(Review) Mages of Mystralia

There are few games out there now that let you craft your own spells and do it well. Also, there are even fewer games that go for the good old fashion Action/Adventure genre and pull it off to my satisfaction. In that specific department it’s a mix of aesthetics and gameplay smoothness that work together properly. Mages of Mystralia pulls off both well. To top it all off, the story is engaging as well. How and why you may ask? Well, let me break it down for you.

In Mages of Mystralia you play as Zia. She’s just your normal girl until one day she gains magical powers and burns her house down and gets booted from her village because magic users are shunned. I’m going to mildly back-step a previous comment about the village not caring about arson when confronted with magic, but possibly they felt that expulsion/exile was a good punishment for both. Either way, you’re on your own, but that lasts for about as long as it takes you to leave your village and meet up with another mage who takes you under his wing and *Poof!* you’re off on a grand adventure as a mage! From there you head off to learn spells and save the world. It is currently under threat from someone holding an eclipse in place. Anyone familiar with working retail on a full moon can draw a parallel to what the eclipse does in Mages of Mystralia. Apparently magic is a little crazier at this point and there’s a bad guy out there that wants to exploit that.

There are only two difficulty settings in Mages of Mystralia: “Story Focused” and “Ball Punching”. I had to leave the “Archmage Mode” and start over with just regular “Mage Mode” because I wanted to beat the game within the month (or this year).

In your travels there are a few things you’ll be collecting: Purple Soulbeads and spell modifiers or Runes. Purple Soulbeads are traded for permanent increases to your health and mana and that’s a good thing. That is especially true if you’re like me and want to create spells that, when exploded, explode into other things that also shoot more fire balls! It just costs a lot of mana. The Runes are fun things like having your spells rain down on things, bounce off of walls, trigger other spells after they hit something or someone and the ability to seek enemies. There’s a ton more, but I’m not going to list them for you. I’m not a wiki. While the Runes were usually rewards for some task complete, the Soulbeads are given as prizes for solving some ornate puzzle.

This is where the first issue I had with the game will come in. It’s not the first I encountered, but it’s the one that I dealt with the whole game. The movements are locked to the grid patterns when solving puzzles and crafting spells and the cursor didn’t always go where I wanted it to or expected it too. It was only timed in one part of the game, but I would have preferred a more free-flowing model.

What really drew me into Mages of Mystralia was the world. It looks great and gives me the feeling of a classic 3D adventure game or like a Nintendo adventure game. There are hidden things all over the place. There are places to come back to later when you’ve got certain Runes that will either blow something up or let you work a contraption correctly so you can solve a puzzle and drop a bridge. What brings down the enjoyment is a three-fold issue. The first is that there are places where I would get stuck on nothing. I would have to move my character away from a ledge or bridge and then walk back to the same spot to progress. It happened in a few places and was annoying. The second major annoyance was the map and my sense of direction. The map didn’t feel like a 1:1 ratio of the direction I was going. I could look at the map and see that I would need to go left and I wouldn’t always end up going where I wanted. I’m not sure if that was me or if the map really was off, but that morphs into the last issue I had: the loading. I’m not sure if it was the same on the PC, but the PS4 load times (I don’t have a Pro) were long. They weren’t so long you could go to the bathroom, but with as many times as I took a wrong turn or I got a spell and needed to go back it got pretty bothersome. What you need to do is unlock the warp platforms because, while they cost money, halfway through the game, money wasn’t an issue and you’ll be able to get to the area you want with less loading screens.

While the story was enjoyable, there was just a lot in this game that made me smile. Spoiler alert: this one’s a TRAP!

The last thing I would like to hit on a little more is the spell crafting. You have four main spell elements to work with: Immedi (zapping and blowing things up), Actus (burning things), Creo (creating platforms) and Ego (shield/defense). You can manipulate your spells to go forward, spawn more fireballs, curve left or right, be enemy-seeking, chain damage and/or spawn different elemental spells. The more you add to your spells, the more mana it costs so be careful. If that wasn’t enough, the further you progress you gain even more options to mess around with. You can modify the base type of magic to either earth, ice, fire or wind (no heart though). With a little fidgeting you’re not casting fire balls, you casting ice balls or instead of ice platforms it will be rock platforms so they can survive on ice. There are a ton of possibilities here, but I’m a simple man with simple pleasures… fire.

Apparently some enemies are weaker against certain elements, but let’s be honest here. A crap-ton of fireballs kills everything.
With a mix of a good, driving plot, interesting characters, a beautiful landscape with a good amount of hidden goodies, good music and fun spell crafting, Mages of Mystralia is one of the best games I’ve played this year. To reiterate, I started on Archmage Mode (67% of the way through until I gave in) because I beat a demo at PAX soundly. If you are not up for fighting for almost every inch of ground, stay in Mage Mode to enjoy the game and story for all its worth! If you like adventure games with magic, I don’t feel you can go wrong with Mages of Mystralia. Minor annoyances aside, I am grateful to every game that helps me to remember back to my youth when gaming was all about fun, immersive escapism.

Further Reading on Mages of Mystralia: Facebook / Official Page / Steam / Dev Twitter / Twitter

No. Thank you for making it!

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