Tuesday, January 29

Review: Mages of Mystralia [Nintendo Switch eShop]

I’m always a bit fascinated to see how Kickstarter games, in particular, turn out and overall in the case of Mages of Mystralia I’d say it was mostly a success. That some talented people are able to put together a vision, build a community of support for getting funding, and then bring that idea to fruition is inspiring. While there seem to be an abundance cases of things not working out quite so well, titles like this do show the positive side, especially when some cool ideas come along for the ride.

In this pulled out 3D action adventure you’ll play as Zia, a young girl who finds one day that she’s a mage when she accidentally sets her house on fire. Exiled from her village (things went bad with a former ruler who commanded magic, so you can forgive them to a degree), she sets out on her own and soon meets a fellow mage who starts her on her path to realizing her power. While your initial spellbook is pretty basic, with each of your major skills introduced to you with a mini tutorial it’s once you begin to acquire new abilities that things get much more interesting and the game shines.

As you make your way through your quest you’ll begin to acquire runes that can be applied to those 4 core spells, altering their properties and making them both more versatile and powerful. Initially just with the Move rune you’ll acquire a projectile fireball, which you’ll need, but later you’ll gain further runes you can stack like a homing property, and then even a trigger that will apply an explosive attack when it makes contact with an enemy or surface. Some of these runes you’ll need to work for by finding and solving puzzles that are spread out along your journey (not all of them necessarily useful, like Random, but they can be fun) and for the most part past the initial introduction the game will leave you to experiment and discover the best combinations yourself. Given that the further in you get the more puzzles end up being built on you working with the right combination of spells to complete them, aside from the benefits in combat, and you have a lot of incentive to spend time discovering the combinations that work the best for you.

When it comes to combat unfortunately it’s a bit of a mixed bag. The game’s boss fights, in general, are pretty brilliant and engaging without usually being overly challenging. Oddly, it’s the encounters in between that can be more aggravating at times. The game has a tendency to throw the kitchen sink at you in places, having you take on a variety of both melee and ranged enemies all at once. While you can survive these encounters for the most part, shielding yourself from hits, firing your own projectiles at ranged foes, and taking out your melee enemies in between, it’s also not terribly rewarding since too often it feels repetitive and like it’s acting as filler. I suppose these encounters force you to continue to learn and refine the use of your spells and runes but the run-of-the-mill combat is probably what I enjoyed least in the game due to its frequency and tendency towards overkill, even early on.

In the case of Mages of Mystralia I’d say come for the wonderfully diverse spellbook, exploration, and puzzles, enjoy the terrific boss fights, and live with the more generic combat in between. In sections where everything was clicking, with an emphasis towards the front of the list, I absolutely had a great time with it. Some of the filler sequences in between managed to be a bit more of a chore than fun to just grind through some enemies in a repetitive manner, but thankfully those sections were more the exception than the rule. If you’ve been looking for a solid adventure with ample room for creativity as you build and refine your spellbook this is a title well worth checking out.

Score: 8

  • The rune system, which allows you to supercharge your base spells into much more powerful variants
  • Quite a lot of satisfying exploration and puzzle-solving
  • In general, the boss fights are terrific

  • With so many eventual combinations of runes I could see some people getting frustrated or overwhelmed, just wanting to play the game and not spend time experimenting
  • Filler combat as you explore, often throwing both ranged and melee enemies at you, isn’t very satisfying and feels like it’s just there to slow you down at times