing gear from a town.
Luckily, there’s not too much grinding to be had. Throughout the adventure, you’ll find skill scrolls to boost your abilities. They do a good job at giving you a solid boost toward the intended level range for the area you’re in. Just before I fought the final boss, I could make almost everything and every one of my skills was at least 90. Crafting recipes stop at 100, but the skill can go over – it just decreases the time it takes to craft items. Additionally, every item has a first-time crafting bonus. I found that just crafting every item at least once will keep your profession levels at a decent range, especially the combat heavy professions such as blacksmithing, leatherworking, and tailoring.
When it comes to building, it is reminiscent of Terraria or other similar games. This is not a bad thing. As I said before, there are hundreds, probably thousands, of different items you can use to decorate your home and really make it your own. There’s different themed items, such as “Ruined” or “Noble”, to give your houses or rooms different styles. You can really let your creativity flourish here, and it is quite fun to just build a house as complicated or as simple as you want. You can even recruit NPC shopkeepers to your home base.
As you kill monsters and complete your quests, you’ll gain experience to level up. With each level up, you’ll get a skill point to put into the skill tree. The skill trees are not deep by any means, but they do give you choices for your character. For my character, I specialized in maces and hammers which gave me special combat abilities. Most of your stats are determined by your gear, so you’ll want to dress appropriately or mix and match to fit your playstyle.
If you fancy yourself a magician, you can put a few points into fire, ice, necromancy, or nature magic. Nature magic is aa little different and focuses on summoning magic with the nature tree or the necromancy tree. I’ve dabbled in the summoning spells on a previous character, and they were really fun. I was able to summon a feral boar and wolves to kill everything in sight.
Now in terms of combat itself, it’s not really spectacular to be honest. It is a lot of clicking, and aiming is done with your mouse. Switching into combat mode will let you put a shield on your offhand and put skills in your hotbar. I would love to see more types of weapons, specifically ranged weaponry. Having a bow or crossbow would have been nice in my case because my character, a 100% melee beast, didn’t have any way to attack enemies from a distance.
Then again, the enemy AI is as dumb as can be. Most enemies will just charge at you, and others will fly all over the screen by jumping and rolling… But conveniently miss their attacks! I’ve found that the best strategy is to keep moving, keep clicking, and run away if you get cornered. Some enemies, like the ogres and cyclops, have such predictable patterns and bad hitboxes that they are a breeze to fight. It’s mindless, but in some ways, I still enjoyed it.
Getting Lost in the Story... Literally
Out of the many times I’ve tried to play Realms of Magic, there is one problem that keeps coming back to haunt me. And that is how confusing it is to follow the story and keep track of the required tasks. The journal where your quests are kept really leaves a lot to be desired. There’s no way to see which NPC gave you the quest, which items are currently in your inventory, and where you need to go to turn in said quest. There’s a lot of ambiguity here that negatively effects the experience, especially if you decide to take a break from the game for a few weeks. When your quest log simply says, “Convince Rell to sponsor the temple again”, I don’t know where to begin or where to go. Who is Rell? Where was he again? What’s this about a temple? I get it that some people might enjoy this, but as someone who has limited gaming time, I end up missing a lot of side content.
There are a few choices to make during the story, but they’re not exactly elegant. At one point, the humans and the wood elves are about to fight due to a misunderstanding. The humans tasked me with “solving the problem”, and gave me free-reign to kill the elves or find another way. I tried to find a non-violent solution, but in retrospect, the peaceful solution wasted multiple hours of my time and was a chore to complete.
By searching for a non-violent solution, I was forced to gather a bunch of seeds from wild plants scattered throughout the world. This took so long because some of these plants are rare, and seeds are not guaranteed to drop when harvesting. After I realized what I had to do and how long it would take, I really wished I could go back on my word and just kill the elves. Regardless, I pressed on and spent hours combing through randomly generated areas searching for beets and radishes. I was locked into my choice.
It’s hard to fault the developers for including decisions like this into the story. However, couple the branching paths with a quest log that just doesn’t show enough information, and it gets confusing.
Despite being a 2D game, Realms of Magic is not very well optimized. My computer isn’t top of the line anymore with it’s aging 1070 FE graphics card and 6600K CPU, but it can handle most intensive 3D games well enough. Realms of Magic is both choppy and has frame lag on occasion, but is especially prevalent in areas with lots of NPCs and objects. It’s not a deal breaker, but is something that you’ll want to be aware of.
The auto save mechanic is also annoying. By default, the game will lock up every few minutes to create an auto save. This locks the game for a second or two, but it often happens at inopportune moments. For example, I would be fighting a tough creature only to be interrupted mid-attack by the autosave. Afterwards, my attack would be canceled and I’d stop moving. It can be very disruptive. Luckily, there’s a way to disable the auto save (at your own risk, of course) in the options.
Can I Play Realms of Magic on the Steam Deck?
Yes, you can play Realms of Magic on the Steam Deck. It definitely has a learning curve and can be tricky to map all of the hotkeys to the Steam Deck’s layout. Currently, Realms of Magic is listed as “playable”. Due to the lower resolution of the Steam Deck, some windows can be hard to read. Keep in mind that Realms of Magic does not have native controller support. It’s a little difficult to start playing with the Steam Deck at first because of the sheer amount of hotkeys that are assigned to the buttons.
Combat is probably the easier to get a handle on while playing on the Steam Deck. I would be hesitant to do much crafting or building because of the amount of menus and mouse precision required. However, there are many different controller set ups within Steam that will make it easier to play on the Steam Deck or with a Steam Controller.
In terms of performance on the Steam Deck, Realms of Magic is not super well-optimized. Expect frame drops in the towns and busier areas. Other areas, such as dungeons and wild areas, are smooth.
At the time of this review, I have about 50 hours in Realms of Magic overall and about 30 hours on my most recent character. I did spend quite a bit of time doing the quests, exploring, gathering materials, and building a makeshift base with a farm. If I had to make an educated guess, you could probably breeze through the storyline in about 15 hours or less.
I’m not quite done with what I wanted to accomplish. I’m contemplating going for every achievement for some reason, but the achievements in Realms of Magic are not easy. I’ve finished all of the “easy” achievements that are based around story progress, so now I need to level my professions, find every secret, and complete every side quest in the game. As I mentioned before, the side quests are often vague and drawn out, so this is probably the hardest part of getting 100% completion.
While the combat is a bit unbalanced, the AI leaves a lot to be desired, and the UI is clumsy, there’s a lot of heart in Realms of Magic. It won’t be for everyone, but if you like expansive RPGs where you’re free to build, craft, and do whatever you want, this is a good little indie adventure.
Realms of Magic is available on Steam for $19.99.