Baladins Mouliac
Screenshot by Siliconera

Review: Baladins Runs Itself in Circles

Baladins is a game I really wanted to love. It has a lot going for it: an adorable aesthetic and fun music, co-op multiplayer, and rogue-lite replayability. Despite being quite light, the story is decently fun, given the whole time loop mechanic. But it’s let down by the way some of the actual gameplay mechanics just… fail to come together to form a compelling loop. And that’s a real shame, because otherwise Baladins is a real charmer.

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You play as a one of a group of travelling bards and general do-gooders: the titular Baladins. A time-eating dragon has emerged and you have several weeks (or turns) to gather items of value to feed to it, the more meaningful the better. Fail to satiate it and the dragon will devour time itself, but only up to a few weeks. Essentially trapped in a time loop, your only hope to escape is to travel the land doing odd jobs and searching for trinkets, bringing people together as you do so.

Screenshot by Siliconera

The game itself plays similar to The Yawhg or the Monster Prom series, but with less options to mess with your friends, as this is a more co-op focused game. You have a set of characters with different stat allocations, movement, and action points that you can use each turn to explore the world and perform tasks. Most locations have several activities, from talking to the inhabitants to training skills, or taking on stat and diceroll-based challenges. The solutions to the various quests can be as simple as talking to someone, or they can require gathering several items from vastly different areas within the same 6 week loop, with most quests having different “good” or “bad” endings. At the end of the loop you are summoned back to the dragon, who may grant some little hints or lore tidbits as it devours your array of treasures. Helpfully, each player can keep one item to bring into another run in case you didn’t quite finish a quest or just want the stat boost for next time.

It’s a fun set up with a lot of room to play within, but I found the structure ended up working against the party-game style it seemed to be going for. Returning to the previous comparison, inMonster Prom orThe Yawhg you are similarly trying to muddle through a short series of rounds, but it’s wrapped in this little narrative based on how well you do. Does your character succeed? Survive the storm? Get the girl/boy/sentient calculator? In Baladins, even if you complete whatever quest you set out to finish, the results all go into a pot with the rest and there’s not that kind of concrete payoff at the end. This goes for some quests too, as I once spent a good hour or so trying to gather several ingredients within the limit to craft a dragon-slaying crossbow, only for the dragon to deflect it instantly. It didn’t even add much to the hunger meter when the beast ate it.

Screenshot by Siliconera

And that’s compounded by the moment-to-moment play, as the open-ended nature of both the set-up and quests themselves means you’ll often just be wandering around exploring rather than making concrete progress. It’s only after you’ve got a good sense of what items you can get and from where that you can start really looking to complete quests, which will take a good number of runs (and likely a notepad to jot down information). It makes the game almost feel like a point and click adventure where the real treasure is the information you learn each run. It’s an interesting idea in concept! But it just doesn’t really gel with the boardgame style setup and limited turns. While you can take as many loops as you want you still have to complete quests within that same loop. Imagine trying to complete Monkey Island but you only get so many actions before having to start from the beginning.

On top of that, the multiplayer features just aren’t that interesting. An ally in the same location as you will provide a bonus to rolls, and you can share items or pull friends to you for a single action point (or jump to their spot for a movement point). Now, these are great quality of life features but they don’t necessarily lead to many interesting questions or strategies, just ways to make things a bit easier. Even when the game does directly ask for players to vote on the outcome of a quest, the result is rarely more impactful than locking off a certain area, which will only be reset in the next loop anyway.

Screenshot by Siliconera

I usually far prefer co-operative games and I don’t mean to suggest Baladins ought to have been more competitive, but the element of risk does a lot to add an engaging element to other games that I just feel this one lacks. I actually think Baladins would benefit from letting a single player control multiple characters, perhaps in a hotseat mode that would also enable couch co-op. While you can have multiple local players, each of them needed their own controller to join rather than being able to just swap a single one around, which can be limiting even if you have enough players.

If all this sounds very negative, let me re-clarify that I actually really like the game. Again, the paper cut-out art style is adorable and the way the dragon and its effects use a completely different style works excellently. The world of Gatherac is full of funny little guys and, despite the child-friendly nature of the game, it also contains little comments on things like labor, misinformation, and even market regulation. I can even see what I think the developers were going for with the way you explore the world with friends, doing quests and helping each other out, but it all just doesn’t come together at the end.

Baladins is available now on PC via Steam.


Embark on a whimsical journey and bring joy to a bright fantasy world in this roleplaying adventure for 1-4 players. Craft your own story and solve quests how you like, but beware, for every time you fail the Dragon will send you back in time! PC version reviewed. Review copy provided by company for testing purposes.

Baladins is creative, charming, and sweet, but the gameplay structure just fails to be compelling.

  • Definitely keep a notebook handy while playing. I constantly forgot where I found certain items I later needed.
  • I like that this even appears to have happened before, and there's even protocol for verifying time-travellers.
  • My favorite little guy has to be Petreize, the barrel-dwelling goblin fella.

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Elliot Gostick
Elliot is a staff writer from the mist-shrouded isle of Albion, and has been covering gaming news and reviews for about a year. When not playing RPGs and Strategy games, she is often found trying (and failing) to resist the urge to buy more little plastic spacemen.