Dungeon crawl games have become a staple in our modern gaming world. Since the early days of Dungeons and Dragons, players of all generations have, at one point, delved into a dark and dangerous dungeon in search of treasure and glory! Over the years, new advancements have been added onto the dungeons in order to make them even more exciting and perilous. One such addition was the inclusion of rogue-like elements. What is better than a dungeon that is different each time you enter it? Every game feels brand new because you don't know what to expect each playthrough. A few games, like The Binding of Issac, have done this combo quite well. A Wizard's Lizard: Soul Thief steps up to the plate with its own unique spin on the dungeon crawler. Does their game innovate enough to warrant playing?
Developed and published by Lost Decade Games, A Wizard's Lizard: Soul Thief is at first your standard issue randomized dungeon crawler game. You leave your comfy room and enter the dungeon, kill some monsters, smash some vases, and then take on the boss once you found the key to his room. Along the way, you'll collect gold to buy any items that catch your fancy to give you an edge in combat. However, you are armed with an additional power not normally seen in dungeon crawlers. That power is possession! At a moment's notice, you can launch your little lizard soul right out of your body and into the first enemy it collides with. The game's pace is dramatically faster once you realize you can bounce from enemy to enemy.
Soul Thief's dungeon is randomized. Every time you start a new game or enter into a new level, the layout will be different. Where once an item shop might have been, a trap and monster-filled room stands in its place. While the types of enemies and the final boss don't change in each level, their layout does. This adds a lot to the replay value as you won't really know what to expect, but you will start to recognize patterns and enemy moves.
I like this design because of the game's rouge-like nature. If you die…you're dead. Game over, start over. But while you can't take any of the cool items with you on a new playthrough, you can take whatever you learned about each monster. I learned quickly that one monster had a far-reaching projectile shot and made my mission to possess it as soon as I saw it.
A nice thing about the dungeons in each level is how a few things remain consistent. You know there is a boss, so one room holds the key to his door. There is going to be at least one item shop somewhere to buy new items or health. You should also fully explore before taking on the boss, as there might be some hidden keys or treasure chests behind an unexplored room.
Naturally, the ability to possess enemies adds a new level to the combat in this game. However, the rest of combat feels a little underwhelming. On your own, you start the game as the lizard. While not really that different from any of the other enemies in the game, you do have more health. However, your only offense comes in the form of a quick spin move that does a single point of damage to any enemy close enough to know what you ate for breakfast. Items found can be useful, but with a limited number of uses, you end up saving them until you are overwhelmed or in a boss fight.
Thankfully, items can be carried over once you possess a new creature, so if you buy something as one monster and return to your own body, you still get to keep that really cool fireball shooter.
I somewhat felt a little disappointed by the possession mechanic in this game. Your body remains behind once you enter into a new monster and doesn't follow you to each room. The only way to get back is to trek all the way back through the dungeon and switch, meaning you then have to kill the monster you were just inhabiting. If you don't go back to your body and indeed defeat the boss as a monster, your body is left behind and unable to be used in the new level. While it was fun initially to hop from monster to monster, the sensation became old very quickly. After a while, I knew what monsters on each level were actually decent at fighting and what monsters weren't. I sometimes completed entire levels with a single monster because I didn't want to switch to a weaker one.
Because of the randomized nature of the dungeon, you never know what items you are going to get. Some of the items are pretty good and help you out a lot. Others…aren't. I found one item that actually did less damage the less health I had. Once my lizard got low enough, I had to jump into a new monster so I wouldn't die. However, as most monsters have only three health, a single hit weakened my item tremendously. You can be sure, I swapped that item the second I found something better.
You can only have one usable item at a time, but periodically you will find a few enchantments lying around that add passive buffs to your character. I quickly forgot what these passives did, as I couldn't figure out how to view what enchantments I had. Most of them added a small chance of something happening every now and then, like gaining an additional use for my item or a small shield for a second.
Graphics and audio
A Wizard's Lizard: Soul Thief is indeed an early access game, but at least you can tell they are going for a certain ascetic. Enemies are simple yet recognizable, as is all of the set elements and room decorations. Something nice about the visuals was that I never once got confused or overwhelmed by all the things on the screen. Even when I was up to my eyes in monsters, projectiles, and fire traps, I could always see where I was and what was going on. That is something a lot of bigger games can't say.
The audio is ok. The music and sound effects for the game feel appropriate, but they aren't anything super memorable. I was more concerned with the visual aspects of the game, but the audio aspects at least weren't getting in the way. It's not something I want to put on my iPod, but it works for this game. However, I did try to mute the sounds in the game as I was playing something in the background, but the levels remained the same. Restarting my game fixed this issue, and it was the only bug I noticed while playing.
There isn't much to say about the UI of this game. I didn't notice any blaring issues with the menus the entire time I played, nor did I have any difficulties with the icons and indicators. As mentioned above, everything is very clear in this game. It is easy to tell what is what. I always knew how much health I had, I could see which way I was aiming with a small ring around my characters feet, and I knew if I had enough gold to purchase that much-needed healing item before my big bout with the boss.
The map indicator is also perfectly fine, displaying my current position and the surrounding rooms clearly and concisely. The rooms even showed if there were any leftover chests unopened or if there was a room I didn't go into. Like the graphics, the UI in this game is simple, but functional. I don't know what more I would want because the information was given to me in a clear and concise manner.
As mentioned, the game can feel a little simple. At maximum, you will have one attack and one limited use item as you trek through the dungeon. Being able to switch to a different monster is neat, but you'll mostly use it when you start getting low on health and need to stall in order to find the only monster you want to use. Nothing much carries over between sessions, so death feels like you are completely starting a brand new game. At most, you'll know what monsters are good and what monsters aren't really worth playing.
In addition, the game is quite short. At the time of this review, there are four levels. It took me a while to beat them, but that was because I hadn't figured out what monsters had good attacks. Once I knew the good monsters in each level, it was only a matter of luck to reach the end. Was the random shop selling healing? Did I find a decent attack item? This is what really helped me beat the game. In the end, once I had beat the fourth boss, the game ended and prompted me to start a new with nothing to show for it.
A Wizard's Lizard: Soul Thief is indeed an early access game and it shows. However, not in the way most games do. While most games are overly ambitious and promise too much, they are riddled with bugs or broken game mechanics. At worst, Soul Thief is a little empty. The fighting is responsive, what content present works and feels fair, and I can't really think of another game that let me so freely bounce between the actual enemies I was fighting. The foundation of this game is exceptionally solid. All it needs is a little more content and it will be a great game.
|+ Clean and simple game with no bugs.||– Short play through and lack of content.|
|+ Lot of potential for fun and innovative ideas.||– Lack of greater progress to accompany rogue-like elements.|