Wizard of Legend: Be quick or be dead

An arcade/arena action game where you move like a ninja, pull off combos like a Street Fighter, and fire off spells like an arcane machine gun.

In Wizard Of Legend, you play as a wizard (of course) tackling the Chaos Trials. Except it’s not the kind of wizard you’re probably imagining – you’re not playing as a geriatric old Gandalf, or a baby-faced Harry Potter on his first day in Hogswarts.

Oh, no, you’re playing as a whole new class of wizard – one who dashes about like a ninja, chains combos like a Street Fighter on turbo, and rapid-fires spells like your wand is a machine gun.

If you’re looking for a fast-paced spell-slinging action game that will test your skills and reflexes, then best put on your finest wizarding cloak, because Wizard Of Legend is about to make you feel legendary.

Battle mage

Wizard Of Legend’s beautiful, fantasy-themed, pixel art visuals might make you think the game is a rogue-like dungeon-crawling RPG (role playing game), but you’d only be partially correct.

The game isn’t an RPG at all – there’s little emphasis on story, and no levelling/progression system to grind XP for.

Instead, the game is a whole new class of rogue-like arena brawler, where the thrill comes from honing your skills to master the lightning-paced action of the game and learning to read (and hopefully counter) your enemies’ moves, with very little room for error.

TELEGRAPHING: Learning to anticipate the actions of one enemy is easy, the challenge is handling multiple enemies at a time.

Learning to anticipate the actions of one enemy is easy, the challenge is handling multiple enemies at a time.

Wizard Of Legend has more in common with games like Doom or Bayonetta, than Final Fantasy or Zelda.

The story setup is pretty simple: you’re a wizard who’s taking part in the Chaos Trials, a magical competition that sees you fighting your way through a series of randomly-generated dungeons so you can take on members of the Council of Wizards in gloriously dangerous, element-themed boss battles.

Magic cards

What makes the game so ­engaging to play – and replay – is the wide variety of spells available, combined with the structure of each dungeon run.

There are over a hundred spells for you to unlock in this game (and about as many “relic” items with passive effects), each with its own explosively animated visual effect, but you can only equip four spells (and one relic) at the start of each attempt at the Chaos Trials.

This isn’t unlike building a “deck of cards” from your larger ­collection to take into battle, (ala Magic: The Gathering) so at the start of each dungeon run, you’ll need to decide whether you’re going in as a kung fu specialist with the Flame Strike and Lightning Aspect arcana, or an elusive ­trickster with the Frost Feint dash and the mind-controlling Mentis Imperium arcana, or whatever it is that Earth mages do.

FLAME EMPRESS ZEAL: Im fighting a mad kung fu master of fire magic, and my main spell is ... a few splashes of water. This will go well

I’m fighting a mad kung fu master of fire magic, and my main spell is … a few splashes of water. This will go well!

Playing around with different combinations of spells and relics is the key to Wizard Of Legend’s replayability, as it staves off the inevitable feeling of repetition you might get from going through the same three elemental dungeon areas over and over again.

You can find more spells and ­relics during each dungeon run, but only items you permanently unlock with hard-to-earn gems will remain in your collection after you’re inevitably knocked out and have to restart the Chaos Trials.

That’s right, if you “die”, you have to restart the dungeons from level one – this is a rogue-like after all, and that leads me to my next point: the game can be pretty tough.

Dancing with death

For all the fun the game can be when you’ve reached a zen-like state of mastery where you can predict enemy movements through sheer experience, it takes a lot of practice and an embarrassing amount of defeats to get there.

The game does not make things easy for new players: for starters, the one trait this game’s ninja wizards share with classic “RPG wizards” is that they’re glass cannons.

Lots of firepower, but barely enough health to withstand a ­gentle fart, made worse by how ­difficult it is to find healing in this game. (This isn’t Cleric Of Legend, dangit.)

Another issue is that you have to figure out a lot of details yourself: the game doesn’t really tell you what each spell and relic does until you’ve purchased them, and the only way you’ll learn to read the telegraphs of your enemy’s attacks is after you’ve suffered a few (dozen) cheap shots.

The game can be a challenge, but it’s a challenge worth mastering – the satisfaction of finally figuring out (and dodging) the attack ­patterns of that one boss that keeps beating you, for example, is ­something that makes you really feel like a champion spellcaster.

TWICE THE FUN: Having a partner in local co-op means twice the fun, but good luck figuring out what's happening the flurry of magical explosions.

