Balrum: Someone Finally Made a cRPG meets Minecraft

What has me smitten is that Balcony Team didn’t forfeit hefty cRPG gameplay when injecting Balrum into an open-world, living sandbox with building, crafting and survival features. I still feel I’m playing a good, old-school cRPG with deep mechanics. But now I can do that along with repairing my grandpa’s house, building my own house, taming pets, growing crops and experimenting with a deep crafting system to create unique items.

The first character I took into Balrum had me feeling a little lost. I felt frantic because there’s a hunger and thirst gauge that kept threatening to kill me as I was learning what exactly I need to be doing. I was slowly reading quest dialog or just eeking out how the UI functioned and I’d start starving and taking damage. I saw immediately that this was a common concern and the developers heeded the call with an optional choice to slow the need for food and water, as well as turn the threat off during interactions. I don’t mind hunger and thirst if it’s treated as less of a threat-meter and more as a source for cooking(along with buffs).

Balrum has me daydreaming through work until I can get home and check out more. I don’t know if I’ll remain in that enamored state as I peel back its layers and discover the full breadth of the game, but it’s definitely intriguing. There seems to be a full-blooded cRPG in this open world where I can wonder around, learn multiple trade-skills, acquire furniture, repair, build, grow crops and more.

I’ve enjoyed palpable sense of living in the world through watching the NPCs go about randomly performing activities, and having seemingly random events occur. I helped Osric catch some chickens and feed his pigs. When I suddenly found I was being followed by a pig, I assumed it belonged to Osric. I lead it into the pen, closed the door and told Osric who yelled at me that it wasn’t his. The pig then magically transformed into a Warlock Skeleton who I immediately beat down with the help of my wolf-pet Jax. It felt intuitive and natural, yet accidental which yielded a big smile on my face. The same initial discovery that I can have nightmares was also fantastic. I didn’t know how I could interact with or within my nightmares, but simple experimenting yielded happy results.

Balrum is a game that also has me wanting to produce guides for. There are a lot of mechanics and little things that can be learned. A wiki exists to aid players, but it currently seems spotty. I was slightly confused by how to gain skills when the tooltip on crafting stations told me I needed a trainer. I learned I can do some questing for the village folk and open up the ability to learn new skills, buy new furniture and recipes from the villagers. They become the trainers.

Moving and combat are blended in a hybrid, turn-based environment. I can freely walk around and do activities until I come into aggro-range of an enemy. Strict turn-based movement kicks in when fighting and all actions can be viewed in an action-dialog window.

I feel I’m far from getting to build entire houses, setup livestock fences and my own farms yet, but look forward to it. I can’t wait to build and decorate my own humble abode. Balrum feels like a terrific attempt at combining real isometric cRPG gameplay with open-world living.

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Jeremy Stratton

Jeremy Stratton

Jeremy's lived long enough to see his favorite games making a comeback in High Definition and Indie games with old-school ideals. He also loves cooking and photography.