Developer: Borealys Games
Publisher: Borealys Games
Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Release Date(s): May 18th, 2017 (PC);
August 22nd, 2017 (PS4)
ESRB: E10+ for Everyone 10+
Note: This review is based on the PC version of the game
I always appreciate when game developers try something new and different, opting to get creative with their craft rather than making their games carbon copies of other games. Perhaps the game has a really unique aesthetic that makes the game look like no other game out there. Or perhaps the game has a gameplay mechanic that hasn't been seen before. Developer Borealys Games is one developer whose action-adventure title Mages of Mystralia applies to the latter example.
With a fresh new mechanic that allows for a unique and customizable magic-wielding adventure, Mages of Mystralia definitely has its charm, and a pleasantly colorful art style and beautiful soundtrack certainly help to emphasize that.
But is that enough to make this game good? Or does Mages of Mystralia's flaws hurt it too much to make the game worth your time?
What is Mages of Mystralia? Well, it's a game about mages, of course. To be more specific, the story involves a land (called Mystralia, funny enough) where mages, who once prospered, are now banned from society thanks to a mage-king from long ago who became mad with power and ...just plain ruined it for everyone.
Gee, thanks a lot, dude.
You play as Zia, a young woman who has recently awakened her arcane abilities.
Unfortunately, in the process, her new yet uncontrolled abilities cause her house to burn down, her uncle perishing along with it. So yeah, she basically murdered her uncle by accident. Even though this game is fairly lighthearted, it definitely has its dark moments.
After she flees from her village, she finds a fellow mage who introduces himself simply as Zia's mentor, since he decides to teach her the ways of the mage so she doesn't accidentally wreak havoc on Mystralia. After a transition involving Zia receiving a wand and a robe, the game finally kicks off.
The story of Mages of Mystralia isn't really what I would consider a highlight, though. That's not to say it's terrible, in fact, I'd say it's fairly interesting, just that it's not really something you should look forward to since there's not a whole lot to it. But there are a couple of nice twists, even though they might be a bit predictable to some, and I enjoyed the development of Zia as a mage over the course of the game, so the story is still enjoyable.
The real highlight of Mages of Mystralia is its gameplay. I've played games with customizable spells before, but none were quite like what this game has to offer.
You basically have four main spell types - Immedi, Actus, Creo, and Ego. Seems simple enough, right? But then you have your runes, and that's where things get fun. You start with very few but gather much more as you do things like progress the story or solve various puzzles. And the more you have, the more you can put together with your four spells to create a plethora of different spells, from simple to chaotic.
Want a spell that creates a clone of you that shoots fire out like a turret? Go ahead and make it. Want to shoot five fireballs that bounce off walls and shoot more fireballs upon impact with an enemy? You do you. Oh, and did I mention that you can change the element of any spell later on? Because you totally can. Which makes spell-crafting even deeper more fun.
One thing that makes spell-crafting pleasantly challenging is this game's puzzles.
There will be times when you have to create specific spells that will allow you to meet a given challenge, such as lighting several torches before a timer resets them. The best part about those particular puzzles is that they sometimes have multiple methods, some of which make the challenge a lot easier if you can conjure up the right spell.
However, there's another type of puzzle that doesn't use your spells. With these, you basically move circles around a board until the arrows on them point to each other and the circles each light up. If I confused you just now, oh well. Just know that these are fun, too, if you like puzzles that make you feel smart afterward. Which I certainly do.
Like with any game, it's hard not to find at least one gameplay flaw. Mages of Mystralia is no different. For one thing, I found that the controls could get in the way at times.
For example, I fell off cliffs and into the water far too often because the controls didn't always get along with the camera angles in certain spots. Thankfully, you only lose a bit of health, but it still gets annoying. Maybe I just suck, but it seemed to me like an oversight that forces you to be extra careful to avoid pitfalls such as those. I also found it quite irritating when I got hit by an enemy, fell down, got back up and got hit again before I could even do anything. Seems like the whole invincibility frames thing could have been utilized a bit better.
I noticed a few pretty bad glitches, too. Fortunately, they mostly helped me, like a couple of times when enemies fell through the floor and died or that time when my attack never dissipated and enemies kept getting hit by it. It should still get patched, of course.
The game also has some sidequests, and while they are indeed a welcome addition, the lack of some sort of quest log makes it confusing to keep up with them.
I also wish that the map was bigger (as in not just one overworld map of Mystralia but also maps of each individual area) and allowed you to mark it, or at least marked itself so you didn't have to constantly backtrack to find a single puzzle, item, or quest you couldn't get/pass before. These features are nice to have to keep you engaged, but could have been streamlined better.
As far as looks go, Mages of Mystralia has a very charming art style.
Rather than boasting high-end graphics, or even attempting something remotely close, Borealys Games chose a simpler, colorful aesthetic that is certainly pleasant to look at, which will actually help it age better in the long run. And it makes sense, considering this is an indie game, so it was a smart move to keep it simple instead of trying to be overly ambitious and making the game super ugly like some indie devs (and even some triple-A devs).
Even with the simplistic graphical style, though, I did notice some lagging here and there. I'm not completely sure if it's the game's problem or mine, but my computer has run more graphics-heavy games without lag before, so I'm thinking Mages of Mystralia might have a framerate issue. I'll let you determine that yourself if you decide to purchase the game. It wasn't a game-breaker, but it was noticeable.
Mages of Mystralia has a very pretty soundtrack as well. It's soothing to listen to while playing through the game, which is generally a plus with video game soundtracks.
Beautifully written and beautifully orchestrated, composer Antoine Vachon did a splendid job composing a soundtrack that fits perfectly into the world of Mystralia. I can't think of much to say about the sound design, though, since there's really nothing noticeably bad about it. When characters talk, they make a vocal noise when a word bubble pops up, and it works fine. As do the spell-casting sounds, enemy sounds, various background sounds, and the voice acting heard in the beginning and ending cutscenes is pretty good. Maybe some players will notice something jarring, but everything worked just fine for me.
All in all, Mages of Mystralia has a lot going for it, and I enjoyed my playthrough.
Unfortunately, the game suffers a bit from somewhat flawed controls, a few glitches here and there, and lacks some features that make certain other features feel incomplete. But with its lighthearted yet occasionally dark story with some pretty good main character development, a delightfully creative and fun spell-crafting mechanic, a charming and pleasantly vibrant art style, and a beautiful soundtrack that fits the world perfectly, Mages of Mystralia is a good game that I recommend picking up.
+ Lighthearted yet occasionally dark story with some pretty good main character development
+ Delightfully creative and fun spell-crafting mechanic
+ Charming, pleasantly vibrant art style
+ Beautiful soundtrack that fits the world perfectly
- Suffers a bit from somewhat flawed controls
- Apparent glitches here and there
- Lacks some features that make certain other features feel incomplete
Overall Score: 8 (out of 10)
A game that can easily be described as "The Legend of Zelda meets Harry Potter," Mages of Mystralia is a fun action-adventure game well worth your time thanks to its brilliant spell-crafting system alone, but also has vibrant visuals, a beautiful soundtrack, and enough other good qualities to push whatever shortcomings it may have off to the sidelines.
Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable code provided by the publisher