Mages of Mystralia is a 3D action adventure game that throws you into the role of Zia, a trainee mage that’s been expelled from her hometown following a series of unfortunate events. Mystralia has a bad rep when it comes to magic, no thanks to a mad king who went crazy with paranoia and demolished entire towns in the process. As a result, the use of magic has been banned and anyone who attempts to use it is exiled, as is the case with protagonist Zia. As you can imagine for a game that tries to sell itself by pointing out that you can craft your own spells, Mages of Mystralia is full of wonderful magical abilities, despite the dark premise, and although it’s not a perfect outing, it’s a worthy addition to both the Xbox Store and the genre, nevertheless.
As Zia explores the world around her, you quickly learn that Mystralia houses four base magic types which can all be altered using runes. These base spells are easy to switch between as they’re tied to specific buttons on the controller, much like Diablo. They also differ from one another greatly, but the real kick comes into play when you start toying around with the aforementioned runes. Depending on how you apply them, these runes will drastically alter your magical abilities, which I have to admit, I wasn’t expecting this level of depth. For instance, you can change your shield spell into a dash attack, or buff your fire attacks into devastating homing fireballs, and much much more. You can even stack runes to create some truly memorable spells, but the trade-off comes at the expense of your mana, which depletes very quickly if you’re slapping runes on one another.
It’s important that you make friends with the magic system, which isn’t an overly difficult thing to do. Even when you get so far in and learn how to change elements, add effects, and chain together spells, it all feels very fluid and far less confusing than it could have been. The game requires that you at least have a firm understanding about how your magical abilities function, being that you’ll be using them not only to battle enemies, but solve several well implemented puzzles too. I was especially impressed with the difficulty curve on this front. They start out quite simplistic such as realigning objects, and then ramp up later on, pushing you to be thoughtful about the runes you have in your possession. It really is a great system that shows what a good developer can do with the right formula and tools.
These puzzles, along with the combat trials you’ll witness, will collectively reward you with new additions that will either drop new runes, or gift you with the ability to extend your health and mana bar. Many of them are optional but take my word for it, you’ll want to seek out as many as you can to ensure that you stand a chance against the boss battles within. Boss battles usually require that you think tactically rather than go in all guns blazing, and I cant say that I wasn’t impressed with what was on offer. Bosses don’t only differ from each other, but the techniques that you need to work out in order to beat them are cleverly injected into the game. It does indeed mean that you’ll sometimes lose before you work out exactly what to do, but the mechanics across all encounters are top notch.
Mages of Mystralia’s map size isn’t what I would call vast, but the land is well realised and well detailed. There’s a few towns to explore and a decent variety of quests and side quests to complete, which throws in some degree of added longevity should you decide to stray from the beaten path. It helps that the game looks so good, with bright vibrant colours constantly slapping you in the face throughout each environment you discover. This is all tied together by a solid soundtrack that captures the mood and theme of the game magnificently.
It’s a shame however that for a game that gets so much right, it falls short in the enemy variety department. Despite the epic boss battles and the gorgeous game design, there’s a huge lack of foe variation, with many of your enemies looking very cut-and-paste, generic, and bland. In the grand scheme of things this may have been somewhat forgivable, but the devs are clearly capable of creating something special, so to see a sheer lack of effort here, it’s disheartening. Especially when you consider that these encounters make up so much of the adventure. Furthermore, I managed to get stuck in the environment on a handful of occasions, which is irritating to say the least, and not something I was willing to overlook.
There’s easily several hours worth of play to be found in Mages of Mystralia, which comes tethered to an interesting plot that’s bolstered by the talent of Ed Greenwood’s writing. The interesting crafting abilities offer a near endless portion of spells for you to take to, all of which feel unique and powerful in their own way. The world may not be overly large, but it’s incredibly detailed and full of activities to enjoy. It’s unfortunate however that small issues persist, such as getting stuck in the map and (despite the amazing boss battles) there’s a lack of effort in both design and variety when it comes to standard enemies. In any case, it has to be said that Mages of Mystralia is well worth both your time and attention.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.