Mages of Mystralia was an interesting game to review for me. While playing I was overwhelmed with a sense of nostalgia even though I had never played the game before. It felt like the first time I had played Fable or The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, I wanted to be part of this adventure and see where the tale would go! Now don’t get this wrong, Mages of Mystralia is not Fable or Zelda beyond the shared adventure themes and it introduces its own unique aspects to enjoy.
Meet Zia, a young girl who has devastatingly discovered her gift for the arcane powers when she destroys her house with her family inside. Did she intend this? no of course not it was a freak accident. Being a Mage is not something anyone in the land of Mystralia wants to become. It wasn’t always this way with a long line of Mage kings that guided and ruled Mystralia in prosperity. But a time ago the last Mage king went mad and caused havoc in the land. The role of ruling Mystralia was then passed on to the Marquis and all Mages were ordered to be executed upon discovery. Thankfully for Zia her village only banished her. Zia is then greeted by a fellow mage who teaches her the ways of spellcraft.
Mages of Mystralia plays similarly to most adventure games out there but it adds the unique aspect of spellcrafting. Rather than having normal physical attacks or weapon based range attacks everything is done with magic. Your basic attack (Immedi) is a lightning based strike. Ranged attacks (Actus) are imbued with the fire element. Movement (Creo) and defensive (Ego) spells are charged with ice and wind respectively. But don’t think this is all they will ever be oh no. As you progress through the game you begin to find runes that can fundamentally change how each spell will behave.
When you first start out the game your spells are all limited to directly in front of you. By the time you finish your first quest/dungeon, you will have the move modifier that gives both your Actus and Creo spells the ability to move out over distance. Applying the move modifier to Ego results in a dash that can be useful for closing the distance on enemies as well as dodging depending on the situation. Shortly after that, you get your first taste in combining spells when you can add your Immedi spells to the end of Actus resulting in a potent combo that first hits an enemy with fire and a strong lightning burst immediately after. The combinations don’t stop there however and by the end of the game all your basic spells are hardly recognizable as you teleport around enemies and whip up huge firestorms!
Combining spells is where most of the fun of the game came from for me. Each spell is set on a grid system with certain paths that can be used to add augmentations. Each augmentation then adds its own paths that further augmentations can be placed. Depending on how you place things factors in to the end result of the spell. Place (move) on Actus followed by (right) attached to (move) results in a fireball that arcs in a rightward circle. Place (move) on Actus and (right) on Actus produces a fireball that shoots straight right away from Zia. there are numerous combinations to explore and after learning a few the game thankfully lets you save your favorites to individual spells. Thankfully all the spell combinations you make can be quickly selected without having to navigate any menus. A simple press of the L button plus the button used for the spell you wish to change cycles through each of your saved combinations.
While important spell modifiers can be found by doing the main story there are plenty to be found by tackling puzzles throughout the world. These environmental puzzles are a fun challenge and if you get stuck attempting them a hint can be purchased using the in-game currency. I mostly found myself attempting every puzzle as I stumbled across it in hopes of finding either a spell modifier or purple soul bead. Purple soul beads act like a piece of heart from Zelda, collect for and you can take them back to Haven to upgrade either your life bar or Mana bar. There are lots of places to explore in each area of the game so be sure to check a previously visited area when you have new spells to see if you can access a previously unavailable place.
The art style behind Mages of Mystralia is very stylized and really fits with the game and story being told. Colors are varied and vibrant and animations are smooth with spells looking especially cool when used. That being said, the game doesn’t look that great to me when playing on a TV. Everything seems exceptionally blurry and muddied really putting a damper on the otherwise gorgeous visuals. These problems are not present or maybe not noticeable when playing in handheld mode which is how I ended up playing most of the game from then on out.
Mages of Mystralia has a gorgeous soundtrack! I seriously can’t stress that enough just beautiful to listen to. The rest of the audio work thankfully keeps up with crisp sounds for every action. There are no voiced lines in the game outside of certain narrated cutscenes but I never found that to be a bad thing. And unlike other non-voiced games that still give characters “voices” Mages of Mystralia gets it right and the whole thing just sounds better for it. I did experience an issue though where all of the game's audio was about 75% lower than the rest of my systems volume making things hard to hear without headphones. I haven’t heard reports of others with this issue so maybe it is just an isolated incident with my unit.
What It Could Have Done Better
While I find Mages of Mystralia to be an excellent adventure game it isn’t without faults. There were the issues I had with audio and visual quirks which could honestly be fixed up in a patch so those don’t concern me too much. My biggest letdown through my playthrough of Mages of Mystralia came from certain story decisions that came in the late game that really leave you feeling unfinished. Seriously, it is all great and then huh ok…
Despite a few storytelling letdowns the core gameplay behind Mages of Mystralia is a unique take on adventure games that I was happy to experience. Crafting spells and solving the puzzles hidden throughout the world was a blast. I will also add that it was the first time in a long time that it didn’t feel like a chore to do. For any adventure fans out there Mages of Mystralia is an excellent addition to your Switch library!