Players will inhabit the…gloves of powerful wizard after recently taking up residence at a lavish new sanctum. Only, doing so sets us on a desperate journey to save the land of Meliora as this sanctum seems to come with a free disembodied voice of the wisecracking wizard that lived there first.
The Wizards, in its new and shiny Enhanced Edition offers an odd proposition. On the one hand, moment to moment gameplay has been tweaked and the game itself is more expansive in what it offers to players. However, hopping over to the PlayStation VR from the Vive means several compromises have to be made in the departments of resolution and overall texture depth. While this trade off feels a little odd when “Enhanced Edition” is included in the title, The Wizards on PlayStation offers one of the few VR experiences available on the platform to squeeze every drop out what your headset and move controllers can do.
The Wizards offers a somewhat unoriginal story that props itself up with occasional moments of wit. Almost the entirety of the story will be told to the player by a disembodied (presumably dead) wizard, whose voice will guide you through the Meliora as you attempt to save it from a goblin invasion by going back through time. He seems to be a carefree soul delighting in brazenly teaching the player his haphazard ways of wizardry.
As the level design is fairly straightforward, allowing for little in the way of exploration, it is this voice that will ultimately keep the player engaged from one level to the next. He’ll explain the area (and the time) in which you find yourself as he appears to be in charge of where and when the players goes. His job is to explore rifts in time with you as you attempt to uncover the point at which goblins, orcs and trolls broke into the land to do a ruddy good job of spoiling everyone’s day. Imagine Obi Wan Kenobi disembodied in a fantasy setting and you’re about there.
There are important moments where he teleports you into a kind of environment theatre, through which you can get an idea of the level you’re about to step into and why it is your going there. These segments boast some pretty great writing and worldbuilding. However there are moments throughout gameplay where the writers may have had a not-so-witty day. The voice’s intelligent humour can give way sometimes to a more basic “Oh look, there’s more goblins here, fancy that. Throw a fireball in their faces”. That was a literal quote.
Don’t expect too much of a sophisticated story with The Wizards -- it isn’t trying to tell one. It’s clear from the purpose of the voice and well, the rest of the game, that the stronger emphasis for The Wizards was more of a focus on fun.
The Wizards did a great job of impressing me with its motion-based spell casting. VR games that offer motion based commands are few and far between and to find one that functions as well as The Wizards is a rare find indeed. In fact, it is the extremely gratifying method of spellcasting that makes The Wizards a little special. Of course, in the heat of the moment, switching from a summoned bow to a shield in one had and a fireball in the other can be especially tricky. Like trying to rub your stomach in a circular motion and pat your head at the same time. This isn’t a detracting factor for the game; it just means there’s a kind of application of skill here that needs to be learned.
Holding the triggers followed by these movements result in a feeling of power that lends wonderfully to The Wizards. Simply twisting your right hand, palm facing upward summons a throwable fireball. Two fists thrust downwards makes a larger fireball that can be stretched into a fire boulder to be raised over your head and catapulted at larger foes. Make two fists and thrust them forward to summon lightning in your palms. Letting go of the trigger and opening up your hands unleashes the lightning in a stream of death, Palpatine style. Having to hold the triggers before any one of these spells prevents them from popping up at unwanted moments, allowing for a real sense of control that is quick and easy to pick up. However, where the lightning from each hand could be aimed in various directions simultaneously on HTC Vive, for some baffling reason, it cannot be done here.
It is limitations like this that, in a way, made me grateful for not already having played this first on the Vive. Were there other aspects of this “Enhanced Edition” that were just missing on the PlayStation? Regardless, this worry did not feel ever present as I blasted my way from one area to the next, learning new spells as I went and memorising new “motion combos” for consistent access to my full suite of spells.
Not much can be said in the way of exploration as a majority of levels are very pretty corridors. Expect not so subtly masked invisible walls that, normally, you would expect to teleport through. Stick to the assigned path and you won’t encounter any confusion here. Unfortunately, it was a combination of this curiosity and confusion that led me to break a particular level. Right at the start of said level, I teleported somewhere that looked perfectly accessible yet it threw me outside of the level, a great dark view stretching out ahead of me with artefacts like lamps, switches and barrels levitating in the distance. It was amusing at first but soon the dialogue seemed to think I was at the end of level and I stumbled into a dark and confusing spoiler. The only way out was to restart the level. Like I said, stick to the path as The Wizards’ level design could have used some more work.
Oddly, despite these narrowly designed levels, The Wizards has a number of very well hidden collectibles to enhance health or add buffs to enemies for those high score chasers out there. Fate cards can increase enemy speed, lower their health, damage output or decrease them in an interesting spin of difficulty choice. The higher a challenge the player assigns themselves, the higher the score they’ll get. The Wizards isn’t afraid to place some challenging pressure pad puzzles your way either so thankfully, your final score does not take into account how long it takes to complete a level.
Graphics and Sound
The world of The Wizards oozes with classic fantasy features. Villages with wonky houses and pointy rooftops can be seen in the distance. Great foreboding stone castles, long abandoned now filled with goblins and orcs, underground cave systems with an ominous glow to them -- the list goes on. Cleverly implemented lighting cues direct players to secrets and enemies have been lovingly crafted into what we see today. It’s clear a lot of love went into creating this world. A lot of that love can be seen simply by exploring the game’s hub world, the wizard’s sanctum. Although in the case of the PlayStation VR, as mentioned earlier, it’s clear that compromises have been made to texture depth and of course, the limiting resolution of the PSVR headset. Aside from these small factors, The Wizards is a game that gives everything the PlayStation VR can can, offering great visuals for the platform.
As with a lot of VR titles, 3D surround sound plays a big part. Perhaps the pattering of goblin feet will tip you off on where the next attack may come from in a series of narrow corridors. Aside from this, the game’s atmosphere would have benefited greatly from a little more depth of environmental sounds and especially, music. As I cast my memory back to the charming, witty experience that is The Wizards, I can summon no memory of a classic theme tune. A fantasy adventure like this almost requires it and some riling music to accompany the epic spellcasting would have gone a long way.
While The Wizards does suffer from a few flaws in its presentation and level design, it doesn’t change the fact that it is undeniably fun. Learning new hand movements for new spells is a very rewarding experience as you add to a list of ways to just feel powerful. The world of Meliora is very charming with a witty, well spoken voice to guide you through it all. Pushing further through the game will unlock new spells and upgrades.
There’s no denying The Wizards has a few deeply baked issues from which there is no escaping. But as a VR owner, The Wizards should definitely be something to consider. Its main selling point is how it handles spellcasting and I’d happily challenge anyone to suggest a PlayStation VR game that incorporates and handles motion controls quite as well as The Wizards.
|+ Incredibly satisfying to play||-- Level breaking teleportation|
|+ Genuinely witty and funny||-- PSVR version missing odd things|
|+ Gread world design||-- Very little exploration|