Recently my love for Dungeons and Dragons was rekindled, so when I learned that Ed Greenwood would help pen the story for Mages of Mystralia, I was excited. While I wasn’t exactly expecting another Baldur’s Gate, or a long sprawling epic D&D campaign, I was looking forward to a story I could get invested in. I wanted memorable characters and great world building and while Mages of Mystralia gives players the beginnings of a fantastic journey, it never quite reaches a crescendo. That’s not to say that the story isn’t entertaining; it manages to introduce some great elements and twists which are enjoyable, albeit not particularly memorable.
The story centers around the land of Mystralia, a place where magic and those who wield it are not to be trusted. You take on the role of Zia, a young woman who is given the gift of magic only to justify those fears by burning down her home. She is immediately exiled and left on her own until reaching Haven, a safe spot for exiled mages to live in peace. From there Zia sets off to fulfil her destiny of stopping the BBEG (Big bad evil guy).
Combat in the game is intuitive, with the tutorial section introducing the four spells players will build off of: Immendi, a lightning strike at melee range; Actus, which starts off as a stationary fireball; Creo, the ability to create patches of ice on the ground; and Ego which grants Zia the ability to put up a shield of air in font of herself. While they may sound basic, the spell system is where the game puts most of the focus and development. As players progress through the world they’ll be able to encounter runes which can be used to modify their spells in a variety of ways.
Runes can be broken up into three major types: Behavior, which affects how a spell acts; Trigger which sets off spell effects under certain conditions; and Augment runes which can be used to affect how runs and spells interact with each other.
The runes are then further broken down into different varieties. One of the first runes unlocked is ‘Move’, a type of behavior rune. Combining it with Actus changes it from a stationary fireball to a projectile. It can also be added to Creo in order to make it leave a long path of ice rather than one single slab. Multiple runes can also be combined for more complex effects, but not all of them will work together. The system opens up a lot of experimentation with runes and encourages players to explore the world in search of different ones. The only real downside to the spell crafting system is that it’s not as complex as it makes itself out to be.
The Spell page gives players a hex-style system where the base spell is in the middle, and then nodes interconnect on the outside. Now, earlier in the game players run into puzzles that have a similar layout with the goal of ensuring the correct nodes are facing the proper direction to connect with each other. With that in mind one would expect the same rules to apply with spell crafting, but they don’t. The positioning of the runes doesn’t have any real impact on the spell itself, other than the direction of the node dictating where the rune can be placed. Connecting the runes in a specific way won’t gain any additional benefits which feels like a missed opportunity. It’s a small drawback to what could otherwise be a more in-depth creation system, but at its core the spell crafting still offers a lot of fun and variety.
Despite those short comings the game itself is still a fun adventure, with its environments and design being one of the biggest appeals. Mages of Mystralia uses a vibrant color pallet that really drives home the feeling of fantasy and adventure; from brightly colored enemies to vivid spell effects, everything is a joy to look at.
The game world is also littered with fun puzzles that further pushes a player’s creativity with the spell system. The ability to create spells and use them to solves challenges gives players a sense of satisfaction and investment in Zia’s development, especially when players have her casting a trio of firebolts that can bounce around a stage and keep multiplying over and over.
While parts of the game can evoke feelings of “I wish they’d done more,” that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The gameplay itself is simple and fluid, combat is straightforward and while the enemies found throughout the world don’t provided a lot of variety they’re the perfect practice for the more unique challenges found within dungeons. Mages of Mystralia is a game that’s fun enough to spend more than a few hours exploring and creating different builds. If a game’s only faults are that you wish there was more of it, that can be considered a win.