Thanks to KEMCO for the review code
Title: Blacksmith of the Sand Kingdom
System: Xbox Series X
Release Date: 01/07/2021
In a far off desert town, you take control of a new blacksmith, taking control of a workshop as he aims to help the guild out with the town’s problems and be like his father. Can he improve his business while also helping those in need? For a RPG, the plot here isn’t too in-depth, but there’s still enough character interactions with the town NPCs to at least keep your interest, although don’t expect anything of the sort between your party members that you create.
Shockingly enough, this Kemco RPG isn’t made by EXE Create or Hit-Point, but instead Rideon Japan, the creators behind the Mercenary Saga series. They have made several games for Kemco before, and this is yet another one of them: thus, it uses the same sort of art style and UI that they are used to putting out with their other games.
The sprite art is solid, with good animations and distinct characters, but considering how you won’t see it outside of exploring dungeons and battling (which is done in a very cool isometric style) the key art is what you’ll be more used to, and it’s fairly well done, even if they are done in your typical, familiar anime style. The music here is pretty OK, but not memorable in the slightest.
However, it should be noted that on Series X, using quick resume with this game tends to mute the entire audio track for seemingly no reason, and the game will remained bugged like this until you exit the application and restart it, so be careful if you want to take advantage of QR.
Blacksmith of the Sand Kingdom has two main goals to accomplish: to complete the sidequests needed to progress the plot, and build up your workshop to be the best it can by selling crafted items to customers. Thus, the game takes place in a main hub town, navigated via menus.
Once you get to the bulletin board in the guild and take up a request, they can usually be done by going to the dungeons in one way or another: whether it requires beating a certain type of enemy, a certain amount of enemies, getting specific materials, or reaching a certain floor, the quests are your usual, expected kind from a game like this, with certain ones being mandatory to progress the story, with other quests being optional.
Besides the quests, you also have to focus on your business, and this is done by listing items for sale and starting a day of selling. These items are usually weapons and such made with materials, and you’re allowed to try and push your luck by pricing an item higher or lower than it’s recommended value: if you’re lucky, a customer will buy an item for the higher price, while if you aren’t, they’ll leave it intact and the items go unsold.
This means while you could just pick the safer prices and get the items sold every time, you won’t make nearly as much funds as if you risk a failed sale. Considering how pricey the upgradable skills, weapons, and other such benefits can be, you’ll need as much cash as you can, especially since you’ll have to buy pricey books in order to make better items to continue the cycle, which is strangely fun and addicting, to raise your shop rank and improve your party while you’re at it.
The town has other facilities to use up as well, such as an infirmary that restores your party’s health, a tavern that provides the party with EXP boosting meals, an item shop to buy healing items and certain materials, and an Arena for battle training.
These all can help with your main goals, but of course one such goal are the dungeons, which are fairly typical. Entering a dungeon, your party explores each of the floors and can mine for resources from resource points, or engage in an enemy battle. The enemies are all viewable in the field, so you won’t be caught off guard by an encounter as you’re thrown into the isometric perspective.
Battles are your typical fare, with each member of your party getting their own turn before the opposing side, with access to skills and normal attacks to beat enemies with. You have a speedup feature that’s a standard of newer RPGs by this point, along with an auto-battle feature. Oddly enough, combining the two increases the speed slightly moreso than if you just watched actions with just the speedup, so if you’re confident and don’t mind your team wasting away MP, you can combine both to make battles a breeze. There’s not much else to say about these battles, for they’re fairly typical for the genre and all the skill gaining comes from your job class and upgrades, which is done via the money you earn, so it feels as if combat is an afterthought here.
In all honesty, I found exploring the dungeons and going for the resource points more interesting than hunting down enemies to fight for EXP. I found that enemies didn’t offer much EXP at all, and were more beneficial to beat up for their materials over anything else: the fact that overworld enemies all look the same don’t help matters much either, though at least sidequests that want specific foes beaten will be kind enough to mark a bubble over the overworld enemies in question. At the end of the day, it just helps fuel the gameplay loop with the blacksmithing, rather than be equally as important: if you know what you’re doing, you can make it to the end of dungeons without battling any enemies, though that won’t help if a quest requires their materials.
In terms of Xbox Series X features, since this game is explicitly marked as an XSX title… It has quick resume, and that’s basically it. And sadly, the quick resume is buggy as noted above. It may have 4K support too, but I cannot comment on how good that may or may not be since I do not own a 4K TV. The loading times are hyperfast though, as to be expected.
In conclusion, Blacksmith is a decent RPG with a satisfying gameplay loop, offering a much more engaging and fun experience than Rideon’s Mercenary Saga series. Yet, even with the solid gameplay loop and fun crafting mechanics, that doesn’t stop Blacksmith from becoming incredibly repetitive in little time at all, especially when it comes to battling enemies and exploring dungeons.
Creating your own characters is fun, and improving the smithy is even better, and even the loop of clearing quests is satisfying enough, but for a game of this value, you kinda learn to expect a bit more for the amount of money spent on a game like this, and considering how fast repetitiveness sat in even with the helpful ability of quick resume at my side, (well, when it didn’t break the sound), this is definitely a game most fitting for pick up and play sessions, and being allowed to save everywhere helps a lot in making it so.
Definitely the best game to date I’ve played from Rideon, and one that I feel does have a lot of good merits to it: with all that said, you may want to wait for a sale on this one, due to the simple gameplay loop, yet if you’re a fan of these kinds of games and don’t mind the repetitiveness and steep price, then you’ll find a satisfying mix of RPG action and town management here.
I give Blacksmith of the Sand Kingdom a 6 out of 10, and you can find the North American Microsoft Store page here.