If considering whether to purchase, please answer this one-question survey:
Did the classic video game ’The Lost Vikings’ have:
(a) Too gosh darn many Vikings!
(b) Not enough Vikings!
(c) Juuuust enough Vikings!
If your answer was:
(a) \Too gosh darn many Vikings!’ – Nope, this game is not for you. Perhaps a mobile game would be more your speed?
(b) \’Not enough Vikings!\’ – Huzzah, Four Realms might be just what you\’re looking for!
(c) ’Juuust enough Vikings!’ – Well, obviously this was the correct answer, so kudos to you. ’Four Realms’ is actually a heck of a lot more complicated with up to 10 swappable characters at a time – but you might want to think about getting it anyway.
Many moons ago, in the days when cassette-playing Walkmen walked the earth, kids collected POGs instead of Pokemon, and Crystal Pepsi was the latest greatest thing, there was an incredible video game called ’The Lost Vikings’ featuring three rambunctious Vikings who well, got lost, and had to find their way home. Erik could run and jump, Baelog could fight and shoot, and Olaf the Stout could, um, act like a giant human meatshield. The innovative gimmick in this game was that you had to solve puzzles, avoid traps and fight your way through baddies while switching between these three Lost Vikings on the fly, using their various abilities to overcome any situation.
‘Four Realms’ seems to be designed in the spirit of this classic game. Your task in ’Four Realms’ is to (wait for it)… save the four realms! In order to do so, you swap control between various magically summoned allies to complete missions. However, instead of directionally-challenged Norsemen you will be adventuring with a veritable menagerie of magic-spewing and weapon-wielding animals – up to 10 of which can be a part of your personal A-Team. Whether you want to fly, shoot, swim, burn things, or just be a furry version of Olaf the Stout (tubbily meatshielding for fun and profit), there’s an animal or three that will suit your needs.
‘Four Realms’ offers literally dozens of playable animal summons (many of which are unlockable extras as you progress), along with various spells which grant abilities or alter the terrain (shrinking things, creating ladders/bridges, etc) – so the various obstacles you face can be overcome in a number of ways. The catch is that your spellbook can only hold a limited number of spells per level, so you must choose an assortment of spells and summons that are flexible enough to conquer any situation.
The levels seem designed rather well, with the enemies and obstacles allowing you to get around them in a number of ways, while still feeling like they provide a bit of challenge to get most of your team across. However, the AI of your summoned team seems painfully nonexistent, especially when ladders or moving platforms are involved – in their attempts to stay by you, allies will blissfully walk into spikes or drown in a 2-foot puddle rather than take the safe path. Constantly turning the individual ’follow-me’ buttons off/on while you jump/swim/fly each of your characters over an obstacle is rather annoying.
The audio/visual features of the Four Realms are definitely not a major selling point, although they seem adequate enough to get the job done. They’re about what one would expect from an indie game, really.
Four Realms is a nifty title with plenty of new innovations to the character-swapping, action-puzzling gameplay pioneered in ’The Lost Vikings’. However, the extra complexity introduced by ’Four Realms’ can also greatly slow down the game. Swapping between a small army of characters and micromanaging each can be a bit frustrating. Add in resource costs (you collect elements throughout each level to cast spells and summons), four different elemental damage types to consider, various spells and enchantments to cast, and the additional bonus effects resulting from your choice of gear, commander, and command tent – and it can all get a bit overwhelming.
The complexity of ’Four Realms’ may be a turn-off for those looking for a casual puzzling adventure. However, others may find this adds a nice amount of replayability to an already lengthy game (even the tutorial missions took me over an hour to complete). ‘Four Realms’ features large, well-designed levels, plenty of character progression and unlockables, a great number of spells/summons to choose from, and a variety of starting bonuses used as a difficulty setting to make the replayable campaign more challenging. Additionally, each level is designed to have multiple \’solutions\’ to get around the obstacles, so if you do decide to play through the game again you can vary up your spells/summons to get a new experience the next time around.
All in all, Four Realms does a lot of things right, but is also far from perfect – it definitely won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. So, if the thought of spending a couple hours on tutorial missions for a gussied up 2-D action-platformer makes you cringe, I’d probably start looking elsewhere. However, if an elaborate strategic action-puzzle-platformer with a huge amount of content sounds right up your alley, you should consider giving this game a try.