You’re a wizard, Harry! Well, you’re not Harry or a wizard but it’s a very fitting statement for this review. I had not heard much of Mages of Mystralia before I was asked to write the review but it seemed entertaining. The game looked pleasant and seemed like it had quite a lot of the qualities I look for in a game. Magic, quests, monsters and treasure. Sign me up!
You play Zia, a young woman who early on in her life realizes that she is a mage. Unfortunately, she lives in a world where magic and mages are outlawed. She is soon banished from her home town and has to strike out on her own to discover her abilities and save Mystralia. The world is currently being cast into darkness by a strange force and somehow you are thrust into the centre of it. You must simultaneously discover your powers and save the world. No pressure then.
This quirky little title has 3 difficult levels, Mage, Archmage and the permadeath mode called Hardcore. Mage is for players who are more focused on story and do not want to be challenged too much. Archmage ups the difficulty a notch and will be the standard mode for most players. Hardcore is for the sadistic players who fancy a real challenge, you know the ones, those people you see completing Dark Souls with a banana controller on Youtube.
Mages of Mystralia is a 2.5D adventure game with a few RPG elements. You control Zia through many unique landscapes, battling enemies, upgrading your spells and solving puzzles. Most of the game will be familiar with most players, you have several spell buttons assigned to different spells and have to manage your mana bar. You have a standard health bar that can be filled by breaking pots and other environmental objects. These are plentiful and I hardly ever struggled with either my health or mana levels.
Early on you find a talking spellbook, who proves to be your constant companion and give you little tidbits on information during your quest. This is where Mages of Mystralia gets very interesting, the spells. The spell system is like no other spell system I have used in a game before. You start with four basic spells. Immedi, Actus, Creo and Ego. Representing thunder, fire, ice and earth respectively. To start with these spells do very basic things like lighting torches, freezing water or attacking basic enemies. Soon though, normally hidden in treasure chests, you will find modifiers for these spells and the game really starts to get interesting.
Each spell can be modified as you see fit. After going into the spell creation screen each spell has a grid in which you can lay these modifiers. To be honest, I was not expecting such freedom when editing the spells and the system is great fun to mess around with. You can add movement, homing traits and even triggers to combine spells together. There is a lot of room for augmentation here and I think it’s the games biggest draw. The other thing is, this system is not just for show, you need to regularly edit your spells to solve puzzles and progress further through the game.
Another thing I really like about this quirky little is the puzzles. I am not a massive fan of puzzle games but in Mages of Mystralia the puzzles are very interesting and a lot of the time environmental. Certain doors are locked with logic puzzles, which are solved by moving nodes around a grid to connect them. Every now and again you will be greeted with environmental puzzles to open doors or reveal treasure chests. These often left me scratching my head and toying with various spell combinations and setups. Sometimes I had to think outside of the box to solve some of the game riddles and I liked that, they were not too difficult but just made me ponder a little and use the tools I was provided with to progress. The combination of the spell creation tool and environmental puzzles was a breath of fresh air and a very fun thing to play.
Mages of Mystralia is gorgeous to look at, it’s got a bold bright colour palette and lovely crisp graphics. The environments, creatures and characters were all gorgeously rendered and designed beautifully. I really liked the art style a lot, I love cartoony, crisp and colourful games like this and Mages of Mystralia is a great example of this style. The bosses are impressive, varied and its many characters unique and entertaining. All the environments are impressive to look at, ranging from snow-covered mountains and ruined temples to beautiful forests and towns. Each area was a joy to travel through and each area had an individual look to it. The visual style really stood out on the switches excellent portable screen.
The soundtrack did its job admirably too, although for some strange reason the whole game was very quiet. I thought it was my switch at first but all other games and apps played sound at the correct volume. I even checked the game settings and all sounds were full, the sound was just really low and it was quite odd. Even with the above issue, all the sound effects and music were clean and fit the style of game. The melodic soundtrack worked well with the atmosphere of the game and was never distracting. It often heightened the experience, during boss battles the soundtrack was more ferocious and in the towns, melodic piano tunes played to symbolise you were safe. All in all the soundtrack did its job, never amazing but very pleasant all the same.
Mages of Mystralia performed very well throughout my playthrough. Apart from one crash early on, I had zero issues. I hope it was an isolated incident. The game ran very smoothly and I had no bugs or framerate issues. If performance is an important thing for you then you should be fine.
Most of the time Mages of Mystralia feels like your standard adventure RPG, most of the stuff is well-trodden ground and not very unique. It really does set itself apart though with its spell augmentation system and environmental puzzles. These two systems alone are worth playing it for. It won’t be anyone’s game of the year but it’s a fun, quite short romp through a very well designed world. It’s environments and art style are lovely, it’s a beautiful looking game, it really is. Its battle system is simple but serviceable and it’s boss fights are fun and well designed. If your up for a short quirky title that is a bit different, then try Mages of Mystralia. It’s a perfect fit for the switch, it can be played in short bursts and really suits a portable console system. Aside from the low sound volume and one crash I had, I don’t have many negative things to say about it. Now go and get inventing some spells young mage, there’s a world to be saved!
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*