Having a partner in local co-op means twice the fun, but good luck figuring out what’s happening the flurry of magical explosions.

As an added bonus, you can also bring a friend along to help out in your dungeon runs, as the game (at least on the Switch) has a local co-op option.

It’s really quite fun blasting the living daylights out of enemy knights and archers with a buddy, but given the natural firepower of a single mage, it admittedly does get difficult to tell what’s going on on the screen when there are two ­reality-warping master sorcerers throwing fire dragons, summoning thunderstorms, and shooting ice daggers all at the same time.

Good news is, everything else in the room is almost guaranteed to be obliterated once the dust settles.

I am legend

Wizard Of Legend comes highly recommended if you’re looking for a fast, responsive, skill-based action game that’s also a visual delight. The game’s available on multiple platforms, including PC/Mac/Linux, PS4, and Xbox One, though I ­personally enjoyed my copy on my Nintendo Switch since it lets me play the game anywhere.

Just remember that, however you choose to play, there’s no one “best” way to win the Chaos Trials.

Haha, just kidding – my way is absolutely the best. Equip the stun-locking Bolt Rail basic attack, life-stealing Vampire Sunglasses, golden Awe cloak, and every possible multi-hit Lightning spell, and you too can be a wizard of legend!

Pros: Fast paced action game with responsive controls and satisfyingly powerful spells, beautiful pixel art. 

Cons: Can be brutally difficult to start.

Wizard of Legend
(Contingent99)
Arcade brawler for multiple platforms
Website: wizardoflegend.com
Rating: 4 stars 

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Detroit: Become Human – Androids dreaming, sheepishly

Is it better to be a lamb or a lion if you’re an artificially intelligent life form seeking liberty? This interactive adventure lets you decide – but decide fast and hold firm you must.

AFTER being wowed by the ­surprisingly ­emotive action/sleuthing game Heavy Rain eight years ago, I didn’t need much convincing to accept the task of reviewing Quantic Dream and writer-director David Cage’s latest effort. A ­couple of hours into Detroit: Become Human (D:BH), ­however, made me wonder if I had been a little too hasty.

Besides overcoming my own gaming rust, there was also the little matter of seeing a whole bunch of old AI sci-fi movie tropes being dredged up as I played through the three ­different story arcs that make up the backbone of the story.

Detroit: Become Human

Something has been happening to the androids and some of them have been rebelling against their programming, leading to some being hunted down and destroyed by law enforcement.

A bit further on, the struggles of the game’s principal characters began to grow on me – helped by the elegant game interface that mostly sustains the illusion you are ­controlling the direction of the story. Mostly.

As in Heavy Rain, the story unfolds ­according to decisions that you make at key points in the plot. At certain critical moments, you also need to pass a series of Quick Time Events (usually pressing the right buttons or control sequence in time) to deal with more serious business.

The game is set in Detroit (duh) in 2038, a time when androids have become an affordable and disposable labour force – and let’s not forget the, er, recreational ­applications of the technology.

(They are so affordable, in fact, that even deadbeat dads who have no jobs and drink all day long can still have one to cook and clean and babysit.)

Only something has been happening to these automatons and some of them have been rebelling against their programming, even to the extent of killing people. Known as “deviants”, they are hunted down and retired by Blade Runn – whoa, I mean destroyed by law enforcement.

The droids you’re rooting for

You alternatingly take control of three characters:

• Connor, probably the most interesting of the lot, an android assigned by Cyberlife, the solitary android manufacturer, to help the police find deviants;

• Markus, a caregiver droid looking after an eccentric semi-invalid artist, who finds himself in some seriously harsh situations; and

• Kara, a housekeeper droid who finds it hard to obey her programming when her owner (the abovementioned deadbeat dad) starts taking out his frustrations on his little daughter Alice.

Markus could not believe it when he was cast alongside one of the Great Old Ones, the android named Bishop. Or maybe its just Lance Henriksen being performance-captured.

Markus could not believe it when he was cast alongside one of the Great Old Ones, the android named Bishop. Or maybe its just Lance Henriksen being performance-captured.

Their respective arcs, or chapters, ­alternate in a way over which you have little to no control – unless you seriously mess up and a major character dies. Don’t expect there to be much depth to the story then.

The respective goals of these characters become pretty obvious quite early on in the story, but their attitude and approach (and of course, success) is usually dependent upon your choices.

Roger-roger

Do they behave passively like lambs or roar like lions? When do they stand up to humans to get their way, and when do they obediently comply?

