I was first initiated into gaming by my father, who introduced me with the Forgotten Realms setting in second edition Dungeons and Dragons and in video games. My first video game ever was Dungeon Hack, and I moved quickly on to Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale. I bring this up because my first games and the game I most recently played are both written by an author named Ed Greenwood. it is also to indicate that perhaps I am biased, but I also don't think it's any sort of nostalgia talking when I say that Mages of Mystralia is actually quite good. Undoubtedly flawed and extremely short, but still quite good. Borealys Games' first project is ambitious, but still a ton of fun even for factors beyond the industry legend they brought in to do the story. Even though the game was a bit easy at times and the characters lacked a great deal of depth, the game more than made up for it with the unique spell building, the incredible puzzles, and the amazing world.
Mages of Mystralia can be purchased on Steam for $24.99 and is coming soon to XBOX one and PS4.
Long ago, the land of Mystralia was ruled by a line of Mage-kings. Magic was commonplace, and those who used it were defenders of the land. That was before the Troll plague came. No one was safe from the devastation of the plague, not even the royal line. The crown went to a young, unseasoned Mage, who began to dabble in forbidden magic which drove him mad. He was usurped and a man called The Marquis took the throne. He outlawed magic and declared mages should be punished. Still, there are those still born with the gift.
You play Zia, one of the unfortunate souls to be gifted with magic in this trying time. After accidentally burning her home and killing her uncle in the process, she is exiled from the isolated hamlet of Greyleaf and taken in by a mage called the Mentor who promises to teach her the nearly lost arts of magic. After an unspecified amount of time, she is sent to Haven, a safe place for mages, to complete her training. On her way, she stumbles into a hidden meadow where she encounters a spellbook that speaks to her telepathically in a dark, sinister voice that helps her further her studies.
I will stop there because I'll start venturing into spoiler territory otherwise. Let me start by saying this: The world is too good for these characters. This lore is incredible, I may borrow from this world for my next Dungeons and Dragons campaign. The story up to now is deep and acquires yet more depth as you go along, especially as it concerns the villains. This is the man that wrote the setting that consumed my childhood, so I expected a great world and luckily I was not disappointed.
Unfortunately, I don't feel that Zia is that interesting. She is just kind of a standard innocent who is easy to teach and to corrupt. This obviously evil book doesn't have to try very hard to get her to do things. Zia puts up very little resistance to starting to dabble in things that Mentor told her not to. When she says no, the book just has to lean on her a little harder and she caves immediately. That is the kind of thing that would go great with a moral choice element, but as it stands you don't really see any of this supposedly bad magic effecting Zia at all. When the book's true identity is revealed, everyone seems more annoyed than blown away. This brings me to Mentor. I don't know if he's supposed to be much of a father figure, but his relationship with Zia could have used a bit more fleshing out. He is present very little and seems minimally concerned with Zia's welfare. I could have done a bit more with him and knowing more about how he taught Zia and the nature of their relationship.
This game can be played on keyboard without much issue, but both the game and myself recommend that you play with a controller instead. One thing I will say in general before delving into specifics: This game is short. I beat the main story 10 hours in and now after 15 hours I can say I have beaten the whole thing 100%. It was generally fun, but easy. I guess it isn't a bad thing if the game left me craving more, but a new game plus game mode or a longer story definitely wouldn't go amiss in this game.
I'm always wary of this, because to me the bar to crafting spells is Magicka and everyone else has paled. Well, Mages of Mystralia has managed to make a spell building mechanic that is unique to its genre and fun to use. You have four basic spells, but you can modify whether to use them as fire, air, water, or earth, and using runes you can modify them to behave completely differently. Let me give an example: You can modify your projectile spell to duplicate and it will shoot three of them. If you modify your shield spell with duplicate, you will create a decoy of yourself enemies will attack first. You can also modify spells to move in a specific direction, to home in on enemies, or even to cast other spells if conditions are met. My personal favorite was a homing lightning projectile I enchanted to cast an ice explosion whenever it made contact with an enemy. I also used that decoy spell I mentioned before to cast the flame burst when something first hit it. This mechanic is incredibly difficult to explain because it seems complicated, but the game explains it very well while still allowing you some room to figure out what works for yourself.
The combat is worth going over beyond the spell building. For instance, you will later encounter enemies that have some immunity to a given element, which prompts you to change up spells so you can maximize effectiveness, though later on you can get the nullification wand that makes your spells shred through elemental resistances. It does take a bit of doing to get that wand, but it still makes the easy game even easier. Even the bosses are surprisingly easy, even though to the credit of the game they are all unique and each one requires a different strategy to beat. Despite that, I could count on one hand the amount of times I died, and that was mainly in the sunken quarry after you gain the air element to change your spells to. Your melee spell starts with that element so you can't change it to anything else and the enemies are all immune to that element. I could see why they would make that choice, but it was rather hard to fend off waves of enemies with only one spell that is not good for fending off large groups of enemies. Then after that when you get your water element and can give a substantial attack against enemies again. Just because it was easy doesn't mean it wasn't enjoyable, but still I could have used a little more of a challenge.
Honestly, to me these puzzles were the main event. In order to get some runes to modify spells as well as items that later allow you to increase health and magic, you need to complete assorted puzzles. Some are crafting a specific spell to get an end result, others are magically locked doors where you have to solve the lock in order to pass and get the chest on the other side. These puzzles actually had some teeth and provided some worthwhile rewards that makes 100% completion more than just another thing to do on a rainy day. The rewards you get from these puzzles can drastically effect the final boss fight, which is how side things in games should be done.
Graphics and Audio
The graphics are bright and creative and are a ton of fun to look at. Honestly though, I think that may work against the game in some ways. This is a rather dark story about corruption and persecution and the bright graphics kind of clash with the darker narrative. That is unless this is meant to be satire, but I don't think is the case. There were some moments of levity and inside jokes for the fantasy crowd that I loved, but it was never a straight comedy. This is a nitpick though, as the graphics were good and each setting was unique and gorgeous.
The music is another thing the game has working in its favor. It wasn't anything that made me feel compelled to buy the soundtrack immediately, but it it was all pleasing and it always fit whatever the mood the game was going for very well. I may get the soundtrack for some background for a Dungeons and Dragons game, but I don't love enough put it on my normal playlist.
Though the game is short and the characters are slightly lacking, Mages of Mystralia is worth it for the spell building, the game world, and the side challenges. Is it the perfect game? Not exactly, but the game kept me hooked from beginning to end. When I looked out the window and had finished the game, I was legitimately felt sad. I cannot in good conscience not recommend a game of which I couldn't get enough. All in all, I would say that Mages of Mystralia definitely deserves the accolades it has received so far. I may have finished it quickly, but I'm definitely going to return if and when they add new content.
|+ Deep and engulfing game world||– Unmemorable characters|
|+ Intuitive and unique spell building||– Short game|
|+ Challenging puzzles that impact gameplay||– Enemies are too easy.|