Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: a magician is sent on a quest--oh, you’ve heard it before? Well, okay then.
To be clear, there is more to Mages of Mystralia than a wizard on a quest. Unfortunately, there is a lot in the game that feels typical and tired. Mages of Mystralia focuses on its interesting spell-building system and how its protagonist uses these spells to solve puzzles, defeat enemies, and restore order to the world. While there may be some over-used bits about the game, there is a fair amount that is done well and worth seeing.
When you start Mages of Mystralia you know two things, 1) the world hates mages because one former mage-king was evil and power-hungry and 2) you are a brand new magician who found out about her powers in a not-so-great way. Your village has abandoned you, you are a hated character class in this fantasy world, and you're not really proficient with the newfound abilities. Life isn’t looking so great, or unique, but that changes when you meet the mentor. This mysterious figure teaches some basic spells before sending you off to defeat evil.
Mages of Mystralia is stylized in a way that reminded me of the bright colors of Saturday morning cartoons and the smooth character models found in PS2 platformers. There is little spoken dialogue and instead, players will do a lot of reading. I found the game’s writing to be fairly witty and enjoyable as characters quip to one another and completely ignore the main character’s wishes, asking her to go on dangerous quests simply because she’s the new mage in the group. It’s an enjoyable, albeit predictable, story with easy-to-understand characters and plot points.
Mages of Mystralia doesn’t try to sell itself on story though, it’s all about the magic system. Similar to Magicka, spells are the focus of this game. Unlike the aforementioned bork-filled magic game, Mages of Mystralia allows players to create their own spells based on an intuitive but almost limitless system. There are four main spell types mapped to face buttons that start as a spark, a flame, an ice path, and a shield respectively.
Overtime, you collect ruins that enable you to change these spells by going into a simple screen and connecting the ruins to the spells via arrows. If the arrows don’t align, the new effect won’t work. This stops later spells from turning into an insane cacophony of madness that annihilates everything on screen. It’s the kind of game that made me immediately realize the potential of this spell crafting system and then feel inadequate using it. While I completed the game and made some really interesting spells, I know the online community will come up with some insane combinations that I couldn’t even dream of and I look forward to seeing those come to fruition.
While the spell system is interesting and fun to use, it’s not particularly necessary to the game. While it would be interesting to make puzzles solvable by various spell combinations, the game’s main story and path are fairly guided and solving the necessary puzzles never felt difficult. Similarly, combat felt particularly simplistic once I found a combination of spells that inflicted a lot of damage and kept me safe. Even the game’s impressive boss battles that featured old-school pattern recognition were relegated to the too-easy bucket as giant trees and lizards were taken out with fairly simplistic spells and movements.
I wasn’t looking for a Dark Souls experience with the combat and bosses, just something that tested out all of the cool spells and combinations I was figuring out. Instead, it feels like the main game was built as a simplistic hack-and-slash RPG with magic as the main focus, and then the spell system was created separately and slapped on towards the end of development. While I did utilize some neat spells for combat and boss-fighting purposes, I never felt like I was utilizing the system’s full potential.
Mages of Mystralia is an enjoyable, if simple, experience through and through. The game is fairly straightforward and involves some particularly repetitious level design, but it’s nothing that ruined my time with the game. I found the story to be a bit dull and the ending didn’t live up to the hype of lead writer Ed Greenwood’s talents as the game’s Steam page makes a big deal about him being the man that created the Forgotten Realms game world. I found the gameplay and story to be pretty subpar as far as fantasy stories go.
While it’s obvious that the games spell-crafting system is the main focus, I felt as though it was never implemented into the game well enough to warrant great praise. I’m sure it will get a lot of coverage and be an entertaining thing to watch players utilize and break over time, but it doesn’t do much for the game aside from that. Mages of Mystralia is a good looking fantasy romp with an interesting spell system, typical fantasy setting and story, and basic combat. It’s the type of game you can finish and enjoy in a weekend and then probably forget about in a few weeks.