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Codex Review RPG Codex Review: Islands of the Caliph

Infinitron

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Tags: Islands of the Caliph; Schmidt Workshops

Originally revealed in 2022, the Arabian Nights-themed single character dungeon crawler Islands of the Caliph was abruptly released last month in time for the annual Realms Deep event. In a year insanely packed with RPG releases, the game might have quickly been forgotten if it hadn't caught the attention of a certain Darth Roxor, who has an interest in such things. Although its core gameplay mechanics appear to be rudimentary at best, Roxor is a fan of the game thanks to its murderhobo-friendly exploration, ambitious choice and consequence, and unique implementation of the Islamic faith. Here's an excerpt from his review:

Another important part of the simulation experience is the game’s elaborate religion system. You could say that one of the main quests is to become a good Muslim and perform the pilgrimage to the Kaaba (aka the Hajj) – but before that you have to discover the remaining pillars of Islam, which include the creed, prayer, almsgiving and fast. And the fantastic thing is that all of these, except the first one which is just learnt once, have a direct representation in gameplay. IotC uses the full Muslim calendar, with Arabic names of days and months, and even gives some significance to the phases of the moon, which change daily. Every day is divided into prayer times, and keeping up with your prayers gives you a steady flow of XP – this even has a dedicated tool in the form of a prayer rug that you can carry around everywhere to perform your emergency prayer. Then there’s also the annual almsgiving, which entails giving away a percentage of your money, and fasting during Ramadan, which gives you XP boosts for each day of completed fast.

There are several factors that I really like and appreciate about the inclusion of religious practices in this game. For starters, they’re very respectful to both the subject matter and the player, in that they are authentic and woven well into the gameplay without feeling preachy or intrusive. In fact, I would hazard guessing that one of the major motivations behind the development of this game was to present Islam in a good light as opposed to the dumb ways it’s usually depicted in media – and the remarkable thing is that the goal was achieved successfully without having everything else suffer for it, as is often the case with works of media that are focused on religion. If anything, perhaps there was even a little too much restraint applied here, given that these practices are largely optional, and in the one situation where they truly matter, you can somewhat hand-wave them away by visiting your local mosque and getting all the “faith bonuses” without effort.

Nevertheless, the religion mechanics also have some nice conveniences to them. For instance, when you rest, you will always wake up in time for prayer, so there’s no need to keep very close tabs on that, the prayer rug makes sure you don’t have to haul ass back to town every three hours to pray, while the details on Ramadan and alms are clearly listed in your journal.

Mentioning the journal brings me to the final point I’d like to discuss in this chapter, and which also left me positively surprised. The quest design.

For the major part, the quests are very simple and basic. Usually they entail fetching something from a dungeon or delivering a message from one island to another. Nothing really ground-breaking, to be sure, but some of them, particularly the main quests, can form very long chains that can be a headache to finish. That is because they can be very expansive and involve the entire world map, but also thanks to how the game rewards paying attention to things and keeping notes – and it doesn’t hold your hand at any step of the way.

In fact, you aren’t even expected to take and finish every single quest. Some of them have borderline glowing neon signs that tell you “this is a bad idea, turn back now,” and if you do go through with them and bring a calamity upon the world with your actions, then you have only your dumb ass to blame.

Because the consequences for some of these “bad quests” can be truly catastrophic, and I have to say that you’d be hard-pressed to find a game that makes gameplay repercussions for bad choices severe enough to actually make you feel like you truly screwed up. We’re talking entire cities getting wiped, half of them being blocked, and numerous quests being temporarily inaccessible. It takes massive balls to go through with such design, and I have nothing but respect for this, especially since it’s also tremendously fun to try to fix the mess you’ve caused.

The only major point of criticism I have on this front is related to what I mentioned at the beginning of the previous chapter – there is simply no introduction or context or mention of what you’re trying to do in this world, and why you’re embarking on this whole adventure. It would have been perfectly enough to say that you’re a foreign traveller who came to the archipelago to learn about Islam. There, this is your motivation for going forward. But as it is, there’s simply no main objective to be had in this game until you progress very far into it.​

Read the full article: RPG Codex Review: Islands of the Caliph
 

Lady Error

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Strap Yourselves In
Since this is the Codex, let me be the first to shit on it provide criticism:

- 14 hours is way too short by any measure
- Real time combat
- One person, no party

The graphics are pretty good though (better than Legends of Amberland) and this setting has never been used for a blobber. Deep C&C is a bit of a surprise as well. It is good for what it is, I guess.

halal.jpg
 

Grauken

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Did he manage to update the config options so that you can change the resolution in discrete steps like normal games instead of increasing it pixel by pixel
 

agris

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14 hours is way too short by any measure
Keep in mind the game is just 10 Ameribucks.

Personally, as I get older, I appreciate a tighter (shorter) experience that doesn’t pad or overstay it’s welcome.

edit: also, I think it’s going to be 20ish hrs for me but I play slow
 

CryptRat

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When a designer feels confident in providing a keyboard controlled game then I prefer if the game is confined to that instead of making compromises which can quickly get out of control. One old example of a game whose control sucks because of introducing mouse control is Secret of the Silver Blades (they fixed it in Pools of Darkness).
 

felipepepe

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When a designer feels confident in providing a keyboard controlled game then I prefer if the game is confined to that instead of making compromises which can quickly get out of control. One old example of a game whose control sucks because of introducing mouse control is Secret of the Silver Blades (they fixed it in Pools of Darkness).
Yup, good keyboard optimization can feel very satisfying and snappy. Wizardry: The Five Ordeals is much faster and easier to control on keyboard than the modern Wizardry 1 remake's controller bindings.
 

Cyberarmy

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I played games on my first PC only with keyboard for 3-4 years, so no problems for me <3. Playing Dune 2 was the only problematic one as far as i remember.
 

Gandalf

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Projects like Island of the Caliph put a smile on my face. It may not be a title that will impress you with its complexity, but it is still a great achievement and a lot of fun. It's nice that not all games are produced according to the same pattern. It may not be the purest RPG of my dreams, but it is a good addition to the game menu. Especially if you like similar productions from years ago. Nice work. Can be recommended.
 

Alex

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It isn't a blobber, though. It's a single character game.

I would argue that exploration style and combat type matter more to whether the game is a "blobber" than whether you actually have multiple characters.

Edit: just like "jrpg" is usually used to distinguish a certain kind of gameplay rather than being about where the game was made.
 

Darth Roxor

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It isn't a blobber, though. It's a single character game.

I would argue that exploration style and combat type matter more to whether the game is a "blobber" than whether you actually have multiple characters.
Is Ultima Underworld a blobber? Is Daggerfall?

The defining characteristic of a blobber is that you have multiple characters fused into a blob that moves together. Nothing else applies here, and if you would argue otherwise, then you'd be wrong.
 

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