Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
Blacksmith Legends by developer VM Gaming and publisher Rock Game S.A. is a very lightweight crafting simulation game that currently seems aimed at casual players. The game puts the player in charge of establishing and growing the protagonist’s business as a medieval blacksmith after their family passed away, with later side games around arena duels and regional exploration. Just released into Early Access in January 2022, Blacksmith Legends needs to be appreciated for what it is – a casual crafting game with RPG elements by a small developer.
At the time of this preview, Blacksmith Legends had just released into Early Access, and seemed to be maintaining a fairly regular schedule of updates covering both bug fixes and new content as well as news articles to keep the player base informed. That said, Blacksmith Legends definitely feels like a game that is using the Early Access program in the way it was originally presented, bringing the player community in early enough in development that feedback can still have a measurable impact on the game’s design, rather than just being an extended open beta period. At its initial list price in Canada of $17.99, potential players need to be very aware that they are buying into software that may be more akin to an Alpha state than Beta, with feature sets still being actively developed and added.
Gameplay in Blacksmith Legends splits between three main areas: a village map where you spend most of your time building and running your shop; a region map where you can send out a team of hired heroes to explore and complete quests; and an arena where you can equip a duelist and spar with opponents. Moving between the village and the region maps is very easy and fast, but getting into the arena map requires that the player be in village view and then pan over to the section of town where the arena is located in order to enter it – not terribly time consuming, but definitely not as fast and convenient as switching between village and region views.
The village map is pannable and has a number of interactables (many of which unlock over time as you progress), and forms the heart of the game. Here, players construct their shop with walls, flooring, equipment and decorative items, within the boundaries of the property they own. In playing through the recommended prologue, many items will unlock slowly over time, but at the outset the player can be left with a giant empty box of a building – each tile of which had be placed individually, as there was no area-build or drag-building function that appeared to be present at review time. The building materials initially available are cheap, however, so even building to maximum size won’t really impact your ability to afford supplies for your crafting. As the game progresses through a series of linear “craft X number of Y item” quests, the player will be able to hire additional staff which both take up more space and provide additional production capacity, but the way this core gameplay loop is handled becomes problematic.
The main gameplay loop in Blacksmith Legends revolves around:
- buy materials from local mines/lumber yards;
- select up to four items to queue for crafting;
- wait for the progress bar to complete while your character sprite pounds at the anvil;
- open the market window and put the item you just made up for sale;
The first few times the player goes through this, there is a modicum of fun – you made something, your money goes up, hooray! When you realize that you’ll be doing this ad nauseum, however, the process quickly becomes tedious. In particular, the lack of any player interaction in the crafting process left me feeling uninvolved – no minigames or similar exist in Blacksmith Legends at the time of review that made it feel like the player really had any impact on the quality or quantity of output. Don’t worry though, soon you’ll have access to a staff member that can automate this entire process for you! That’s right, by hiring an “overseer” you can set quotas for material purchases, production targets and automate sales, completely removing the need for player involvement. In fact, you can leave the game running nearly unattended and watch the money roll in, the only required involvement being to click “okay” on a once-a-week financial report.
The next gameplay loop in Blacksmith Legends involves the use of hired heroes to explore the area. These heroes are occasionally available for hire at the local tavern, and can be equipped with items made in your shop for increased combat stats. The heroes operate on the regional map, with the player having the option to give them a general “explore” command or command them to investigate particular points of interest when located through exploration or spawned by a quest. Exploration is automatic, with the hero group slowly moving around the map to reveal areas covered by a fog of war.
At the end of what feels like an in-game week, the heroes will bring back whatever they found – usually a small amount of assorted crafting materials. Investigating points of interest puts the heroes into a battle minigame with heroes and monsters represented by cards, where each side automatically attacks in a turn-based sequence. The player gets to watch this unfold, and occasionally has a chance to click on limited-time-appearing icons scattered around the screen to bolster attack or defense during the next round. Victory here gives a small payout of money or materials, while defeat simply means your heroes have to rest at home for a few days before trying again – no real lasting impact is felt.
Visually, Blacksmith Legends is competently done, with a UI that presents information in a relatively clear and easy to understand manner. Most icons have simple tooltips if you forget what they are, and the color palettes used provide enough contrast that you won’t have to be fiddling with screen settings to tell what is going on. English-speaking players should keep in mind that this game originates from a publisher in Poland, and while functional and understandable, the English localization of text in the game is not yet polished to release levels. There will be odd grammar usage and messages you have to reread a few times to understand here and there through the game.
Overall, Blacksmith Legends at the point it entered Early Access was functional but uninspiring. While graphically the game is decently done, the lack of engaging gameplay loops as the game progressed left the experience feeling a bit hollow. Developer VM Games seems to be making regular progress on additional content and bug fixing, so this may change as the game goes through the Early Access stage.
As a casual crafting game this may entertain for a few hours in its current state, but we will have to wait and see if it can provide a more engaging mid-to-late-game experience as it makes its way towards full release. For those looking at its current $17.99 price tag, the choice right now is not whether you are buying a game that is currently worth that price, but whether or not you are willing to invest in the idea of a game that might be worth that price in the future.Score: N/A