Legends of Amberland isn’t a game that has breathtaking graphics, well-delivered voice acting, and buttery smooth gameplay. In essence, this is a decent throwback to classic Western-style RPGs. It has just a hint of modern streamlining too. Released back in 2019 by publisher and developer Silver Lemu Games, this well-received title was ported to Nintendo Switch in 2020.
A look into the past
I said previously, Legends of Amberland doesn’t have all the modern aspects of gaming. And this is by design. Chunky pixel art and crunchy sound. All that good stuff. Starting up the game allows the player to choose between several difficulties, ranging from easy to insane. After this, the player is introduced to an in-depth character creator. This is used to fill up a team of seven adventures. A fantasy race is chosen as well as a sub-race. Then a class can be assigned. Finally, the name, appearance, and attributes of the character can be customized. Repeat this six more times and that ragtag bunch of adventurers are ready to explore.
While a creation tool isn’t unique to this particular game, it’s still great to be able to utilize wider customization. Every single person on a team can be a different race, each with an individual sub-race and class. If this is a little too unengaging, it can be bypassed by just hitting the Quick Start button.
No hand-holding here
The game also offers copious amounts of written dialogue. Nothing is voice, so every single bit of conversation is done with dialogue boxes. As a person who really enjoys reading fantasy novels, having a bit of world-building fluff is essential to immerse me in the world. The world is explored in a 90-degree rotation, first-person perspective basis. Enemies are seen on the overworld and are engaged in a turn-based battle when encountered. Whilst these are traditional mechanics, the gameplay is sped up by cutting out some of the more boring aspects.
Like retro games of the past, Legends of Amberland offers no navigation system. When dropped into this world for the first time, I had no idea where things were. It felt quite freeing not having the game hold my hand. The experience would be less enjoyable if a marker appeared on the map indicating which direction to go. There is also no tutorial. Just a few screens of text tucked away in the main menu that explains a few aspects of the game. It’s very minimal and brings about a huge feeling of enjoyment in the process of finding out the mechanics independently.
I’ve criticized games in the past for not having tutorials. For not explaining some of their more obscure mechanics but in many of those games, that feels like an oversight. In Legends of Amberland, this feels like a deliberate design decision. It ensures there are a plethora of systems that harken back to the times of simpler yet tougher games. The whole point is to deliver an experience that someone might have had in the 1990s, and in this, it succeeds.
Not all that glitters is (goblin) gold
Obviously, it’s not without flaws. Generally, the game is a little bit of an eyesore on bigger, more modern TVs. I personally like the pixel art style, but it might not be appealing to people who aren’t used to something like that. It’s also playable in touchscreen mode. For the most part, it works. However, some of the buttons are slightly too small for my chunky fingers, and some functionality seems to be lost. I found some of the menus a bit difficult to navigate like this. I do applaud the inclusion of touchscreen capabilities, but it doesn’t seem to be a good fit in this case.
Overall, I did really enjoy my time with Legends of Amberland. Exploring every part of every fortress and mine available was fun. It brought back a strong feeling of nostalgia and a little bit of dread about how old I now am. If nothing else it’s a modern example of how far gaming has come visually in a relatively short period of time. What this game lacks in modern comforts, is made up for in old-school sensibilities.
If you want to see the video this review is based on, check it out below!
Disclaimer: A code was provided for this game to aid in writing this review