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Black Sigil: Blade of the Exiled Review

Title: Black Sigil: Blade of the Exiled
Developer/Publisher: Graffiti Entertainment / Graffiti Entertainment
Platform: Nintendo DS
Release Date: 06/8/2009
Number of Players: Single Player

Black Sigil: Blade of the Exiled is another RPG for the Nintendo DS, which has seen many in recent history. The market seems a bit flooded with them currently, but does Black Sigil have what it takes to stand out?

The story will starts out introducing you to Kairu, the main protagonist of this adventure, and unfortunately for him, he lacks the ability to use magic, which is very disturbing to the other townspeople who grow suspicious of this fact. For this reason, Kairu’s father has no choice but to banish him from the town and seal him in a cave, in hopes that he will one day gain the ability to use magic and escape the cave. Luckily for Kairu, he does indeed gain the use of magic, but is mysteriously transported to another land, where the real story unfolds. He teams up with is sister, and other partners throughout his adventure, where they try to get back home and uncover the reasons why one group of people are trying to take over the land and why everyone is scared of magic.

It’s a pretty decent story overall, with some comedic bits here and there and interesting characters who aren’t winy or annoying. Unfortunately, the story takes awhile to develop, which is slowed even more by the numerous random battles that you can’t escape.

The game’s battle system is decent, and brings a slight alteration to the turn-based system. Instead of having a lineup of when characters will move/attack and a speed stat, you have a meter. When the meter is full, you can perform an action with that character, and when you do, the meter gets wiped out and you have to wait for it to fill again before you can move. This semi-works, but is much more annoying at the beginning of the game when you only have one character to play with and spend a lot of time sitting and waiting for that meter to fill back so you can move again. You and your enemies will just be standing around not doing anything, which seems very wasteful and annoying to me. You can also move your characters around the attack area, which is very useful when you need to cast a healing spell or move around to allow an ally to attack an enemy.

Like any other RPG, there are numerous, random enemies that will come to battle you, and after you defeat them, you will gain experience, get some gold, and perhaps some items. Like I mentioned previously, all encounters are random, and fairly frequent, allowing you to move only a few steps before the next, which, when coupled with the sometimes wasteful timed battle system, can be time consuming and frustrating. If you like grinding, and have lots of healing items, then this is fine, but it just makes the experience too long, gets annoying and repetitive, when all you want to do is progress the story to find out what happens next. It becomes even more wearisome when you’re trying to get out of a dungeon to get to a save point.

You are allowed to save when you are either in the overworld, outside of a dungeon or town, or when inside a special circle. You can also use a temporary save whenever you like, which brings you back to the title screen and is erased whenever you start the game up again. I guess this is ok, but I always dislike when you can’t save whenever you want.

Aside from the timing mechanism, the battle system also allows for four actions; attack, combo, skill, or item. Each character has a possible four skills they can use, which can be magic attacks, healing spells, or something similar, while the combos utilize two or more characters. Combos are pretty devastating, but require that all characters involved have a full time meter and are ready to attack. Both skills and combos take up Skill Points, so you have to make sure you have plenty before going into a battle and coming up with a suitable strategy.

The graphics are standard for an RPG, and hark back to the classic style that you’ve come to recognize. They aren’t anything too special though, and due to some unwise color choices and such, make it hard to see where you can move. For instance, there are a few times, especially when just getting introduced to the mechanics, where there are some rock stairs, but it kind of looks like a wall, so you don’t know to walk up them to progress, and other things of that nature.

In between walking around the overworld or moving around a dungeon, you’ll be waltzing through a town, exploring stores and talking to towns folk, getting information and trying to trigger a plot point to progress the game forward. Sometimes these are hard to find, but the game does a decent job of pointing you in the right direction if you’re paying attention to what the people are saying.

The Review

Storyline:
You play as Kairu, an excellent swordsman, who unfortunately lacks the ability to use magic, and is therefore exiled from his town. Later, he is mysteriously transported to a mysterious world with his sister, and they must figure out what is going on and how to get back. The story is good overall, with decent dialogue, but it is semi-slow to develop, somewhat due to frequent random battles.

Gameplay:
This is a standard RPG title, with a few unique mechanics, like the modified turn based system which uses a time meter now instead of direct order based on a speed stat. This works, generally, but with one or two characters, it slows the battle down drastically.

Graphics:
The graphics are reminiscent of classic RPG titles, but I think the DS can do a bit better. The colors and designs are ok, but the screen seems a bit cluttered at times, and it can make it hard to see paths and know what is climbable, etc.

The Good:
The game features a good story line, with a decent battle system. It doesn’t particularly excel in anything though.

The Bad:
The story is a bit slow to start, and the random battles are very frequent, bothersome, and unavoidable.

Overall:
Black Sigil: Blade of the Exiled is a decent RPG all around; it features a good story, interesting characters and locales, lots of items and weapons to collect and equip, and a smidgen of depth in the battle system, where you can move around your characters, choose moves and combos, and utilize your time meter. Unfortunately, in a sea of RPGs, Black Sigil doesn’t do anything spectacular to stand out from the crowd, and with its numerous random battles, can be a bit annoying and grow stale. However, if you’re an RPG fan and looking for another fix, this game will suffice.

Final Vote: 3/5

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