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Black Sigil: Blade of the Exiled

Score: 91%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Graffiti Entertainment
Developer: Studio Archcraft
Media: Cartridge/1
Players: 1
Genre: RPG

Graphics & Sound:

Black Sigil: Blade of the Exiled is a new RPG that many people having been waiting to come out for quite a long time! It was first announced well over a year ago (more like a year and a half, I think) and since then, people have been wondering when it would really be released. I'm quite glad that they have finally found a publisher, so it is now available for sale since it is a wonderful new RPG!

The graphics in Black Sigil are quite well done. While it doesn't have some of the extensive cut scenes of some of the games I've reviewed recently, I didn't really miss them. The sprite characters work well for the game. They are so well detailed that it is very easy to distinguish the characters from each other. They really worked on each of the characters and monsters to try and make everything unique and interesting. The places they visit are well done too. Depending on where you go, you can tell about the place just by the way it looks. The richer places or more regal places are brighter and more fancy looking. Your normal towns look much more normal. The monsters match their areas too. Colder places have wolves and such.

The background music and sounds are about what you expect from a typical handheld RPG. They're not distracting, but it's nothing spectacular either. You could play with the sounds off if you wanted to listen to your own music without really missing much.


Gameplay:

Like most RPGs, Black Sigil: Blade of the Exiled takes place in a world very different from our own, Bel Lenora. In this place, everyone can use magic, everyone that is except one villain some years ago. He was defeated, but he made the people believe that anyone who can't use magic is going to be as evil as he was. Unfortunately for our young hero Kairu, he was also born without the ability to use magic. Even though he was taken in by a very powerful and respected man, the Duke of Avery, he is still treated like an outcast by everyone else.

I really felt quite bad for Kairu, especially at the beginning of the game. His teachers, fellow students, even the maids in his own house are horribly rude to him due to his "condition" as they call it. Kairu has a long way to go to overcome the adversity of just being alive. Luckily, he is a very positive character who is determined to prove he's a good guy. Kairu's step-sister, Aurora, is also a wonderful companion for him. She treats him like he's a normal person and stands by him always. She's also quite a good fighter! As Kairu and Aurora go through the many places, Kairu will gain new allies. There are 8 total characters that you can play as. You can only have a certain amount of them in your party at once though, so you'll need to figure out who works best with who and when to use each of them.

The gameplay in Black Sigil reminds me very much of the original Suikoden games. You have a world map on your top screen. The villages/dungeons are marked on it. While wandering around the world map between these places, you will have random monster encounters. Actually, it is a relatively high rate of encounters. When you only have one character, they will seem to drag on due to the attack timer, but you can escape them if you want by holding down (B). Just be warned that you will most likely be attacked once before you get away. The battles are a timed turn basis. By that I mean that it does not alternate with you attacking once and the monsters attacking once. Instead, you have a timer. You attack when that timer is full. Until it fills up, you can't attack again. With only one character, it'll feel like you're standing around a lot, but once you get at least 2, it'll start to feel more like an action RPG.

You'll need to talk to all the various characters you meet to find out what they know. Some of them will be part of the main story and tell you where you need to go next. Some of them are part of side quests, however. These aren't necessary to do, but I think they make the game more fun. I never feel I've completed a game without doing all the side quests. Make sure to talk to everyone, sometimes more than once, just to find out where all you need to go. One thing though, make sure to remember what they say. Sometimes when they repeat it, they don't give you the exact same information. I got lost a few times because I forgot the full information and couldn't figure out where to go. A journal of quests, or at least important information like where to go next, would really have been helpful!


Difficulty:

There are many ways you can measure difficulty in an RPG. You can talk about the difficulty of not dying, the difficulty of figuring out where to go next, the difficulty of finding the side quests, and many more. Overall, I would say the difficult in Black Sigil: Blade of the Exiled is just slightly above most of the RPGs that I have played recently, in good and bad ways.

The random encounter rate was decently high and they did a really good job of keeping the monster difficulty controlled so that you couldn't really power level yourself by fighting a lot to make the game easier. To really gain levels, you have to move on to a more difficult area with more difficult to beat monsters. Still though, if you are careful, you can get through the areas without having to buy many items, which is really good since you don't have an abundance of spare money in this game. I found that as long as I stayed at the inns (which were usually very reasonable) every time I passed one, I didn't have to run from a dungeon just to heal and go back into it. They did a wonderful job of balancing damage and healing items in Black Sigil!

As I mentioned before, you need to remember what the characters told you the first time to figure out where you need to go next. Since they don't repeat all the information the second time, I had a tendency to get lost and not have anyone tell me where I needed to go next. It was quite frustrating at times, but I guess that is my own fault for not paying very close attention to all their words. Make sure you don't make the same mistake! Finding the side quests was relatively easy, if you talk to everyone. Usually you could tell when you needed to go find more information for someone and then go back and talk to them.


Game Mechanics:

For the most part, the controls in Black Sigil: Blade of the Exiled are quite easy to get the hang of and relatively intuitive. Unfortunately, they're not all documented in the manual so you'll have to spend some time figuring things out. The D-pad controls your movement on the world map and in the towns/dungeons. If you want to go faster (and believe me you do!), you can hold down the (B) button to run. This only works in towns though, not on the world map. The (A) button is your select button. You'll use it to talk to everyone and select attacks. You can't move your character during battle. They will automatically move to where they need to be to execute the attack or spell that you chose for them. To choose these attacks or spells, press and hold the D-pad in the direction of what you want to select and press (A). All of that is pretty straightforward. There are things that I still haven't figured out how to do though, like equip a specific item. Unfortunately, the pictures in the manual are unreadable and the descriptions are vague. I've just been choosing to equip optimal items to get new things equipped to my characters. One major thing to note, when a character leaves the party their items are automatically unequipped. Make sure when they rejoin you to re-equip items or you might have some problems!

Overall, Black Sigil: Blade of the Exiled is a wonderful game! While I have mentioned things that could have been better, none of them really detract from the excellent gameplay and story that Black Sigil provides. It is the perfect example of a classic RPG, something that we haven't seen enough of lately. If you like RPGs, I highly recommend you go pick it up today!


-Cyn, GameVortex Communications
AKA Sara Earl

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