Thursday, July 3, 2014

Versimos School for Witchcraft and Weirdos - Magicians & Looters

At first glance, Magicians & Looters is a very unassuming game, a 2d metroidvania in a fantasy setting, full of fantasy and rpg tropes. Even it's name is unassuming: it's a game about Magicians and Looters. Straight, too the point, nothing too eye-catching. It's really a shame because past the unassuming exterior is a really good game.

While a metroidvania at it's core, Magicians & Looters does have some interesting ideas going for it. The first and most obvious is that you have to control three characters: Sword and shield wielding Brent, martial artist Vienna, and dual sword wielding Nyn. Each character has their own set of abilities needed to progress through the game, and each plays at least a little different from the others. and the game does a very good job of giving you good reasons to use each one, nobody feels too useless or overpowered.
Characters will gain plenty of abilities throughout their adventure.
The game also has an interesting approach to both leveling and equipment. You don't get experience from kills, instead, you level up by finding experience orbs scattered around the game world, as a result there's virtually no grinding in the game. There is however, no stat or skill points in the game, instead, every character gains some sort of bonus when they level up, like extra spell damage or attack speed.

Equipment in the game is based mostly around trade offs. Almost all of the equipment in the game has some sort of drawback on top of their bonuses, form something as simple to slightly less health or slower attack speed, to big things like no enemy item drops or disabling magic. The idea is that equipment is less about straight upgrades, and more about tweaking things around a certain stat or play style. While you will get stronger during the game thanks to leveling and ability unlocks, for the most part the game is less about linear upgrading, and more about opening up new options, it's an interesting approach and keeps the game form revolving around powerleveling or finding the definite "best" equipment.
Amusingly, death results in all of your hard earned loot being thrown around the room.

It's also worth noting that the game is funny, and I actually mean funny. While some games like to shotgun random internet memes and pop culture references everywhere and call it funny. Magicians & Looters, white not completely free of references, doesn't strictly rely on this and instead tries to be funny by, in a surprise twist, actually being funny. Characters play nicely off each other, the story takes more than a few silly turns and there's a few moments in the game that honestly made me laugh. I've beaten the game and even now I can still recall some of the funnier moments in it. it's a comedic game with some actual comedy in it and it's kind of sad that I have to make that distinction here.

The game has a decently sized map that goes through multiple areas, from valleys to caves to inside a castle. The world, like any good metroidvania, also has lots of little secrets and hidden areas, I managed to find all the items in the game on my own and doing it felt like an honest accomplishment. The game is also fairly challenging. There's some tricky platforming and combat sequences set in several of the rooms in the game. Boss battles are particularly hard as bosses can pull out some surprisingly nasty, hard to dodge attacks. Fortunately death doesn't cost much in game progress outside of losing some gold and being sent to the last camp you visited, camps acting as the game's save points.
Camps like this act as the games save points and are where you can change characters.
Graphically the game is nice, most of the level graphics are pretty solid, and the backgrounds in some rooms are quite beautiful, though it has a few problems. Items like gold or experience orbs are bit on the small size and can be a bit hard to see, though fortunately all of the really important stuff if it isn't simply given to you will basically drop into your hands from destroyed chests, so there's no really worries about missing important items, the sparkle effect on pickups also tends to help with this somewhat.

Sound and music in the game are also solid. The games sound has a nice, solid feel to them, weapons hit with a loud clang, spells impact with a nice loud thud, everything comes through loud and clear and sounds exactly like you'd expect it to. The music is also good. Every area has it's own distinct music and several tracks are actually very catchy, castle looter most immediately comes to mind, and worth listening too on their own.
Backgrounds in the game can be surprisingly beautiful
The game unfortunate has a handful of flaws. To start, you have three characters and can only change them at save points. Save points are usually frequent enough that it's not a major problem, but it's still a little annoying when you reach an area, then immediately have to turn back because you need a different character to handle it. The game is also a little on the short side. I beat it in just under 7 hours, I don't think that's horrible and the game makes good use of this time, but it almost feels like the game wanted to be just a little bigger.

Overall I'd recommend Magicians & looters to anyone who's a fan of Metroidvanias, especially if they want a decent challenge. The game offers a lot more than it initially seems, and is definitely worth a full playthrough.

Magicians & Looters was developed by Morgopolis Studios, it's available on Desura and Steam. It's soundtrack is available on Bandcamp.

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