Friday, February 26, 2016

Lichdom: Battlemage



Developer: Xaviant
Release Date: August 26, 2014
Genre: Action, RPG, Indie

One Sentence Review:
If you want a game that can teach you how to fuck up a power fantasy, look no further!

This game started with a nice little idea, let's make a mage that isn't some wimp who has to hide behind his big bad warrior friend. As someone who enjoys playing the odd mage to both interesting an hilarious ends, I found this idea more than intriguing enough to buy the game off Steam when it went on sale. Little did I know that the mixed rating on its store page wasn't just for show.

Gameplay

You play as a battlemage with the power to smite your foes using a variety of different spells that you can craft yourself. Great start! But you can't just craft a spell using an element and a method of transference, that would be too easy. 

First you have to choose a sigil, which represents your element. Then you have to choose a method of transference. Then you have to choose whether you're going to focus on control, mastery, or destruction. Control allows you to paralyze targets, mastery allows you to weaken targets, and destruction is self explanatory. Also you can have up to 3 spells per sigil active at any time each one dealing with a different area and having different controls. Also you can augment each spell using different things you find in the...

This is about the point I hold up my D&D Dungeon Master's guide to spellcrafting and say "why didn't you just copy this?" I mean seriously, why? Why add in all this extraneous stuff in a power fantasy about being a battlemage? Here's a crafting system for ya: Fire, Beam, the more you use it the more damage it does, bam! Works like a charm and isn't convoluted at all. But the crafting system would be forgivable (partially) if it was backed up by stellar gameplay in other areas!

It isn't.

The gameplay outside of the crafting screen is woefully simple. You wander around a few bleak wastelands which never look like they were ever a nice place to visit. You're then inexplicably cornered multiple times and have to fight off waves of the same types of enemies over and over again. It's generic and simplistic wave-based combat that has no place being in a game where the crafting window wants me to customize everything down to my eyebrow.

Story

Oh this story is one for the ages, it falls under the age old storyteller's tactic known as "there's something happening over that hill". That's almost literally it. Every so often an NPC pops up and talks about something happening over the next hill, in the next town, or somewhere else that you can't see. There's always something happening but you're always too late to be there for it or to enjoy the effects of it.

In case it isn't obvious I hate this style of writing. It's like telling me "no really, there is a world out there that's filled with life and vigor! We just couldn't be arsed to put it in the game". The problem is these developers don't give off the feeling of actively hating their community just yet. So they... think this is good design?

Dialogue

For a story of this quality, I actually like the voice acting. Maybe I'm just trained to terrible voice acting from a lot of the games I play, but this is some of the best voice acting I've heard in an indie game to date. It makes listening to them try and tell me about how there's totally a world out there that I could be exploring instead of playing this game all the more annoying!

World Design

Oh fuck you. Nothing in this game looks like it was ever a nice place to live. It almost feels like the cult was doing the people a favor by killing them. I'm starting to wonder if entire cities and ruins were actually copy/pasted considering how repetitive the world design became.

Combat

As I mentioned earlier almost every combat section in the game is just another wave-based arena linked together by some set pieces. However, that doesn't explain how boring combat is. You see, after about 4 hours into the game you'll find your favorite spell combo and will likely never deviate from it. You'll certainly get more sigils to play with but sigils level up allowing you to be more effective with them. So all those new sigils you get will likely never see the light of day. 

Most of my combat eventually devolved into Necromancy, Kinesis, Fire, and then wait for them to die so I can get a skeleton. Repeat that until I have an army then keeping moving forward. It doesn't help that the AI is legendarily stupid, not fully internalizing that taking cover from me doesn't stop my skeletons from railing on them and it certainly doesn't stop my area attacks. It's even more unhelpful that the only way the game knows of to ramp up difficulty is to just shove a bunch of effects onto the enemies. Beefing up their health or making anyone within a small radius of them take damage or slow down. They never use these effects in a strategic way, they just act like their usual dopey selves with a shiny new toy.

Graphics

The graphics aren't terrible. They're not exactly Order 1886 level but they're also not down to the level of Minecraft. Some of the spell effects are truly inspired while others are a little bit flimsy. Generally I don't like talking about this area because it's so mediocre to the point that I can't stand it. It's one thing to love or hate but it's an entire beast in itself to feel nothing for a section of the game.

Final Note

I'm not sure where to price this game. I'm honestly still considering giving it the same price I did in my video of $0.00 USD. They'd have to pay me to play this game again. But time mellows all so I will be generous. I give this game a price tag of $7.50 USD. Just don't bother with the crafting menu, keep pressing the smart upgrades button, and watch a YouTube video or something in the background or you'll get very bored very quickly.

Click Here to Buy Lichdom: Battlemage on Steam
(Though if you pay full asking price I'll think less of you as a human being)