Mages of Mystralia Review -- An Enchanting World of Magic, Mystery,and Mad Moose Bunnies
Containing delightful visuals and an fantastical score, Mages of Mystralia sends players to a magical land. The storybook fantasy might have players occasionally entranced, but the game leaves much to be desired.
Mages of Mystralia began as a Kickstarter campaign by Borealys Games on March 17, 2017, and reached its initial funding goal in less than 16 hours. The full game released on Steam shortly after on May 16, 2017. Between solving puzzles, combining spells, and fighting against typical magical creatures Mages of Mystralia is frequently described as a mix between The Legend of Zelda and Harry Potter. One of its biggest strengths, however, is its ability to differentiate itself through its story, gameplay, art style, and music.
An Appealing Yet Similar Story
In Mages of Mystralia, you play as Zia, a young woman who realizes she has magical powers. Because magic is banned from the kingdom, she is forced into exile and forced to learn more about her powers. In this world, heroic mages find sources of corrupted magic, like evil sentient trees or a giant frost lizard, all while keeping the world safe from wayward magic.
The game's' story is written by bestselling author Ed Greenwood, creator of the Forgotten Realms fantasy world of Dungeons and Dragons, which led to games such as Baldur’s Gate and Neverwinter Nights. The story isn’t the best, but it's still decent and compelling enough for what it is.
The Best Experience Comes With Use of a Controller
From the start, the game recommends using a controller and automatically adjusts when switching from one gameplay method to the other. Using mouse and keyboard controls isn't terrible, but playing with a controller makes fighting enemies, spell crafting, and solving puzzles much easier.
Deep and Detailed Spell Crafting
One of the most notable features in Mages of Mystralia is its detailed spell crafting system. Players use over 200 different spell combinations to defeat enemies and solve puzzles throughout the game's world. These spells are separated into 4 different specific types: Immedi, Actus, Creo, and Ergo.
Immedi is used as the basic close range attack and actions. Actus is for moving orbs through the air, which can help solve puzzles and become offensive spells over time. Creo spells are for creating objects to help the player progress through certain parts of the world, such as ice platforms used to cross a body of water. Lastly, Ego spells help protect the player from harm, like a transparent magical shield which can be used to block attacks.
Spells can be modified further by adding different runes to them. Behavioral runes affect the way spells are cast -- like how a simple fire conjuring spell can be turned into a more offensive fireball by using the 'Move' behavior rune. There are also runes which can modify spell behavior or attach additional spell effects when specific conditions are met.
Magic spells are the only attack in the game, and they all cost a certain amount of mana. Mana can easily be replenished by standing still, and fills up faster when the player is in possession of a mana charm.
Common Enemies, And A Few Odd Ones
Players will find themselves running into several peculiar enemies like goblins, bats, skeletons, and giant tree monsters. Perhaps the strangest of the enemies are the jackalopes, which I’m convinced are descendants of the Rabbit of Caerbannog from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The player encounters a few of these creatures in the beginning of the game, and they may seem harmless as they don’t go out of their way to attack. But take this as a warning -- don’t provoke them unless you're quick enough to defeat them or barely escape with your life. These surprisingly feisty creatures turn into their demonic forms as soon as you hit them. They’ll gang up and chase you until you've either escaped, defeated them, or have been led to your demise.
A Storybook Like Art Style With A Touch of Oceanhorn
Although Mages of Mystralia's art style looks somewhat similar to the fun yet blatant Legend of Zelda ripoff, Oceanhorn, it creates a stronger identity through slight art style differences. The art style in Mages of Mystralia is similar to that of a storybook, which fits the narrative rather well. The art style doesn't exactly stand out much, but it's still pleasant to look at.
An Enchanting High Quality Soundtrack
Another similarity to Oceanhorn is that the music in Mages of Mystralia may be one of the finest aspects of the game. The soundtrack was recorded live by the Video Game Orchestra and orchestrated by Shota Nakama, who has also orchestrated music for well known games such as Final Fantasy XV, and Kingdom Hearts II.5 HD ReMIX. Due to its whimsical quality, players may find themselves wanting to listen to the soundtrack even when not playing.
A Few Flaws
Despite all of its admirable elements, Mages of Mystralia still does have a few flaws once you delve deeper into it. To start, the game can feel a bit slow. With an average playtime of only about 7 hours, it's understandable that the developers wanted make sure to stretch out certain parts -- but this ultimately causes pacing issues with player progress and the game's story.
There are plenty of additional tasks and side quests for players who want to take the game the completionist route, but the problem with these quests is that they aren't always engaging enough to be interesting. Some feel like they're only in the game for those who want to make sure they have extra things to do.
In addition to this, these activities require quite a bit of backtracking. This would be a great opportunity to learn more about the various inhabitants of the world and examine it more, but the game falls completely flat on this aspect. Some seemingly important characters are completely sidelined by the end of the game. and quests can also become somewhat repetitive. Whether they consist of defeating waves of enemies, and/or solving puzzles, they're not quite as distinctive or as entertaining as the various quests one may see in other titles.
The smaller scope of Mages of Mystralia seems to be one of its greatest weaknesses. If it received an expansion or sequel sometime in the future, it would benefit immensely from a more expansive world with more depth to it.
The Final Verdict -- Generally Recommended For Fans of Magical Journeys Despite Its Faults
Mages of Mystralia may have a few pitfalls, but it still manages to be an enjoyable game if only for a short while. The game has a great deal of charm and plenty to offer for those who enjoy smaller or shorter experiences, and new players won't feel overwhelmed by the spell crafting mechanics once the game shows them how to manage it properly. There are plenty of other magic spell based games out there, but for what it's worth Mages of Mystralia provides a satisfying experience for those intrigued in the genre.
Mages of Mystralia is currently available on Steam for $24.99 and will be on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One sometime later this year.
Review copy provided by Borealys Games.