Monday, May 14

Review: Wizard of Legend [Nintendo Switch eShop]

There’s no doubt that roguelikes are one of the indie genres that help make the Switch’s world go round. Their pick up and play style and typically retro pixel graphics are an absolute match for handheld mode but their sustained difficulty and challenge work very well staying docked for a few hours as well. Wizard of Legend is now entering the fray with its own take on roguelike twin-stick shooting , but changing out the use of guns with an absolute avalanche of magic spells, creating a very different experience in the process.

At the start of every new run your first priority will be to review your current skill loadout as without trying and failing with a certain configuration it is very hard to tell what’s effective. To start with you’ll always have a Basic attack, which is usually your very close-range and sometimes roughly a melee attack, and usually has no cooldown. Your Dash will minimally give you a quick burst you can use to go over pits and will sometimes have an added elemental effect. Your Standard and Signature attacks are then typically a more powerful spells with a cooldown, the difference between them being your Signature attack can get more juiced up when you get your gauge high enough… making for a minor but sometimes vital distinction. Last, you can choose an initial relic you’ll use, these give you a base passive benefit and can vary wildly.

Once you get down to actually hitting the dungeons, whether alone or with a friend, there’s a familiar roguelike set of mechanics at play. There are 3 groups of 3 levels a piece. Each level has its own miniboss after a procedurally-generated dungeon. Each level will also have 3 different merchants of sorts that will offer you a variety of options that can help or even hurt (this is a roguelike, after all) your chances of success. These range from straight-up vendors that will give you new runes or attacks for a set fee of gold to more gambling-oriented characters that will do things like give you a random rune in exchange for one you already have or give you a rune that carries a curse of some kind. At the end of every 3 levels you’ll then face an elemental boss and these battles can be challenging, especially if you’re hoping to put together a run where you can get through all 3 to move on to the final challenge. What works well against the mobs isn’t necessarily what will work against any particular boss and vice versa so you’ll find that a balance of skills that help you address all of the above well will be vital to success.

What greatly complicates this effort to come up with effective sets of skills is that you start with very few and will have to purchase the rest. Problem being that until you’ve bought them and tried them out it is very hard to understand what they do and how they work, let alone how they’ll pair with your other abilities. Some abilities stun, some are effective for AOE, some enhance your base attacks, some have knockback properties… the variety is both incredibly cool and simultaneously aggravating as you try to figure out what to buy. Even once you’ve bought the new skills you’ll need to leave town in order to change out your skills to try things. A quick attack back at your place will give you an idea, visually, of what the skill looks like in use but until you’re using it in the wild there’s simply not a great way to tell how effective it is or what it does in practice. When you combine this aspect with the fact that healing over the course of a run tends to be scarce makes it pretty challenging, sometimes frustratingly so since there’s so much trial and error tied to understanding the massive number of spells in the game, let alone their potential synergies.

Even with as many roguelikes as I’ve played Wizard of Legend is a bit of a surprise, but that cuts both ways. On the one hand, if you take the time to collect a sizable number of spells the sheer variety of what’s in the game guarantees that at some point you’ll likely find a combination that suits your style and even personal sense of flair. One the other, given the random nature of what you’re offered, with bad luck it could take quite a while until you find that mix and you’ll be feeling like you’re never quite clicking while in combat. It’s interesting because while mid-run you’ll sometimes have an opportunity to change out or add to your spells, unlike most roguelikes you can really play with your base configuration to try to suit it to your style of play. If you’re up for a pretty substantial challenge, Wizard of Legend provides that in spades and given that its feel is absolutely unique that helps to blunt the fact that it can also be frustrating as you try to put together your ideal build.

Score: 8

  • Over 100 spells make for a very wide variety of potential builds, practically guaranteeing that you can create one that suits your style
  • Plenty of risk/reward opportunities to tempt and frustrate you
  • Co-op play allows a provision for reviving each other, making it very worthwhile to try out

  • Working through disappointing spells that you can’t fully understand until you’ve bought them can be aggravating
  • Hammering out a combination of spells that you find success against the typical monsters and each of the bosses can be very tricky
  • In general, regaining health in the dungeons is difficult, so expect to do a lot of dying until you can find runes that will help with that