Friday, January 9, 2015

Wishlist for Lords of Xulima 2, Part 6

Character creation is an important aspect of each respectable RPG. The degree of freedom can vary greatly between the games so we will take a deep dive into Lords of Xulima´s approach today.

Class selection with 9 classes in Lords of Xulima.
Class selection screen during character creation in Lords of Xulima.

8. Gaulen the Explorer

At the beginning of Lords of Xulima you get the chance to create five characters for your adventuring party from scratch. However, the main character, Gaulen the Explorer, is set in stone and can´t be changed by the player. He will represent the group during most activities, especially during the dialogues. This is the complete opposite in comparison to games like Baldur´s Gate where you freely create the main character and meet pre-determined characters along the way to fill up your party. The approach in Lords of Xulima is fairly unique and a great concept, you can read more about it directly in the blog of the developer.

Character creation screen from Lords of Xulima.
Character creation overview, Gaulen the Explorer is your fixed party member.
Some people had issues with this approach and didn´t want to play the game because of the pre-set main character. It may come as a surprise for you, but here I can´t blame the developer but instead these players for their narrow-mindedness. Games are becoming more and more similar because people demand for so many features to be present in every game they come along. That is something I don´t like.

If the concept of a pre-determined main character is transported to Lords of Xulima 2, a few options during character generation wouldn´t hurt, though. The starting weapon and minor variations in the portrait should be possible and they already exist in early screenshots of Gaulen. The choice between a male and female protagonist would be a little tricky since he gets so much voice acting in the cut-scenes. A possible solution is to change of the narration from the first-person perspective of Gaulen to a third-person narrator. Then his voice would be independent from the gender of the main character.

Different portrait variations for Gaulen the Explorer from Lords of Xulima.
Beard variations for the main character, found on


Did it work out in Lords of Xulima?

The execution of the concept left something to be desired, though. The game did not succeed in making the players grow attached to Gaulen. Below you will find the two biggest culprits, as I see it.

Gaulen´s role in combat is overshadowed by the other characters. After all, this is a combat-heavy game and since you spend so much time dealing with enemies, you would expect that the main character plays a pivotal role here. Not necessarily because he is the strongest of the bunch but at least with unique and useful skills. This is not the case as most of his class-specific skills are non-combat abilities (for more discussion on non-combat abilities, see part 1 of thewishlist). Later on he gets the powerful Envenomed Strike and becomes a threat in combat. Unfortunately, a skill with the same functionality (Burning Strike) is already available to the Arcane Soldier class at level 1. So he will still lack individuality and a distinct gameplay feeling for the whole game. How to solve this problem? I will cover that in a later part of the big wishlist when it comes to the class system.

Herbalism skill explained by the in-game help of Lords of Xulima.
The main character learns a vast amount of non-combat skills.

The second big issue lies in the dialogues. Since Gaulen is doing all of the talking for the group, he gets a lot of exposition and many opportunities to develop his personality and making the player understand his struggles. This opportunity went unused since we experience Gaulen as a self-righteous executioner who is never in doubt about his sacred mission. Writing gripping and charming dialogues is a daunting task and for the sequel it could be a good idea to hire someone entirely dedicated to capture the mood in expertly-written dialogues.

Conversation with Galvan the Trainer in Lords of Xulima.
One of the first conversations in Lords of Xulima.
Do you think that Gaulen will return for the sequel? Or do you prefer a completely new main character?

Browse the complete wishlist

Part 1: The food system and non-combat skills
Part 2: Getting loot, item enchantments
Part 3: Side-quests
Part 4: Hits, misses and critical fails
Part 5: This one is found in the subscriber-only area. Subscribe to the blog
Part 6: Gaulen the Explorer, the main character
Part 7: Difficulty settings  
Part 8: Game balance
Part 9: Wishes from a veteran Might and Magic player

No comments:

Post a Comment