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Monday, January 30, 2023

Zoria: Such role-playing games are needed much more often nowadays

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New role-playing games have been in short supply lately. But in 2023, a new wave is rolling onto the withered RPG beaches. Among them is an oldschool gem, the likes of which are usually only produced by Larian.

2022 was a bleak year for roleplayers. Not up for self-punishment in Elden Ring? Well, that almost left Elex 2, a typical German Piranha Bytes project with all the advantages and disadvantages that come with that label. Otherwise, there was a yawning void on the virtual gaming shelves. It was just a typical idle year in the role-playing game development cycle.

2023 will be much better for role-players! Especially those who like classic party role-playing games or CRPGs can look forward to several exciting projects at once. In August, of course, the grandiose Baldur’s Gate 3 will be released – but there’s also a level below with Zoria: Age of Shattering a title that will make the hearts of oldschool fans beat faster. Take a look at this cuddly trailer:

What is Zoria: Age of Shattering?

Those who have ever played a fantasy game will immediately find their way around Zoria and its eponymous world. Evil demons are spreading through the land and strong heroes are needed to stand in the way of the dark forces. You take on the role of a prefabricated party of four characters – in the end, the crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter lacked a few thousand euros for the character editor.

Your starting character, a shining knight in training, finds various possible AI companions in the course of the game who belong to one of nine classes. Through battles and quests, team members earn experience and level up; in a talent tree, you select new skills for clerics, mages, thieves or warriors.

(The dark world of Zoria is haunted by monsters.)
(The dark world of Zoria is haunted by monsters.)

You will set out on your adventures from a central campsite. You expand this outpost in the course of the game by unlocking new wings. This is similar to V Rising, but you don’t place every piece of furniture by hand. New building parts unlock further quests and give access to new items. You can also craft potent potions both in the base and on the road, provided you have collected the necessary resources beforehand.

Pleasant pen & paper memories come up when you rest: if your fighters are hanging on the ropes or their magical powers are exhausted, they hit their ears at the touch of a button. But before they do, they cook something tasty; this provides the troop with buffs for the next fight.

Who is Zoria for?

To enjoy Zoria, you need to have one important prerequisite: You should like turn-based combat systems. Because here swords are swung turn by turn, the obvious comparison is Larian Studios’ Divinity: Original Sin 2. The turn mechanics definitely bring a lot of tactical options into the game.

For example, you can protect your ranged fighters by placing massive musclemen in front of them – they block enemy lines of sight and thus prevent the sensitive archers and mages from being peppered with projectiles. The partially destructible environment can also be included in the battle – another nod in the direction of the Larian role-playing game.

Protective spells, different elemental powers and status effects promise a high degree of flexibility and challenge in battle; the demo (on Steam) and available at (GOG.com) already provides a good first impression.

However, the developers are welcome to add more depth here; those who have already played a few comparable role-playing games will miss some features. Why, for example, do characters running past melee fighters not get a malus or are not hit by an opportunity attack? Zoria is therefore a lot simpler than Divinity, but also easier to understand and therefore interesting for beginners.

Meanwhile, those who think of role-playing games primarily in terms of exciting decisions might be disappointed by Zoria. The title by the Romanian studio Tiny Trinket Games delivers a solid story, at least in the prologue, apart from the competently implemented numbers side of classic role-playing games. But whether Zoria will ultimately be known for great character moments, exciting story twists and tricky moral quandaries remains to be seen.

What do we like so far? What is still unclear?

What do we like so far?

  • The combat system offers a good introduction to the genre with many options.
  • The expansion of your own base is a nice change from the dungeon visits.
  • There are many optional paths, some of which are only accessible with certain character classes.
  • The charmingly rendered world is lit up by nifty spell effects.

What is still unclear?

  • There are currently still many small comfort and control annoyances. Are the developers using the Early Access phase to sand down such edges?
  • How does the story develop? Does it provide motivation to keep playing besides fighting and leveling up?
  • Do the battles get more tactical tricks?

For Zoria: Age of Shattering, an Early Access phase is planned for the first quarter of 2023. Already six months later, according to the original plan, the full version is to follow.

Editor’s verdict

I enjoyed playing the demo of Zoria and see a lot of potential in the small project from Bucharest. Of course, the game’s lack of budget is noticeable, the level of detail of the characters reminds me more of the very first Dungeon Siege than of Baldur’s Gate 3. But that’s okay, Solasta has already managed to deliver exciting turn-based battles despite sparse staging. Zoria: Age of Shattering is in the same league: A promising turn-based role-playing game for all those who want some good old party battles that don’t come from Larian Studios.

Age: 31 Origin: Sweden Hobbies: gaming, football, skiing Profession: Online editor, entertainer


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