Either you’re someone who has always wanted to weave magic in the air, or you’re not someone who would be reading a video game review on the internet. Seeing as you’re here, I’ll assume you’ve tried to at least use the force at one point. As such, if you’re like this and have a Vive, you should totally check out The Wizards by Carbon Studio. Though the plot is your usual fantasy and there are a few technical issues, I would call this game a must-have for any loves of VR and fantasy thanks to the smart writing, diverse and satisfying spellcasting, and well done upgrade system. Every now and again the flaws did get to be much and I had to put the game down, but after I cooled off I found myself drawn back every time.
The Wizards is available on Steam for $19.99.
In the kingdom of Meliora, magic seeps in through rifts. Wizards are those who can take the magic from the rifts and channel it into spells, but the smiths of the land are able to weave the magic into magical equipment. The goblins and orcs, those creatures you give level 1 characters until they can fight more intimidating enemies, have found a way into the kingdom and have wrecked up the place and it’s up to you, the new archmage guided by the voice of your predecessor, to go back in time before these events transpired and put a stop to them. There isn’t a ton done new with this plot, but I think it’s very well mainly because of the execution.
Imagine if you combined Gandalf with the disembodied narrator from The Stanley Parable. That is your guide. He’s as sassy as he is mystical. He gives some passive knowledge on the world mostly without bringing the game to a half, he can be helpful or he can be hilarious. He makes the plot a tad more fun even though chances are you’ve seen it all before. In fairness, the plot also knows where it belongs: in the back seat while the gameplay takes the wheel.
Though the game does have the Fallout 4 VR esque movement option where you can click around, but The Wizards really wants to push for the free movement option. That’s something I wished Fallout 4 VR had, where you can use the touch pad on your off hand to move around more smoothly. “Wished,” however is the correct tense to that sentence. There’s something about it looking like I’m moving organically but my body not moving that makes my brain freak out and gives me some crazy vertigo.
There is the option to turn the free movement off, but then there’s some places your teleport won’t take you and the range does shorten the more you use it in combat, so the game is immediately harder since you can’t move well enough to get out of some mobs. That combined with the HUD not showing you where blows are coming from, just that you are being hit, make it significantly easier to be cornered in the later stages.
Fireball! Fireball! Fireball!
This is, without a doubt, some of the best spellcasting I’ve ever used. The virtual reality adds a whole new dimension to the possibility of spells and they utilize it all. Different gestures with your dominant and nondominant hands could yield all sorts of spellcasting, from a fireball, to a shield, to a bow made of ice. Each one has a different feel and a different play style. While I preferred to use the ice bow to finish my enemies quickly, my friend opted to use the fireball in one hand and the shield in the other.
Depending on what you find and how you score in the levels, you could get tokens to upgrade your spells in various ways. You could make it so projectiles reflected by your shield home in on enemies or you could make your lightning spell arc between enemies. The upgrades are all useful and they all make a huge impact on how you can play.
The only thing I didn’t like about the spellcasting is when it gets into the third stage where you have to switch back and forth between your normal spellcasting and ether magic, where each kind of magic is only able to effect certain enemies and in order to switch you have to be by ether lanterns, which with the limited movement puts you out in the middle of the arena with enemies coming from all sides and through obstacles.
I also do wish the spellcasting was a bit more responsive. I got the spell I wanted about 80 percent of the time, but there were times I would get the wrong spell or no spell at all. That usually happened with the fireball when I was backed in a corner with my shield in one hand, so when push came to shove there was a good chance I’d be losing my best method of self-defense.
You’ve activated my fate card!
After each level you get a score based on how effectively you’ve managed to wreck havoc and how little you’ve been damaged. Depending on your score you could get some points towards some spell upgrades. Having trouble getting that last one or beating a level? Well then your faithful mentor has his old collection of fate cards to help out! You can find new cards hidden in each level and they can make the level harder and give you more points, or make it easier at the cost of points. Want to go through a level with one health? Want your enemies to move slowly to make it a little easier? You got it. These can really help when the game gets way too frustrating towards the end.
On top of the campaign, there is a completely separate arena mode which was…okay. It’s a simple game of “defend the crystals,” like you’d see in Dungeon Defenders, except in VR and without the ability to build towers so you kind of have to be in ten places at once. This mode is tied to the profile, but had no bearing on your campaign or vice versa, which is a bit of a pain. The campaign is a fun adventure with cool scenery and a sassy but knowledgeable voice guiding you. The Arena is underwhelming after that.
Wait, where did the world go?
This game was recently released in full, and it still does have some kinks to work through. My personal favorites were when it registered me as being further along the quest than I was and so much of the map behind me ceased to exist and when I moved too fast for the level to shut me in a room to start spawning monsters, so the room was closed off and I could neither hit the monsters nor could they hit me. Both required me to restart the level. This was mildly obnoxious, but because the levels are by and large very short, restarting the level never set me back all that much.
Graphics and audio
This game looks and sounds great. I mean it, everything about this game gives you the feel of being in an epic fantasy environment. The orcs and goblins are designed super well, and each different type had a distinct look. If you didn’t show me what weapons they used, I could tell you the difference between a shaman and a warrior easily. Their reactions to being slain by spells aren’t over the top, but still help to keep the spellcasting satisfying.
I liked the effects on the spells as well. Everything from the crackling of a fireball to the hum of the magic missiles in the air captures everything of what I hoped casting spells would be like.
My only complaint is that it’s very difficult to tell where enemies are coming from, which leads to the player rubbernecking around to be sure that there isn’t a goblin sprinting right at you, ready to shove a dagger up your butt. The best strategy is to back yourself against a wall and treat it as a platform defender, but if that isn’t an option it would be nice to at least have a sense of enemies coming near so you don’t get blindsided.
Though undoubtedly The Wizards has its flaws, mainly in the technical department, I still found the gameplay satisfying and the story intriguing enough to keep me plodding through even the worst parts. Yes the arena mode is a bit pointless, yes there are bugs, and yes the last world may or may not make you rage. Still, the core spellcasting is well executed, the story is intriguing if a bit unoriginal, and when it gets too difficult or too easy you can always modify the level a bit to put the difficulty a bit more to your liking.
This is all on top of the good natured charm that just permeates from every pore of the game. It still needs a bit work, but that’s nothing that can’t be patched in later. Will it? I hope so, there are too many good points for the developers to just let the problems lie. I enjoyed this game for the most part, and I would definitely say this is one to keep an eye on. It may offend the pickier consumer now, but hopefully with a little work this one could become a necessity for anyone with VR on PC. This game certainly cast a spell on me, and I think it will on many more.
|+ Satisfying spellcasting||– Technical issues|
|+ Gorgeous graphics||– Lackluster arena mode|
|+ Amusing story|