Sunday, January 11, 2015

More spells than you can shake a wand at - Magicmaker

With the rise of games like Minecraft and Terraria. Several games have followed in their wake, offering large, randomly generated open worlds with complex crafting systems and plenty of character customization. Even when games aren't trying to follow directly in the footsteps of those titles, some games have taken those ideas and incorporated the into their own designs. One of the games to do this would be Magicmaker, a platform game that uses procedural content and a simple crafting system to create an amazing amount of content.

Magic maker sees you as an unemployed wizard who's taken on a temp job as a security guard at Dörwall Community College, being sent out on various tasks, risking life and limb in the name of a steady paycheck. The game actually has a fairly quirky sense of humor, the game's text includes a lot of wit and sarcasm, characters are weird when they're not being smart-assed and the game very obviously does not take itself seriously. That said while this can be amusing it should be noted that story is very much not the focus of the game and what story the game has exists simply as a cheap excuse to make spells, then go out into the world and hit things with them.
There's a lot of interested spells to play with.
Gameplay in Magicmaker is fairly straightforward, you choose a randomly generated level to take on, using the spells you've made to fight off enemies as you search for new spell materials and make your way towards the exit. The game is actually good at keeping levels interesting, there are several zones you can visit to complete missions, each of which has it's own enemies and gimmicks to deal with, such as the desert zone's periodic sandstorms, which require you to hide indoors. Missions are also rarely if ever a simple case of beating the boss and find the exit, and often require you to search the level for hidden objects, or avoid killing a certain kind of monster.

A big part of the game is customization. You're allowed to carry three spells and a single robe into each level, making these spells and robes is actually fairly detailed as there's millions of possible spells and robes to make and use. going beyond simple mechanical effects, you can even tweak their appearance, and there's a lot of options to change the look of your character. The game even lets you save what you've made to reload later. This is actually somewhat important as the game's levels make good use of this customization: you'll often have to tailor your spells for the mission ahead. for example, if a level doesn't want you to kill a certain kind of enemy, you'll likely want a spell more controlled than the one that rapid fires exploding projectiles that home in on enemies and bounce off walls.
You have a lot of options for editing your character.
One of the game's biggest strengths is how it handles making spells and robes. While the game offers a wealth of options for making the perfect spell or robe. Actually making them is surprisingly simple. Each of your spells or robe has a number of slots, and you fit the materials you gain from clearing levels into them.  Each material has 2 effects, one for use in spells, and one for use in robes. You simply simply pick the materials you want, limited by the number of slots you have, and the game will create the spell or robe by combining their effects. There's no special rules or complex systems to deal with, as long as you have the materials, you can quickly throw a new spell together and get right back into the action.

Perhaps even better than how the game keeps it's wealth of options simple to handle, is how quickly it gives you access to them. Most game that make heavy use of crafting tend to save the interesting things you can make for later. Spending most of the early game with fairly simple, straightforward things. Magicmaker wastes virtually no time on getting to the good stuff. Even in the tutorial, you'll have to make a projectile spell that lights things on fire to deal damage over time, and has a limited ability to pass through walls, and it only gets better from there. Almost immediately, you'll be making spells with crazy abilities. Even better, you can freely replace the materials used for spells and robes without penalty, meaning not only can you readily make fun and interesting spells, but are free to experiment and try out new things. This is a game that wastes no time in getting to the good stuff.
Each level ends with a fight against a gigantic boss.
Graphically, the game's art style is made to look like paper cutouts, complete with little folds and crinkles. The result is a actually pretty nice looking, everything is bright and colorful. Characters, bosses in particular are nice and detailed. The few things that don't look like paper, namely your spells, are nice and flashy without sticking out much. While the game isn't a graphical masterpiece, it's a very cute style that makes a nice change of pace from all the pixel art out there.

Along with the graphics, Magicmaker has a lovely soundtrack. The songs all fit the light tone of the game, though they do get a bit more serious for the boss fights, each zone of the game has several songs to use, so the soundtrack avoids getting repetitive. Everything holds up well wither your exploring or fighting, and it again makes a nice change of pace from the usual chiptunes found in a lot of indie games. Sound effects meanwhile are unfortunately fairly minimal. There's a handful of sounds for firing spells and enemy attacks, along with effects going off, Everything works and sounds more or less like you might expect but there's nothing really exceptional about any of it.
The game's levels are spread between several different zones.
While playing the game, I haven't encountered any major bugs, but I did encounter some issues. namely, when saving spells, every time you click save, you save a new copy of the spell, you can't overwrite saves, so when you adjust or add to a spell, you have to remember to delete the old version, otherwise you end up with a bunch of redundant spells in your list. A larger problem is, at least going by the requirements on Steam the devs seem unsure of the game's ability to readily run on any operating system besides windows 7. Fortunately there is a demo available to make sure the game will run properly, and the GoG version claims to be compatible with Windows 8 and Vista. If in doubt, remember to try the demo first.

In the end, this game is very good at what it does: Allowing the player to set about making various crazy spells to go blasting enemies with, and it wastes virtually no time in letting players get to the good stuff. While the main campaign is only a small handful of levels, random level generation, and plenty of side missions along with a new game+ option ensures plenty of replayability. If you like tinkering with options and trying various equipment loadouts, there's a lot to love here.

Magicmaker was developed and published by Tasty Stewdios LLC. It is available with a demo on Steam and GoG. It's soundtrack is available on Bandcamp. It's homepage is available here.

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