Genre: Dating Sim RPG
Reviewed On: PlayStation 4
Also Available For: Nintendo Switch
Part of the reason I play so many video games is that I never know when something will thoroughly capture my heart. Many a time have I started up a game that, based on appearances, I thought I would feel tepid towards or even dislike, only to absolutely adore it after having given it a chance. That, dear reader, is precisely why I decided to take on Maglam Lord despite the screenshots I saw of its gameplay being a bit off-putting, and the end result is that it has become another example of why I adopt this policy in the first place.
The Basics: Maglam Lord is a hybrid RPG and dating simulator about the fiery and demonic Bladelord Killizerk who, after barely surviving an attempt on their life by a coalition of gods and demons alike, is regenerated by their servant Satyus and wakes up an unspecified length of time later to a world they barely recognize. Gone are the conflicts between gods and demons, replaced by a peaceful society where the only thing humans have to worry about is dangerous monsters known as “mutabeasts” which roam the world. Killizerk, now classified as an endangered species by the local government, thus finds themselves with two tasks: helping keep the mutabeast population under control so they can absorb the creatures’ magic and replenish their own after their long sleep, and find a romantic partner to “fill the emptiness they feel inside” after having the idea put in their head by a fashionable grandpa called Love Guru G.G.
Because the Bladelord is weak upon initially waking up, their ability to fight is somewhat limited, and as a result the player doesn’t actually play as them most of the time. Instead, the Bladelord turns into weapons that are then wielded by one of five companions (only two of whom are available at the start) that also serve as romantic interests. Unfortunately, the gameplay is very simplistic and repetitive – combat doesn’t really vary at all between the various characters, as they all have the same move set and enemies are weak enough that battles can be blazed through with plain old button mashing anyway. Missions are similarly homogenous, consisting of running around and fighting monsters until you kill a set number or collect a certain number of materials. The graphics during excursions take on a weird, chibi art style that feels somewhat at odds with the more detailed illustrations of the visual novel segments, but I recognize that can come down to a matter of personal taste.
The most interesting thing about combat and missions is that the player is able to use materials they find to forge progressively stronger Maglams, a powerful kind of weapon that Killizerk has a special affinity for. Once forged, Maglams can be decorated with a variety of cool looking or wacky decals and charms which also confer various stat bonuses, but even this doesn’t spice things up all that much. To be clear, the combat isn’t terrible – it’s passable, and it doesn’t have any super glaring flaws, it just could’ve been a lot better is all.
So, if the gameplay is so lackluster, why do I like Maglam Lord so much? Well, that would be because the writing and story are effusively charming to such a degree that it more than made up for any boredom I felt while grinding through hordes of mutabeasts, and it was able to keep me around to see things through. At the start of the game the player chooses between playing either a male or female Killizerk, and throughout the game they will be given occasional dialogue choices. One thing I really liked about Killizerk was that, no matter what character traits the player chooses to lean more into than others, they are still fairly well defined on their own, and part of their character is they are extremely No Thoughts Head Empty. Additionally, your choice doesn’t effect which characters you can romance – all of the possible routes are open to either Bladelord, and the player can actively choose whether their companion’s ultimate relationship to them is romantic or platonic, which I thought was a nice touch.
The rest of the cast are very charming and enjoyable as well. Each has a well-defined personality that breaks away from the stereotypes and common tropes one might expect them to develop into upon first encounter, and many of the dating events feel fresh and unique. Additionally, none of the characters are defined solely through their relationship to the protagonist; As the plot progresses, the player gets to see more and more scenes of their companions developing friendships among each other, something that is entirely too rare in dating sims and RPGs alike. The bizarre-yet-cozy found family that develops among the main cast members is absolutely delightful. The writing does get a bit more serious later on, and when it does it actually gets really intriguing, taking many of the characters’ arcs in directions that are perhaps somewhat predictable but more as a result of good follow through on their setup than being cliché or trite. It doesn’t quite stick the landing final resolution(s), unfortunately, but this is one case where the journey is so charming that I don’t really mind a slightly underwhelming destination.
Two more things I’d like to say in praise of the writing: it is remarkably well localized and doesn’t ever cross into “ecchi” territory despite seeming like the sort of thing that might (much to my relief). There’s a couple raunchy jokes, sure, but nothing more out there than Killizerk talking about “making an heir” despite not really understanding what that means or entails. As for the localization team’s efforts, there are so many moments that feature slang or little jokes that feel very much part of the present cultural moment here in the west without ever crossing the line into “How do you do, fellow kids?” territory. There is even some rather extensive use of the singular “they” in reference to a few characters, which was a welcome surprise to see in a Japanese game. Admittedly one of those characters is Killizerk themself, but while it could be explained as simply not wanting write slightly different lines to be substituted depending on which avatar the player chooses, swapping out “she” and “he” isn’t all that difficult (especially when the voiced dialogue is all still in Japanese anyway). The final result is that Killizerk ends up feeling like a slutty he/they or she/they icon, and it rules.
I’m really glad I ended up playing Maglam Lord. The smile I had on my face during the various events and story scenes as I watched a bunch of supernatural weirdos get into hijinx and shenanigans was well worth slogging through all the repetitive missions and combat, as was the warmth I felt in my heart during the more tender and emotional bits. If you like sweet romance, found family, and gay people, I’d definitely recommend giving this one a shot.
Maglam Lord makes up for bland gameplay with an exceptionally charming cast and story.