Zoria: Age of Shattering Review | PC

Zoria: Age of Shattering, a tactical RPG with a lot of heart and nostalgic visuals, but not much else.

By DShelley, Posted 08 Mar 2024

Tactical games are all about teamwork and strategy, two things that work in tandem with one another. Teamwork means nothing when you don't have a strategy to work with, and a good strategy means nothing when things don't work together. This is one of the key elements of Zoria: Age of Shattering and its biggest downfalls. While the game has many good elements, it lacks polish, which matters most.


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Zoria: Age of Shattering is developed by Tiny Trinket Games, a small game studio based in Bucharest, Romania, formed in 2010. The studio only consists of three impressive people. The studio describes itself as having a fancy for old-school gameplay, and it definitely shines through with Zoria: Age of Shattering, which just so happens to be the studio's second title after Azuran Tales: Trials, a side-scrolling platformer with RPG elements. As for the publisher of Zoria: Age of Shattering, the game is published by Anshar Publishing, who have published games such as Liberté, Gamedec - Definitive Edition, and Weakness. The game's second publisher is Surefire.Games, who previously published War Mongrels, Everhood, and Heroes of Hammerwatch.

Despite Zoria: Age of Shattering technically being the first game in the series, this isn't the first time we've seen Zoria in game form, as in 2020, Tiny Trinket released the playable demo called Zoria: Prologue. This bite-sized version of the game was meant to introduce players to the game's setting as well as its mechanics. Now, usually with demos, they're not supposed to represent the final product and are also a way for developers to receive feedback on their games while making necessary changes for the final product. Unfortunately, going off of the Steam reviews, that hasn't happened.

Many of the issues that players had with Zoria: Prologue have been carried over into the final game, and this is also why the game hasn't been able to reach its full potential, but we'll go into that later. When you start the game, you will have to make your character; you begin by picking your character's gender, which is simple enough, but afterward, you need to choose a class where things get interesting.

In Zoria: Age of Shattering, there are nine classes: Lancer, Kingsman, Sentinel, Wizard, Thief, Ranger, Battle Cleric, Priest, and Night Warden. Each class follows the standard Warrior, Rogue, and Mage character archetypes. However, the game's two unique classes, Battle Cleric and Night Warden, act as hybrids of two classes, Kingsman and Priest for Battle Cleric and Kingsman and Ranger for Night Warden.


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You design your appearance from there and are thrust straight into the game's story. Two kingdoms are at war, the kingdom of Elion and the Izirians, who are utilizing dark arts such as Necromancy and Death Magic. You are a commander trying to stop the Izirians from taking control of The Great Iron Chain, a series of fortresses that defend the northern border of Elion, and uncover how they have become so powerful and the secret behind their power. All this information is given to you through a hand-drawn cinematic with some lovely narration; unfortunately, it doesn't continue throughout the game.

The biggest fault of Zoria: Age of Shattering is that it lacks consistency. Right from the get-go, small issues start to arise once you finally gain control of your character. As mentioned before, the narration at the beginning of the game was pretty good, but then, right after that, the narration started to not match up with the piece of text given. This is easily forgiven if it was a once-off occurrence, but it's not. From there, we have a conversation with an NPC, and each of their lines is voice-acted, but then we speak to another character, and only the first sentence of her lines is voiced. It's incredibly jarring and very distracting.

Then, there is the way the game handles tutorials. Tutorials are vital for someone new to a game or a genre, and the tutorials are meant to guide you through each game's mechanics so you have a decent enough grasp of them. Unfortunately, Zoria: Age of Shattering just dumps them on you randomly and hopes you remember what's what.

This is, again, something that's excusable and can easily be forgiven. Still, then, right after dumping a whole bunch of tutorials, the game puts you in scenarios where these tutorials could have been integrated seamlessly. To make matters even more confusing, the tutorials you are given are only a fraction of what you need to know. The game also seems aware of this, as your journal contains all the necessary tutorials.