Your possibilities are presented as multiple-choice lists most of the time, but depending on your earlier decisions, you may actually get more options in some situations.

Bonding with non-playable characters usually makes it easier to get through difficult situations further along in the game.

Bonding with non-playable characters usually makes it easier to get through difficult situations further along in the game.

For example, endearing yourself to certain key but non-playable characters could change their attitude towards you and so, open up more possible ways of interacting with them further down the line.

Sometimes, these extra choices make all the difference between doing things the easy way or the hard QTE-filled way.

Similarly, antagonising certain people could narrow your range of options or even close off some story branches completely.

It is not handled as seamlessly as it sounds, though. Sometimes, characters respond in a way that’s quite inconsistent with how they reacted to you earlier.

Connor has the nifty ability to reconstruct crime scenes based on evidence that the player manages to detect.

Connor has the nifty ability to reconstruct crime scenes based on evidence that the player manages to detect.

And later on in the story, one playable character’s elevation to let’s say, “community leader” appeared to happen almost entirely “off camera”.

The story was one of the winning aspects of Heavy Rain for me, while the control ­system was innovative for its time but had some rough edges in the way it was ­interwoven with the narrative.

The reverse seems to be the case with D:BH. The story will seem all too familiar to anyone who has watched a handful of AI-themed movies (or read similar stories). Also, it glosses over parallels between the androids’ struggles and the Civil Rights Movement, which seems to have been ­forgotten by humanity at large by 2038.

Not like any other machine

What it lacks in originality or thoughtfulness, D:BH makes up for with some ­intriguing moral and ethical choices that at times may even challenge your own ­sensibilities.

Without going too much into them, or ­giving away spoilers, I guess I can say that to get far in the game, you should pretty much go the whole “do unto others” route – at least on the first play-through.

After that, on subsequent tries, treat this broadly-outlined world as your canvas. There are many ways things can go – after each chapter, just review the “mission ­flowchart” and check out the paths not taken to see just how much you missed.

An example of the chapter flowcharts in the game. Dont worry – this is just from the prologue.

An example of the chapter flowcharts in the game. Don’t worry – this is just from the prologue.

(Also, if you “fail” a chapter, just select Flowcharts from the main menu, pick the chapter in question, and reload the last saved checkpoint before you messed up.)

The game’s control system is neatly integrated, and you have the option of casual or challenging difficulty so those who just want to follow the story flow without too much of a blood pressure spike can select the former. Even mundane chores like doing the dishes and serving breakfast are somewhat ­agreeable (don’t worry, you don’t have to do this too much), but there are also some really neat features available thanks to the ­principal characters’ mechanoid nature.

Detroit: Become Human

D:BH‘s story will seem all too familiar to anyone who has watched a handful of AI-themed movies or read similar stories.

The best of these is the ability to analyse situations and compute possible pathways, and then execute your actions. Handy for performing crazy-@$$ feats that probably wouldn’t be possible if you were playing a human character other than Chuck Norris.

As Connor, you also have the ability to analyse crime scenes based on the evidence and then do some neat stage-by-stage reconstructions of the criminal act to obtain even more clues or even solve the case at hand.

End game

On the whole, D:BH just barely manages to be greater than the sum of its parts, the familiarity of the story and the shallow ­handling of the androids’ struggle for liberty aside.

A couple of familiar faces show up in the course of the game – yes, thats the Kurgan on the right with a different Connor than in Highlander.

A couple of familiar faces show up in the course of the game – yes, that’s the Kurgan on the right with a different Connor than in ‘Highlander’.

As a gaming experience, I found it ­absorbing enough to sacrifice several nights of my early retirement to play it through to the end. And then to replay the last couple of (really long) chapters because I didn’t like how I handled one character’s arc.

So on that score, Cage & Co have certainly succeeded in tapping into our own ­“programming”: that hardwired need for a compellingly told story, and to feel that we are in control of our own destiny.

Pros: Absorbing gameplay; slick interface and gorgeous visuals; balanced moral and ethical choices; generous variety of possible outcomes; emotionally strong payoffs (both the good and bad outcomes); atmospheric soundtrack. 

Cons: Story just rehashes old sci-fi tropes; player is forced down arbitrary paths sometimes; having multiple POV character arcs tends to disrupt narrative flow.

Detroit: Become Human
(Quantic Dream)
Survival/adventure game for PS4
Rating: 4 stars
Price: RM209 for Standard; RM249 for Deluxe Edition 

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