At first glance, Mages of Mystralia is a light-hearted, magic-themed children’s adventure. The game is cartoonish in style and tells a classic fantasy story featuring a young girl learning magic. Mages of Mystralia quickly surpasses expectations with its sharp gameplay, namely its clever system of spell-crafting. Its story and presentation are not groundbreaking, but elements of its gameplay just might be.
Game Name: Mages of Mystralia
Platform(s): PlayStation 4, PC, Xbox One
Publisher(s): Borealys Games
Developer(s): Borealys Games
Release Date: August 22, 2017 (PS4)
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The story of Mages of Mystralia is a familiar one. You play as a young girl named Zia who is learning to become a mage. Along the way, Zia learns that something is off in Mystralia, and she must use her newly acquired skills to save the kingdom. Zia is impressionable and goes wherever the wind takes her. Even when she must keep her magic secret because mages are outcasts, she never really seems devastated by that fact. She’s not the most complex character around, but Mystralia is hardly a character-driven adventure as none of the game’s characters really shine. Instead, you’ll find a simple, yet enjoyable fantasy tale where the character motivations and goals are clear.
As is the case with these fantastical adventure games, you come to expect certain regions from the map. Lush and green forest regions, snowy mountainous areas, a molten lava stage, etc. There’s only so many ways to make an open map feel diverse and interesting. Mages of Mystralia manages to checks off all these boxes, due to the gameplay relying heavily on casting elemental spells. Players will need to utilize the skills at their disposal to interact with and manipulate their surroundings. There’s enough original puzzle-solving and enemy encounters to keep things interesting.
Mages of Mystralia begins by giving you four different basic spell types based on the four elements – earth, air, fire, and water. Players will acquire runes which modify these basic spells, allowing you to create multiple spells with different variations. These runes may change the direction or behavior of the spell, but you really won’t know exactly what happens until you experiment with the different rune combinations by placing them on the hexagonal grid map. Elements become projectiles, things detonate, change direction, and so on. Players will learn the art of spell-crafting just as Zia does, one step at a time.
The spells are used in combat and puzzle-solving. During combat, it’s more or less up to the player to decide how they’d like to attack. They can use elemental melee attacks or shoot projectiles at enemies farther away. Some enemies are resistant to certain types of elements, but it’s fairly easy to tell when your attacks aren’t having an effect. You can’t really rely on button mashing, but with such an interesting spell system why would you want to?
Boss battles are slightly different than normal combat. None of them are too challenging, but they do require players to take advantage of more specific spell modifications at their disposal. However, it never takes more than a couple tries to determine an enemy’s weakness and figure out which spells pinpoint that weakness.
The puzzles encountered during Zia’s journey serve as obstacles to story progression, or to collecting more runes. Just like combat, players will use spells combined with different runes to solve them. Usually, a recently acquired rune is the answer to a new puzzle, but players must still determine which spell type to use in conjunction with the modification. These puzzles might entail igniting torches, shooting projectiles, or interacting with a set of objects within a limited time frame. There are times that players will have to return to an area to solve a puzzle because at the time the player is not equipped with the necessary rune. It is not always required that you do so, but the map is small enough that backtracking isn’t a huge deal.
I’ll admit that I was off-put by Mages of Mystralia‘s art style at first. The characters and environments in the opening cutscene were blocky and perhaps overly cartoonish. It definitely made me anticipate that Mystralia would be more of a children’s game. However, the game really only looks this way during cutscenes, of which there are very few. The colorful presentation of the world of Mystralia did grow on me as I spent more time with it, but I still would have appreciated stronger character design. There were some very solid boss designs, however.
The game carefully skates the line between being too childish or mature. The plot and its art style certainly have storybook qualities, but there are times it treads into darker areas. There are low points in the story and you do encounter some threatening enemies. Hell, even Zia’s death state when you lose a battle – coupled with somber music – is kind of morbid. Achieving that balance between lighthearted and unsettling is hard to achieve. Nonetheless, Mages of Mystralia refuses to be a game reserved exclusively for adults or children.
In short, Mages of Mystralia is an enjoyable fantasy tale with a great gameplay system. From a story standpoint, it’s hard to explain why a young mage would have all the spells at her disposal right away. Thankfully, the game’s spell-crafting system solves this problem, by teaching players to join and re-join spells with runes to achieve the desired effect. It really feels as though you learn with Zia, and while the game might have benefited from a few story and character revisions, it’s ultimately too fun not to recommend.
Review Disclosure Statement: Mages of Mystralia was provided to The OuterHaven by the publisher for review purposes. For more information on how we review video games and other media/technology, please go review our Review Guideline/Scoring Policy for more info.
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Mages of Mystralia is not without its shortcomings, but its gameplay is too fun not to recommend. Through the use of an insanely clever system of spell-crafting, there’s just the right amount of challenge in combat and puzzle-solving to be had. By pairing a lighthearted adventure with solid gameplay mechanics, there’s something here for everyone.
- Clever spell-crafting system
- Fun and enjoyable puzzles
- Endearing world design
- Story is somewhat predictable
- Overly cartoonish at times, specifically during cutscenes