Maglam Lord is a very strange game, but I couldn't help but feel attracted to this demon dating RPG.
Title: Maglam Lord
Release Date: February 4, 2022
Suggested Audience Age: T for Teen (ESRB)
Time to Play: 15 – 20 hours
Availability: Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4
Recommended for fans of: Romance visual novels and action RPGs (e.g. Cafe Enchante and Ys IX)
Geek to Geek Media was provided with a review copy of this title.
An Unusual Genre Mashup
Maglam Lord is a mashup of a romantic visual novel (sometimes referred to as a “dating sim”) and a hack-and-slash action RPG. This combo is unique because while there are plenty of RPGs that have romantic visual novel elements (e.g. Persona), the reverse is far less common. In other words, Maglam Lord is first and foremost a visual novel… where you sometimes run around and hit things with swords. In my 3-hour preview stream of the game, I would say about 70% of the time was spent reading dialog and making decisions. This is important to establish up front, since this genre blend is going to appeal to some players more than others.
Another unique thing to note: unlike most romantic visual novels, you can select either a masculine or feminine character, but this choice doesn't affect the game's dialog. The game only ever refers to the protagonist in gender-neutral terms, so I'll be doing the same.
Not Your Typical Fantasy Story
In ancient times, Killizerk, one of the most feared demon lords, is knocked into a coma and left for dead. Untold years later, they awaken to find the world is a radically different place. Conflicts between gods and demons have led to the mutual destruction of both sets of divine/infernal beings, leaving human bureaucrats to rule the earth in their stead. Killizerk finds that being the de facto winner of the supernatural conflict isn't all it's cracked up to be: their magical powers have faded and they're being tracked by the government as a rare specimen of an endangered species.
To get out of this undesirable situation, Killizerk and his two demon servants come up with a two-pronged strategy:
- Regain their magical powers by draining the last remnants of mana present in roaming monsters
- Find a partner to produce offspring with, thus removing demons from the endangered species list
Unfortunately for Killizerk, each of these goals presents its own problem: they are too weak to fight monsters under their own power, and they don't know the first thing about romance. As a result, Killizerk ends up with two unusual sets of allies. For low-effort monster-slaying, Killizerk transforms themself into a weapon called a Maglam that human heroes can wield against monsters. Awkwardly, the Maglam wielders end up being two former demon slayers ( who, their jobs now being obsolete, find themselves in a similar situation to Killizerk ). On the romance front, Killizerk consults with a mysterious man known as the “Love Guru”, a self-proclaimed expert on dating and marriage. With this extremely bizarre setup, Killizerk's quest for love and power begins.
Visual Novel Gameplay
If my summary above didn't make it clear, Maglam Lord has a strange premise that takes a while to establish. This means that the opening hour is piled high with expositional dialog and world-building. It makes for an awkward start, but it was thankfully well-written enough to keep me on board until things properly got rolling.
A VN is nothing without its characters, and this one certainly offers up an ensemble of weirdos fitting to the game's tone. As far as romantic interests go, you have three options from the start:
- A strong yet gentle female demon slayer
- The demon slayer's insecure squire brother
- The government bureaucrat assigned to keep tabs on you
Each of these characters is represented by high-quality art and humorous dialog, which makes me keen to meet the rest of the cast later on.
Like most VNs, Maglam Lord presents the player with plenty of dialog choices. In other visual novels, the impact of these choices can be vague; luckily, this isn't the case with Maglam Lord. I appreciated that highlighting each dialog option changes Killizerk's facial expression to give you a sense of the tone of the choice. For major choices, options are also marked with the mood they're meant to convey ( e.g. funny, cool, etc. ). Similarly, in group conversations, dialog options have icons to indicate which member of the group they're addressing. Collectively, this clear signposting alleviates the decision paralysis I often face with visual novels; in Maglam Lord, I always feel like I'm making informed decisions.
Action RPG Gameplay
When you do finally get to the action (and I'm not referring to the naughty kind of action, so get your mind out of the gutter), it has two phases: overhead exploration and side-scrolling combat.
Each quest you select from the menus sends you into a small dungeon or field area composed of a handful of linked rooms. These areas are generally bare-bones; they provide spaces to fight monsters and collect items, but that's about it. While this doesn't make for particularly exciting exploration, it makes accomplishing your goals quick and straightforward; after all, Maglam Lord is a visual novel first and an RPG second. The graphics in the field looked somewhat blurry to me when playing in docked mode, but seemed fine enough while playing handheld.
When you bump into an enemy in the field, the game transitions to a side-scrolling combat space. If you've ever played Zelda II or Tales of Symphonia, this setup will be familiar to you. Battles are very simple hack-and-slash affairs, but I found them to be enjoyable. There are plenty of stats and load-outs you can tweak for your character, but I found that the low difficulty of the combat made me uninclined to dig deep into this. However, it implies things could get more complex later in the game. Similar to the blurry field graphics, the frame rate in combat was a bit choppy – overall, the action parts of this game seem like they would benefit from some optimization.
If this were purely an action RPG, I would probably feel underwhelmed with these mechanics. That being said, as a complement to a visual novel, they work fairly well.
A Sense of Humor is Always Attractive
What makes this bizarre mashup of a game work is that it knows how absurd it is and leans in; Maglam Lord is a legitimately funny game! Despite how wordy it can be, the dialog's humorous tone kept me (and my stream audience) thoroughly engaged. After my 3 hours were up, I found myself looking forward to seeing what wacky situations Killizerk would end up in next. I'm also curious to see how the unconventional romances play out. Can a demon lord and a demon slayer set aside their differences? Will Killizerk impress the bureaucrat with their timely tax payments? I need to know!
I didn't know what to expect when I started Maglam Lord, and honestly, I don't know what to expect when I continue Maglam Lord. The thing is, I've been enjoying the ride and am interested to see where it goes. If a visual novel that doesn't take itself too seriously and offers a little action gameplay on the side sounds like your cup of tea, be sure to give Maglam Lord a look!