Is The Hand of Merlin, Worth Playing?
Honest Video Game Reviews received a free copy of this title for review purposes, however our opinions are our own.
The Hand of Merlin is a decent game held back by its many performance issues and a startling lack of diversity. 

Points of Interest.

the Lowdown
Genre: Strategy
Developer: Room C Games
Publisher: Versus Evil
Price: $24.99+
Release Date: 11 May 2021
Supported Modes:

Non-Consistent Visuals:

The Hand of Merlin overall has good graphics, with some elements being better or worse than others.

  • Artwork: I am a huge fan of the charcoal on parchment style drawings used to progress the narrative and introduce us to the many worlds of The Hand of Merlin; I wish more developers opted for slide show style introductions when the art is well done, its a very good medium for telling a story and allows small developer teams to punch above their weight and offer an immersive introduction to the narrative, far better than a poorly rendered in-game cutscene or low-quality CGI could accomplish.
  • Sprites: Character models look good for an indie title, with each class and hero being distinguishable from one other; I am particularly fond of the armoured character models, which look fantastic and would not look out of place in a big-budget title such as Larians Baulders Gate 3.
  • Map Design: The map designs are fine for an indie title but struggle to be immersive; each level feels inorganic and constructed to fit the encounter rather than the encounter being moulded around the location.
  • Character Portraits: This is the only area where I feel The Hand of Merlin is subpar visually; the portraits for our main heroes look out of place with the rest of the game, and I would honestly prefer either stock photos of a generic knight, archer, wizard etc. or the fantastic charcoal on parchment art style used at every encounter.

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Image credit The Hand of Merlin - Published by Versus Evil and developed by Room C Games.

A Startling Lack Of Diversity:

When a far-right supporter posted on the Steam forums asking about the presence of non-white playable characters and social issues, the developer responded by saying,

There’s no such thing in this game. The world is very gray in terms of good and evil, and even the guys you play with are complex characters that did bad things, but are trying to now do good (including Merlin himself!). There’s no political crap here, just trying to get people to do good things after their questionable past and in the face of a common enemy. - MarkoP - Developer

While not all playable and NPC characters are lily-white, The Hand of Merlin is not a very diverse game, and the vast majority of characters are white/European, which is to be expected given the setting; however, we are talking about a game with immortal wizards here, and there is no reason why a few more diverse characters could not have been included in the narrative.

Room for Improvement:

The Hand of Merlin is a rogue-lite game, and for fans of rogue-lite games, it will be a lot of fun; however, the genre is known to be very frustrating; losing your progress over and over again for some (myself included) is all part of the challenge and charm of the genre.

For others who may not be familiar with the rogue-lite genre, it’s “bad game design”.

There are areas where The Hand of Merlin could improve, however:

  • Incremental Progression: For many new players, they will likely need to restart several times before unlocking even a single additional Merlin ability or hero, and this can be frustrating; I would love the ability to use XP or gold to unlock a single relic or passive upgrade after each run, in a similar manner to Banners of Ruin which allows players to retain part of the progress made from each qualifying run and then use that currency to unlock perks and passive abilities.
  • Positional Combat: While the combat system in The Hand of Merlin is good as is, it could be made even better by including positional combat, with characters who are flanked receiving extra damage or suffering from weakened mitigations and defences.

review-is-the-hand-of-merlin-worth-playing-in-2022
Image credit The Hand of Merlin - Published by Versus Evil and developed by Room C Games.

Repetitive Narrative:

In much the same way Housemarques’ Returnal has incorporated rogue-like mechanics into the narrative, The Hand of Merlin offers players an in-lore explanation for why they are required to repeat the same levels repeatedly in search of new heroes and abilities to add to their roster permanently.

review-is-the-hand-of-merlin-worth-playing-in-2022

Replayability:

The Hand of Merlin offers near-infinite replayability due to its rogue-lite origins; each world (run) is slightly different, with narratives, events and characters moulded by who is on the throne, from evil tyrants to frivolous court jesters.

With the exclusion of story-critical nodes, players can explore the map at their own pace, with no two games offering the same series of events and encounters.

The Hand of Merlin FAQ

The Hand of Merlin is a strategy video game developed by Room C Games and published by Versus Evil, it was released on 11 May 2021 and retails for $24.99+.

Platform Availability.

The Hand of Merlin is available on the following platforms: Nintendo Switch, PC, Playstation 4, Playstation 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S.

How Long Does The Hand of Merlin Take to Complete?

On average The Hand of Merlin takes between 5 and 10 hours to complete.

  • Main Story: 5 Hours.
  • Main + Side Quests: 8 Hours.
  • Completionist: 10 Hours.

Estimated completion times are derived from various sources and may vary based on the skill level of each player.

What Peripherals Are Supported?

The following peripherals are officially supported:

  • Console - Controller.
  • Console - Mouse and Keyboard.
  • PC - Controller.
  • PC - Mouse and Keyboard.

Is There Any Mature Content?

The Hand of Merlin is rated PEGI 16+ and contains the following:

  • Bad Language
  • Gore
  • Mature Themes
  • Violence

Final Verdict.

The Hand of Merlin is a decent rogue-like game with stunning artwork and functional gameplay; however, performance issues and the developer’s stance on diversity and social issues make it impossible for me to recommend it at this time.

Is The Hand of Merlin Worth Playing In 2024?

6
Honest Video Game Reviews has given "The Hand of Merlin" a rating of 6/10, which means, while it is mediocre/average, and has its fair share of issues, the average gamer would not regret playing it.

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