Shalnor Legends: Sacred Lands is a nice little top-down action-adventure game developed by a one-man team. It is a game that encourages exploration, on top of having good art and nice level design.
Good art. Right off the bat, the nice pixel graphics depicting the world of Shalnor Legends set the mood for the rest of the game – that of a rather laid-back RPG experience. All of the sprite work was wonderfully done in this regard, fitting for the type of gameplay offered. The envrionments were also well-done, with only one zone being rather boring compared to the rest (out of five total).
Simple, yet satisfying level design. Shalnor Legends may have some rather simplistic level design (particularly in each of the game’s dungeons), but that is definitely not a bad thing. The game never really tries to break this simplicity, with everything from the art down to the core gameplay mechanics matching this level design. As such, these levels do not need to be overly complex. Sure, there are some difficult ones scattered in there, but none of them ever took more than two or three attempts to clear.
Encourages exploration. I was able to clear Shalnor Legends in just over four hours, but had only unlocked 32% of the game’s achievements. This is because the game offers more than just a main story to clear, with over 30 different optional dungeons and caves to explore as well. The loot varies by dungeon, but ranges from health and mana upgrades up to special altars used to unlock even more loot.
Annoying enemy types. Some of the enemy types in Shalnor Legends encourage boring gameplay and are just annoying to fight. One such enemy is a ghost-like enemy that shoots green fireballs at the player, but only when the player is within a certain range in front of it. This enemy is immune to physical attacks and disappears when the player moves to the left, right, or behind it. They take a certain amount of arrows to kill and their fireballs do a lot of damage, encouraging me to just stand to the enemy’s side waiting for my mana to regen after every arrow I shot at it. This enemy was not difficult to kill, just requiring a lot of waiting on the player’s part. I had focused on bracer upgrades during my playthrough, so my arrows actually did more damage per shot. I imagine those that focused on sword or defense upgrades would have a much more painful time killing these enemies.
It was not just this enemy though, there were a few others that encouraged similar gameplay. One such enemy shot lasers after a brief delay and were best handled by running, shooting an arrow, running again while mana regens, then shooting again. Even a couple of the bosses were like this, particularly the ghost boss, which could only be defeated via arrows (forcing the player to wait for his/her mana to regen throughout the fight). Again, I feel for players that do not prioritize the bracer upgrades.
Oversized hitboxes. The game’s bosses have some ridiculously oversized hitboxes, much larger than the size of their sprites. I inadvertently injured myself numerous times trying to melee a boss, only to run into its hitbox. Discovering this early on prompted me to focus on arrow upgrades rather than melee.
Upgrade grinding. Over the course of my entire playthrough, I was only able to purchase three upgrades for my gear out of the twenty or so total. This is because I did not grind for the upgrades and just casually played through the game, using the gold I earned from breaking barrels along the way. It would take an immense amount of grinding, in the form of breaking barrels and cutting grass, to get through any of the different upgrades trees. Fortunately, the upgrades are not required, but do make the later stages of the game less painful to complete.
Despite some annoyances with a few of the enemy designs and the grindy nature of the game’s upgrade system, Shalnor Legends is still a decent game. The good art and level design certainly help to make up for these faults. It may not be the greatest at what it does, but it is still worth the recommendation.
You can buy Shalnor Legends: Sacred Lands on Steam here.
I was provided a free review copy of the game in order to write this review. Read more about how I do my game reviews here.