A Demon Lord so powerful and dangerous that Gods and Demons put aside their differences (and endless warring) to stop the threat gets sealed away, only to wake up a few years later to a world that’s… changed. Gods and Demons don’t exist anymore, magic is scarce, and humans live a life of peace and tranquility. The Demon Lord who so threatened the world is now an endangered species, under the “protection” of this new world’s administrative body and roped into monster hunting duties to help protect the populace.
In other words, Maglam Lord isn’t a game that takes itself even slightly seriously, drawing from the same well of self-aware demonic humour that you find in the likes of Disgaea. From unlikely alliances with heroes and killer robots, to the fact that the Demon Lord is named “Killizerk”, of all things, to a significant dose of romantic comedy on the side—guided by by none other than a muscular “Love Guru” wearing a gold necklace that says “MARRIAGE❤”—Maglam Lord is willing to dial up the silliness for the sake of a laugh. It gets them, too, with sharp writing that constantly walks the razor’s edge of turning goofy eccentricity into something groan-inducing without ever slipping off.
With that playful, energetic tone behind it, the story constantly finds ways to up the ante and find new ways of creating joke-worthy situations. You can probably already guess that there’s more to the Administration and its seemingly noble goals of ensuring peace than first meets the eye, and the crew that the Demon Lord amasses around them is an increasingly eclectic bunch.
For all its punchline-chasing, though, Maglam Lord does manage to squeeze in some more heartfelt and dramatic moments. Quirks aside, each character has their own burdens to carry, and the unlikely companionships that form between them are, genuinely, rather touching. This is especially true of Killizerk, who turns out to be far warmer and layered than you might expect from a Demon Lord anti-hero in a comedy fantasy game, and the way they manage to bring this bunch of misfits together is surprisingly sweet. Outcasts finding a sense of found family in their shared circumstances isn’t exactly what I’d have expected, given the premise, but it’s a nice touch that brings some humanity and soul into the mix.
Maglam Lord backs up its engrossing narrative with an action RPG framework that’s fun, if a little unwieldy. Simple dungeon exploration serves as a backdrop to the combat that is the game’s focus: 2D battle scenes that call early Tales to mind, but with a single character at a time and a focus on chaining together weapon combos over skill usage. A couple of different weapon types, each with very different attack patterns, and the ability to switch between them on the fly (to target enemy weaknesses, usually) adds an extra layer to the mix, and while MP costs prevent them from being used excessively, every character has a handful of special abilities that can be useful in a pinch. And when Killizerk is sufficiently powered up—they spend most each expedition possessing weapons wielded by others, rather than fighting directly—you can summon them for a few moments of being an absolute powerhouse.
It’s not especially deep or tactical, but battles can be a lot of fun, especially when you get into the right rhythm and start racking up the really juicy combo counts (and the EXP rewards that come with them). That said, a lack of precision holds it back from its potential, and can be a source of frustration, with sluggish character movement and hitboxes that are bigger than they look. The slightest touch from an enemy attack will stop you in your tracks, but they can attack uninterrupted unless you manage to stagger or launch them into the air, which can take a few clean hits on similar-level foes. The result is a game that, despite clearly being intended for more fast-paced, chaotic combat, encourages a more conservative style of play, at least until you’re sufficiently overleveled that a single strike is enough to stagger.
The RPG systems fare better, with a handful of different ways to strengthen your party and customise each character’s stats. Weapon crafting plays a big role, with a near-constant string of ever-stronger swords, axes, and spears to craft and a wide variety of stickers, phone charms, and other accessories you can add to give them special effects. An assortment of unlockable titles bestow different stat boosts, and each character also gets various bonuses as your relationship with them deepens.
Which brings us to the dating sim elements. Maglam Lord doesn’t really do anything unusual, mechanically: different dialogue choices and time spent teaming up with a character gradually increase your relationship value, which unlocks special date scenes (and stat bonuses) at set levels. What sets it apart is the framing: a great Demon Lord who once threatened the world, choosing to bond with heroes, idols, killer robots, and evil mages by… going bowling, or catching a movie, or spending some time at the beach. Like everything else in Maglam Lord’s approach to narrative, the dating system really plays up the absurdity of its whole concept, to hilarious ends. It adds a welcome extra little something to a game that could otherwise get a little repetitive.
It’s those little humorous little touches that help make keep Maglam Lord going, even if it’s not especially ambitious or finely tuned in its basic action RPG setup. The story of a Demon Lord turned endangered species playfully riffs off JRPG tropes, finding plenty of laughs in the silliness of its own concept. Sharp writing makes sure every joke hits home, even when they seem on paper like they should fall flat, and there’s an unexpectedly earnest heart beating underneath it all. The game itself may not be anything memorable, but the journey that Maglam Lord takes you on makes it all worthwhile.
Genre: JRPG, visual novel, dating sim
Platforms: Nintendo Switch
Release date: 4 February 2022
A review copy was provided to Shindig by the publisher.