Rogue-like and Rouge-lite games are pretty much part and parcel of the indie gaming scene now. But more often than not they struggle to stay close to their hardcore challenging roots. This is why it pleased me so much to see the Wizard of Legend stay true to its origins; offering challenging gameplay, a repetitive grind and some down-right awesome combat.
The game starts with you controlling a wizard through a museum. It doesn’t take long to realise that this museum is completely based on wizardry, and more specifically The Chaos Trials. These brutally challenging trials are a yearly event in the kingdom of Lanova and an opportunity for the upcoming wizard to prove their power and become a Legend of Wizard.
Although I really enjoyed the opening moments of the game and how the museum acted as a non-hand hold tutorial, I did question the depth Wizard of Legend would offer when I realised just how short the trials looked. Made up of just six dungeon-style sections, three bosses and a final area, I didn’t feel a great sense of warmth towards what I assumed to be a small and linear amount of content – but just like always, I was pretty wrong.
Now, there’s no denying Wizard of Legend is linear, I mean, gameplay plays out like classic dungeon crawlers, but it’s far from shallow. Although the game is billed as a rouge-lite, it most definitely steers more towards the rogue-like genre. When you die you start from the beginning with no progression towards a new level, no new abilities and almost nothing carrying over except for a few chaos gems. Although this brutal approach to the games progressions will no-doubt put players off and may also feel very grindy, it also fits in perfectly with how Wizard of Legend’s combat is set up.
The game offers two main collectables that change how the game plays; Relics and Arcana. The Relics are your general type of collectable and offer different passive abilities to help in your quest to overcome the trials. Although these help in a small way to mix up the gameplay, they are way off the impact the different Arcana throw your way. This Arcana acts as your main abilities when taking on the myriad of enemies in the trials and although all this sounds pretty bog-standard, it’s the way they stack to create brilliantly satisfying combos that play out in a wonderful explosion of pixel artwork that feels special.
Before delving into the trials your able to equipped 4 different Arcana, you can equip a further two if you choose to purchase them in the dungeons. There are two ways to purchase new Arcana and Relics. Firstly, you can use your Precious chaos gems that are slowly stockpiled from every attempt of the trials. Secondly, you can use gold acquired while on a run to buy them from a vendor who’s set up shop in the trials themselves. Buying items from the in-trial vendors will no-doubt help you on your quest for wizardry perfection, but death will also see all of them swiftly following your progress and gold down the pan. I actually really liked this approach to the currency balance, buying Arcana with throw-away gold offers an almost ‘try-before-you-buy’ option to the Arcana, allowing you to literally test it in action before dropping your hard-earned gems on a new ability.
Another area where the in-trial vendors mix things up is by allowing you to stack more relics and Arcana. Before setting off into The Chaos Trials you’re allowed to equip four Arcana and 1 relic, but there are actually 6 Arcana slots available and an unlimited cap on the number of Relics you can stack. The ability to over-equip in the trials themselves brings a real sense of tangibility to the gold as a currency. So often I would be torn between buying a disposable health potion or a semi-permanent relic – adding a slightly deeper RPG element to the gameplay.
There is part of the games excellent combat system that I do feel is a little shallow and that’s the lack of loadouts. Each of the trail sections is made up of different elemental enemies and a final elemental boss. The order in which these play out is randomly generated everytime you start a new trial, which can bring a rather annoying sense of randomness. For example, I spend all of my gems kitting my wizard out with a pretty powerful fire set of Arcana, with a fire relic on top. However, my next three run-throughs of the trials all started with the fire section, and although this doesn’t have a huge disadvantage with the general NPC’s, it does make the elemental boss almost impossible to defeat. If the game offered the ability to build custom Arcana loadouts it would sit better in its rouge-lite sub-genre as the progressions that carried over would be the building of your different elemental loadouts.
In the end, it took me a whopping 49 attempts at the Trials of Chaos to become a Wizard of Legend, and I thoroughly enjoyed my time in almost every single run. The lack of loadouts combined with the random order of the elemental trials can create some frustration, especially around the 20th to 30th run. But once you’ve found a combat combo that suits you and have a firm grip on the game’s enemies and the more challenging elemental bosses, then becoming a Wizard of Legend is a lot of challenging fun.