I streamed this game for this review. The link to the VOD will be below.
Overall, I actually had a pretty good time with this game. It seems very well designed from a gameplay perspective, but it's not without some jank.
The Islands of the Caliph is designed to be an old school, grid-based, first person RPG. As far as the aesthetic goes, it nails this! The game dumps you with little idea what you should do or where you should go, but it's clear by the man standing in front of you where you should begin. Trapped on a small island, the player is left to their own devices to figure out the steps to progress.
This is one of the things The Islands of the Caliph excels at. It seems very well designed at not giving too much information to the player to make things completely brainless, but at the same time it gives enough information or limits your options just enough that it's never cryptic. It's a rare balance that is struck in games, but here it was achieved with grace.
That said, It also nails all the baggage that comes with emulating games of old. I think this is one of the things that holds the game back the most.
Controls are clunky, gentle slopes impede progress, finding things like specific shops or items is often a lengthy chore, and traveling to and from your destination is always a lengthy process.
Sometimes these old fashioned design decisions are appreciated, sometimes they just lead to unnecessary friction in the game play.
But, I actually really enjoyed my time with this game. Once I got used to the clunk controls it started to become quite enjoyable. The question is whether I feel motivated to buy the full version and continue my experience or not, and that is tough to decide. So many other games exist that I don't need to wrestle with the controls to enjoy.
If you'd like to watch my experience with the game, I've linked the archive below. You can click the timestamps to jump to when I start playing.