Overall Score 79%
MAGI - Magical Strategy Game
If there's one thing that I love in a review game, it's when the theme revolves around the big issues. Sure it's fun to rotate falling blocks, guide sheep around a paddock, mash enemy armies, or solve a mystery in my lunchbreak. But imagine that you could cheat Death. Not just cheat him, but open up a can of arcane whoopass, pulverise him into a snivelling pulp, and send him tail between his legs back into the timeless void from whenceforth he ventured. Well, now you can! (Disclaimer: Immortality may not be for your character, please consult your physician and make an informed decision on whether the pursuit of eternal life is right for him or her. Side effects of the attempt may include but are not limited to being burnt, poisoned, smashed, cursed, impaled and otherwise disorientated.)
In MAGI you role play a character that is adept in the magical arts. There are 10 professions that the player may choose from ranging from Warlocks and Sorceresses to Technoliches and Necromancers. The attributes of each profession are redefinable by the player at the start of the game, so really there are a lot of different styles of play within each profession. There are 4 main schools of magic depicted in MAGI; attacking spells, defensive and augmentive spells, summoning skills and curses. Each school of magic is, in turn, dependent on the levels of the various attributes of the players. The player starts with a limited amount of time before Death comes for them (measured in years), and levels up their character by way of duels with other like minded mages. As the player battles, experience points are gained depending on the outcome of said battles (obviously the player is rewarded more for winning them) and when the final battle with Death is inevitable one can only hope that all the training and experience has been worth the effort.
You might be interested to know that Death is just a highly adept magic user, much the same as any others you will have faced up to that point. He is, however, extremely skilled and will make mincemeat out of you unless you face him with an exceptionally high level mage. I am a little embarrassed to admit that I have faced him 5 times now, with various character builds, and have had my scrawny mortal posterior kicked on all occasions. Death is hard to beat - maybe too hard in terms of gameplay, since the mages up to the point where you face him pose little more than menace value in terms of threats to your mortality. That aside though, at least you would feel a genuine sense of satisfaction after winning the game, since both forward planning in terms of character build and a good game strategy will both come in handy in MAGI.
Having said that, the gameplay does tend to get a bit samey after a while. Although the various professions have their own signature spells and incantations, the core game mechanics (and most of the magics used for all characters) are exactly the same for everyone - including Death himself. Before any spells can be cast, the player must open one or more channels for that particular school of magic, and the greater the number of channels opened, the greater the effect of the spell. Opening channels takes time (presumably for the mage to meditate), and strategic choices on whether to attack, defend or open additional channels seem to dictate, in an even matchup, who will emerge victorious. Not that all matches are even, however; the player may find themselves facing significantly stronger or weaker random opponents in the initial battles.
The spell effects are quite exciting to watch and are the graphical highlight of the game. Fireballs explode with particles flying out from the point of impact, curses are easily identified by a good use of colour and healing spells surround the character with auras and spirits. The other artwork is a little modest in comparison, with sprites for characters and summoned creatures, and these have only very basic animations. All of the action is teeming with cool sound effects and a great set of background tracks complement the style of MAGI to a tee. The menu interface is logically set out, and navigated with ease, and once in the game, the entire control scheme is mouse driven - a big thumbs up for this. One minor gripe is the inability to save more than one game at a time. Not only this, but unless you reload your savegame (considered cheating by yours truly), the action is over after the final battle with Death. (Actually, perhaps the game continues if you can beat him, I'm still trying to find out...)
I have really enjoyed playing and reviewing MAGI; the concept is fresh and the implementation of it has produced a game that finds itself without a lot of direct competition. It looks and sounds good, and is easy to learn and easy to control. Not only that, the game is quite addictive, and you'll find yourself staying up way past your bedtime ensnared in the old "just one more battle..." trap.
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