Magic, Mysteries And Mayhem
HIGH Clever story, delightful world.
LOW Too easy to get lost in some of the maze sections. Combat gets old.
WTF Why do I get damaged by my own spell?
Mage’s Initiation: Reign of the Elements’ story of a young sorcerer attempting to pass his trials in order to be fully welcomed into the association of Mages is fairly by-the-numbers, the point-and-click adventuring is familiar and comfortable, and the combat system is sometimes overwhelming, but nothing particularly new. Yet, it takes players on a intriguing journey not because of these gameplay elements, but because its main character D’arc is priggish from the start.
Although he learns and grows as the adventure progresses, he never becomes a traditional hero. Even while learning how abilities like his can be used for evil purposes, he still dreams of ultimate power and never fully releases of his feelings of superiority. He’s brash and moderately unlikable, but that somehow makes him more relatable. I wanted D’arc to succeed despite his shortcomings, and to maybe learn that there’s more to his world.
The lore explains that Mages (much like Jedi) are identified at an early age and taken from their families to live and train in the Mage’s Tower. While these children are treated well and granted access to arcane abilities beyond their wildest imaginings, this practice still leaves scars. D’arc, while headstrong and competent, still misses his home and family even though he hasn’t seen them in over a decade.
He often wonders if they remember or miss him, and these feelings of uncertainty seem to drive his obsession with completing his initiation trials — he longs to become a master someday, if not the greatest mage in history. His closest mentor warns him about this lust for power, and D’arc seems to take heed. However, even as I made every moral choice throughout the game, D’arc never shakes the desire for recognition and strength. Even as the rest of the plot fails to be particularly memorable, his interactions with other characters always offer fascinating character studies and psychology.
In terms of his quest, D’arc is tasked with retrieving three mystical MacGuffins in order to prove that he’s fit to stand with other Mages before becoming fully initiated. He’ll accomplish this by solving a multitude of puzzles and facing deadly foes in combat using spells powered by his chosen element.
After getting acquainted with the control system (one of several flavors of the standard point-and-click interface), D’arc is given a series of moral choice questions to determine which element’s magic best suits him. For me, D’arc became a water mage with the ability to slow enemies, attack with deadly ice bolts and tsunami-force waves, produce protective bubbles, and heal himself.
An intuitive battle system allows for easy spell selection in combat, while right clicking on a target takes care of aiming and firing spells. It’s good that it’s mechanically so easy to fight, because I wound up doing a lot of it. Enemies are damage sponges, and pack quite a wallop. Setting the combat difficulty to the easiest setting is highly recommended, as it’s quite possible to be overwhelmed early and often. Even when fully leveled up, D’arc never feels particularly powerful, and doesn’t pack much of a punch. Something to note is that D’arc often runs out of room to maneuver during boss battles (he’s usually trapped in a room or a cavern) so these fights are tricky, even on the easiest difficulty.
D’arc’s cognitive abilities are challenged by the puzzles during his quest. From simple negotiations with villagers to figuring his way out of deathtraps, the challenges are generally clever and varied, and feature mostly logical solutions, The only puzzle I truly disliked had a time-based element to it as D’arc carefully navigated his way to a griffon’s nest. Point-and-click doesn’t readily lend itself to stealth, and this section was frustrating, though not nearly as much as the “find a specific point on a poorly documented map” puzzles that came up more than once. There’s also a bit too much backtracking — while the game makes clever use of teleport points, they’re still too far apart.
Mage’s Initiation: Reign of the Elements is a well put-together adventure title. The game (like its hero) has issues, but its charms more often than not make up for them.
Disclosures: This game is developed and published by Himalaya Studios. It is currently available on PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PC. Approximately 11 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: The game is not rated by the ESRB. There is mild sexual innuendo and a scantily-clad enchantress. There is fantasy violence, including fighting and killing humans and humanoid creatures, but without gore. The word ‘bastard’ is used, but most language is mild. There are some slightly intense scenes of riots and fire which could be disturbing to very young children.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: All dialogue is fully subtitled via a Speech Text checkbox in the Options. All significant gameplay audio cues have a visual component. Subtitles cannot be resized, nor are there font color choices. (See above for example.) This game is fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: Yes, this game offers fully remappable controls for the combat portion. The adventure portion is standard point-and-click format and offers three choices for a control interface: A dropdown toolbar that accesses the game’s commands, a circular interface that appears when the left mouse button is held down which accesses the commands, or a compact interface that appears when the screen is right-clicked.