Destructible environments have always been a fun feature in video games. They’re often not the main attraction, though games like Crackdown tend to harp on them, but they add a lot to games. I still remember playing Mercenaries for the first time and watching a building I set C4 on come crumbling down, or taking my sledgehammer to an enemy base in Red Faction: Guerilla and picking it apart piece by piece. Fictorum aims to take that same kind of destruction with the added benefit of being a mage, using your ridiculous spells to cause untold mayhem. The idea of that is undoubtedly fun, but whether that idea works in game or not is another question entirely.
After your order of wizards is brought to near extinction by the evil Inquisition, you set out to find the Grand Inquisitor and, well, murder him. It’s a basic premise that skips past the pretense, world building, and tutorials you might find in other fantasy games. The story and overarching progression mechanic are simple. You go from level to level, either helping citizens or deciding not to waste your time. Help out these citizens and you may get resources or loot, blow them off and the endgame will be a bit easier. You see, by stopping to help these poor people you are letting the Inquisition get closer, and once they inhabit a level, things get a tad more difficult.
But difficult is okay, you’re a powerful mage after all. You have various spells at your dispense including a lightning bolt that acts as a sniper rifle, a fireball that works like a mortar, and so on. Deciding on your runes and casting spells drain your mana, obviously. What’s different than most games is that when you run low on mana you don’t just say “I can’t cast that yet”. Instead, you begin to drain your life force to cast spells. So while complicated, powerful spells are useful, I found myself utilizing the easier spells more often for sheer survivability. And besides, this isn’t a game where you start as an apprentice and work your way up to Grand Wizard. At the start of the game, your powers are strong enough to destroy entire buildings from the get-go. It’s pretty intense if a bit ridiculous.
Fictorum plays like you’re the wise old mage in every movie, but this time you’ve decided enough with training a young knight, I’ll just do it myself. You destroy castles with ease, break apart walls without even worrying about it, and wipe out armies in a blink of an eye. It all feels fun but the game around that combat and destruction engine is thin.
Sure, you can augment spells with runes that make spells behave differently, but it’s not that big of a customization mechanic when all is said and done. I found myself using the same spells and augments despite getting loot here and there. I also wished I could get better armor or more HP at some point. It’s relatively easy to die in Fictorum and not always from the inquisitors on your tail.
Debris in Fictorum is a huge problem, almost game-breakingly so. Debris hurts your mage no matter where it is. If it falls on top of you from a broken building, you lose health. If you walk into a piece of debris that shifts under your weight, you lose health. I basically learned to stay away from any and all broken buildings because I was more than likely going to die if I didn’t. This kind of silly mechanic, along with the fact that killing villagers is not a problem at all despite you trying to save them, make the game feel unfinished and half-baked. While the combat and act of casting spells feels good, the rest of the game feels hastily designed around that core mechanic.
Fictorum, to me, feels like a game that has a single focus, its destruction mechanic, and everything else was slapped on after that was nailed down. It feels like the kind of game that is acting more as a business pitch to bigger companies, a way for the developers to say “look at this cool thing we did” instead of “hey gamers, check out our awesome game”. There is a great mechanic here that is fun to play with, but Fictorum lacks any kind of soul beyond that. It’s worth checking out for a weekend or two, but I can’t recommend much more than that.