Zoria Age of Shattering Preview

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Zoria Age of Shattering Preview

I’ve been looking forward to Zoria Age of Shattering.

The tactical RPG genre has long been one of my favourite genres, and 2023’s unparalleled success in Baldur’s Gate 3 has inspired a whole new generation. If you haven’t played Larian’s most recent masterpiece, give it a go sometime. I’m not here to gush about Baldur’s Gate today, however, so forgive a British dude’s rambles with my morning coffee.

Zoria is an intriguing fantasy RPG that blends the classic squad-based combat with base management, and as someone who loves creating deep worlds, I was curious how the developers would handle theirs. I want to thank Tiny Trinket Games for providing me with a review copy for this purpose. All my playtime was with the review branch, so there’s a possibility that any issues I came across while writing this article might be addressed already, or will be in future patches. This is also my early impression, just for transparency. While the game has a lack of polish, I’m rather enjoying my time with Zoria thus far. When creating your avatar, there are several classes to choose from as well as some options for character looks, although they feel somewhat limited.

The basis of the story is fairly bread and butter. The fantasy world of Uram is deep in turmoil, with a powerful evil force overwhelming the good kingdom until its territory is reduced to barely a sliver. The Big Bad are what we come to expect from this genre. With demons, powerful mages that engage in horrible necromancy, and dark soldiers straight out of Fantasy Stormtroopers, they are the enemies that players need to fight.

The opening cutscene sets the expectations through a long, meandering narration that felt a little jarring for me. I can’t put my finger on why, it just felt a little verbose for my liking. Character dialogue also felt somewhat flat. I noticed some discrepancies between the narration and the text on screen, but from personal dev experience that might just be last-minute audio changes. Changing text to fit the voice is much easier than rerecording whole lines. I also liked the fact that the world map on the loading screens was made with Inkarnate! As a semi-professional cartographer with experience in narrative design, I’m always happy when I see maps in my games. The map itself does the job of showing where the main landmarks are, although I spotted a few issues with the layout.

Anyway, enough rambling about maps and the like, what about the game?! In the besieged city of Daeg Marestir, the game begins and you can move around. After learning the controls and grabbing supplies, the player is tasked with escaping the city. Unfortunately, there is no free camera and instead sticks to the player party at all times, but I was impressed by Zoria’s visuals. The cityscape is full of detail and gloom, and the oppressive nature of the approaching apocalypse really sets the scene. With the lightning effects, it drew me into the environment. Unfortunately, there seems to be a lack of interaction with these scenes, and I had some trouble working out where I could go sometimes.

The lack of a free camera during exploration feels like a misstep, as for some of the early objectives I noticed that there were no map markers for optional content. That in itself is not a problem, but it left me painstakingly exploring the map hunting for where to go next. Now, this is a preview build and chances are this has been fixed in release, but I can only comment on what I have played, after all! It is important to mention accessibility settings because this is one area Zoria needs to work on. While there are a few difficulty options and graphical presets to tweak, there’s no way to customize them to a player’s preference. Zoria: Age of Shattering does not require particularly heavy hardware, but for a modern RPG I expected more options.

Note: During my testing of the preview build, keybinds were not adjustable. However, a prelaunch patch has now included this feature and smoothed out some of the menus. I also noticed a major performance improvement!

Combat is the normal turn-based affair, with characters having their turn decided by stats. Weirdly, you can move the camera around freely in this mode. It got me thinking… why not have the ability to have that camera in exploration too? Anyway, the combat system is solid enough. If you’ve played other turn-based titles, what you see is what you get. Having a strong tank take point while ranged attacks go Rambo is probably the best approach, as enemy ranged units will abuse their mobility too.

Unfortunately, there’s no real way to stealth around the map and set up ambushes from my testing: as soon as enemies spot you, they will rush towards you like a bull charging into his home to catch his wife in bed with another fella. Any lingering enemies in the background will quickly join the fray, making for some frustrating situations. I’m probably spoiled playing other games, but I would have preferred more freedom. With the inability to sneak around obstacles, I can see this becoming repetitive.

I chose the Thief class for my persona, although now I wish I picked something else. He feels a bit squishy compared to my Battle Priest companion. That did not help in battles where the player is often massively outnumbered. On harder difficulties, I can see people having problems getting ganged up on by faster enemies before they can even get a turn. Oh, and let’s talk about loot! Holy shit on bananas, there’s a ton of loot in Zoria. You’ll be picking up equipment all the time, to the point that managing the inventory is a slog early game.

I really appreciate the ability to reroll my skills freely in the game. It gives me the option to refund a spell loadout and start fresh if I don’t like it. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to change my character class as I progress further. The interface is decent and includes layouts for lore and history about the world. I’m a fan of the in-game encyclopaedias that help me keep track of what’s happening. I guess you can call me a glutton for lore.

I’m a big fan of the camping mechanic. When not in combat, players can set up a little camp anywhere in the overworld without limitations. From there, you can use alchemy, cook food, and rest to regain character health using camp supplies. Different classes also have different abilities to use during resting, like mending armour and healing debuffs. Those are good reasons to keep a mix of characters in the party.

For an impressions review, this is twice as long as I expected, so time to wrap this up. I don’t usually write this much on a single game, so clearly I had a lot to say! Zoria: Age of Shattering has been crafted with passion and love, and it shows throughout. It’s also not afraid to show its flaws. One of the consequences of Baldur’s Gate 3’s massive success is that similar games are being judged in the same light. While some believe it is unfair to judge a game between developers of different resources and scope, why not? Games should be pushing for more. Zoria has plenty of ambition, but it can do with a little polish on the quality of life features. Controller support will be unavailable on launch day, but there are plans to introduce it to the game in the future.

I’ll return to Zoria for the site in a few weeks most likely with a more complete review. For the good of video games, I’m really hoping Zoria Age of Shattering does well because it deserves success and attention. I know my rambles have been more mixed in this preview, but that’s out of my desire to see this succeed. Despite the issues I’ve experienced, do you know what I did after writing this? Yep. I jumped straight back into Zoria. It’s enjoyable, and it has a heart. Sometimes, that’s what is more important.

An ambitious tactical RPG set in an intriguing worldVoice acting is a mixed bag, although credit to the small dev team for considering it at all
Impressive setting and lighting effects make Zoria punch above its weight classThe lack of a free camera during exploration feels somewhat counterproductive
Freedom to reroll skills at will for experimentation, along with diverse classes for flexible combatThe lack of stealth mechanics during exploration makes combat encounters difficult to actively prepare for
Great music and sound design that helps the dark atmosphereA few lacking quality-of-life features

About the Author

TheThousandScarAuthor/Blogger/Cartographer/Streamer/Narrative Game Writer/I play far too many games.

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