Let’s see, shall we? A turn-based rogue-lite from Arthurian legend? Yeah, count me in because The Hand of Merlin is sounding right up my street.
So yes, let me get the disclaimer out of the way first. I am not good at turn-based tactics games, but I I really do enjoy them; thus, I will play on easy, and I will get as much help as possible. So I am always happy when a game allows me to still get enjoyment despite myself.
The Hand of Merlin actually does very little in terms of breaking new ground. So we have here a game that I can best describe as a mix of The Banner Saga with Slay The Spire. But in all fairness, it doesn’t need to break new ground, and it just needs to be enjoyable and interesting.
I am a fan of the stories around King Arthur, so I was immediately drawn to this because of that. The Hand of Merlin doesn’t just follow the tried and tested fables, and it is mixed a little with some sci-fi elements that add to an already interesting story. You guide up to three mortal heroes on a crucial journey as the titular Merlin. While the game in early access feels short on an individual run, the narrative changes each time.
We aren’t talking Hades level of detail here, but enough to encourage further attempts, regardless of success. The encounters between battles often drive this. Where some may reward you, others can affect the story in other ways and, in worst-case scenarios, cause a plague across your run that will have many negative connotations. It is a clever system that feels a little Darkest Dungeon-lite.
The turn-based combat is fairly standard, and if you’ve played any other turn-based game, you’ll soon get to grips with the nuances of The Hand of Merlin. However, the unlocks you get, and both temporary and permanent, can greatly impact how you approach battles. In addition, some of the combos can be rather devastating.
Much like Slay the Spire and the likes, synergy is vital. You will use various spells, upgrades, relics and more to improve your party and your chances on the next run. It isn’t simply about levelling either, as you can always roll the dice and get some randomised skills to change things up. There are many options available, but none ever feel too overwhelming, nor does it feel like things are being over-complicated to try and pad the game out.
I’m not sure when The hand of Merlin is due to leave early access, but it feels very polished already and well worth a look if the genre and setting interests you.
The Hand of Merlin from Room-C Games, Croteam and Verus Evil is out now on Steam in Early Access for £18.99