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A very obvious example of this is the game's combat, which is turn-based; on your right side, you will be shown a turn bar that indicates who is currently attacking and who will subsequently attack afterward, as well as how many Action Points they have remaining. On your left-hand side will be your party as well as their current Health, Energy, Magic, and Focus. It should be noted that only classes that use magic will have a Magic bar, and any non-magic class will have an Energy bar.

If either your Magic or Energy bar is depleted, you cannot perform your attacks. However, that's not the only bar you have to worry about, as most abilities require Focus. Many of your attacks will deplete Focus, Magic, and Energy, but certain attacks restore it, so you will need to balance this in combat. Does the game tell you any of this? Nope.

As you explore more of the world, you will come across points of interest; a yellow icon on your map indicates these; most of the time, this means you will encounter more characters to add to your party. These characters are usually of a different class and will help bulk out for turns and can cover the weaknesses of your other characters. Each class has unique abilities that you will unlock as your characters level up and develop in tiers. It should also be noted that certain classes can only equip certain types of equipment; for example, Priests and Wizards can only equip Light Armor, while Lancers and Kingsman can only equip Heavy Armor. 

An important part of the game is ensuring that your team is balanced and that you have classes covering most scenarios, especially with a class that knows healing magic. It cannot be overstated how much you need healing. Of course, healing magic isn't the only way to restore health, as a small portion of your health will be restored after a victorious battle, and if any allies fall in combat, they'll get back up with a portion of their health. There is another way to restore your health, and that involves crafting.


Zoria: Age of Shattering, Review, Screenshots, Turn-Based, Strategy,Fantasy, NoobFeed
 

In Zoria: Age of Shattering, there are three different forms of crafting, and they can only be done when you are at a Rest Camp. The crafting methods in question are Alchemy, which lets you craft potions; cooking, which lets you cook and use supplies to restore your party's energy and health; and actual crafting, which allows you to make new equipment for your party. All these crafting methods require materials you are meant to encounter, either by exploring or defeating enemies.

Now, all this sounds good in theory, but in terms of execution, Zoria: Age of Shattering falls short, especially with its combat. Regarding turn-based strategy, the gameplay is incredibly solid, attacks are punchy, and there are more than enough abilities to develop a decent strategy, but there are a few glaring issues. One of the most notable issues is with Line of Sight.

Most combat encounters happen because an enemy saw you; there's no indication of where the enemy saw you from and how they noticed you, though. Most of the time, combat will be engaged, but the enemy is still far away from your party, meaning you have to waste an entire turn reaching them if you don't have a ranged attacker. Not only that, there's no other way of engaging in combat besides waiting for the enemy to walk up to you or a few feet in front of you. 

This becomes even more frustrating as Line of Sight also comes into play with your attacks. Sometimes, your character cannot perform an attack because an enemy is beyond or out of their sight or an obstacle is in the way, such as a cow that's aimlessly wandering in front of you. There are no issues with obstacles, as this does mean you need to plan your position; there's just no way to see if the enemy is in sight or if your sight is blocked. Stray cows aren't the only thing that can wander into combat as, despite engaging in combat, if a patrolling enemy sees you while you're in combat, they will join in, increasing the enemy's turn, which is annoying and throws a wrench in whatever strategy you had planned.



 

Unfortunately, this lack of cohesion is something that is prevalent in almost every part of Zoria: Age of Shattering, which is a massive shame as there is passion oozing all over the game. Tiny Trinket is a team of passionate developers who enjoy bringing a sense of nostalgia from the '90s and early 2000s into the things they develop; this game also shows that. Still, there are just so many minor issues that pile up that bring down Zoria: Age of Shattering. All these issues could have seriously benefitted from more time in the oven.


Daman Shelley (@UndeadandTired)
Editor, NoobFeed

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General Information

Platform(s): PC
Publisher(s): Anshar Publishing, Surefire.Games
Developer(s): Tiny Trinket Games
Genres: Turn-Based Strategy
Themes: Fantasy, Role-Playing, Action
Release Date: 2024-03-07

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