Lowlander II: Lowerlander is a retro RPG you can play with one hand while your tongue is very firmly in your cheek. That means it’s a little unforgiving at times in terms of difficulty, but old school fans are going to appreciate it all the more.
Styled after the early Ultima games, Lowlander II: Lowerlander likes to make you think you’re back in the 1980s. Its graphics won’t be winning any prizes but that’s all part of the charm. The top half of the screen is devoted to your map, allowing you to roam the heavily pixelated world. The bottom half has you picking a direction to move in or opting to hit the fight button. Your mission? To explore, explore, explore!
Oftentimes, you’ll be tasked with a quest or two by talking to people you come across. It’s simple and straight forward stuff, giving you a little insight into what’s going on. A series of signs frequently guide you around so you know where to go. Mostly though, Lowlander II: Lowerlander leaves you to your own devices in a way, much like games of old.
Enemies are on screen so you’ll know when you’re about to encounter one. You can cast some spells to cause damage, as well as fight with a weapon or two. Fighting is a little awkwardly old school in that you have to remember to actually choose a direction in which to fight in. Early on, you’d be forgiven for forgetting to do this and wondering why you’re simply getting battered in a one way fight. It’s an old fashioned way of doing things and perfectly encapsulates what you should expect of Lowlander II: Lowerlander.
This isn’t a game just about fighting though. There’s also some rather delightful dialogue thrown in. It’s distinctly cheeky at times, appreciating that this is a retro curiosity, and embracing that with a hefty dose of pop culture references to bring it up to speed. That’s reflected in the name really. I’m assuming a third game would be called Lowlander III: Get Low or Die Trying.
You can work on your inventory too, picking up bits and pieces, buying weaponry from shops and so forth. It’s rudimentary stuff compared to what we’re used to from so many rogue likes, but there’s a rustic charm here. Think of it as like a game you grew up playing and you’re not far wrong. While I didn’t play many Ultima games, Lowlander II: Lowerlander still reminded me of fond times playing Castle of the Winds – a similar kind of concept.
To an extent, your history in games playing is what’s going to dictate how much you enjoy Lowlander II: Lowerlander. Those of us who played games in the 1980s and early 1990s will appreciate what’s available here, but I can see younger games being baffled by the difficulty curve. Lowlander II: Lowerlander has smoothed things out since its predecessor by making food less essential but this is still a fairly unforgiving game. Even the lowliest of rats can take you out if you don’t plan ahead, and such difficulty is going to put some folks off.
Those looking for a walk down memory lane, however, will love what’s on offer here. It’s a simple game in the purest sense, easily allowing you to dip in or out, and even juggle a sandwich alongside it thanks to its well designed one handed controls.