Lichdom: Battlemage initially released on PC in 2014. Earlier this year, the game was ported to Xbox One and PlayStation 4, which is what this review will cover.
To describe it briefly, it’s a first-person shooter style game that replaces your guns and grenades with spells and mage-style abilities. It sounds like a perfect marriage between magical RPGs and fast-paced first-person shooters, but, unfortunately, the game suffers something of an identity crisis – be warned: it has more in common with modern FPS games than it has with fantasy RPGs.
While it’s fun to play, it’s hard to recommend when both the FPS and the mage-based RPG have better titles to offer on both Xbox One and PS4.
You’re a Dragon. Not an actual dragon, but “the Dragon” that’s been destined to take down the evil Shax and his army of undead. You team up with the Gryphon, a spy-like character that scouts ahead and lets you know what you’re headed towards. The Gryphon also seems to witness events that are way cooler than the ones you’ll come across, which is unfortunate. They’re clearly a surrogate for the player, spouting line after line of sometimes incomprehensible exposition every time they show up.
The story is light. I appreciate that the game is largely gender-neutral, and playing as either a male or female dragon doesn’t affect dialogue too much. In fact, a male writer was given control of the male route while a female writer was given control of the female route, something that’s rarely seen in video games.
However, the story itself can get quite repetitive. After playing the game twice, it’s surprising at how little variety the objectives provide despite the vast amount of lore and plot that could have been integrated into the core gameplay. A sequel to the game would do well to focus more on the story, as the RPG style setting doesn’t make a whole lot of sense with the frail storyline that’s presented. It certainly doesn’t keep you from having a good time, but it does make things more muddled. This also makes the campaign feel way too long, which is unfortunate given the potential that the game has.
The gameplay of Lichdom: Battlemage is pretty fun. You’ll spend the campaign (which takes around 15 or 16 hours to complete) shooting spells that wouldn’t look out of place in Skyrim or even as plasmids in a BioShock game.
You’ll unlock tons of different types of spells: there are eight different sigils (or powers) that you can unlock. They range from mage basics like fire, ice, and lightning to more specialized categories like delirium and corruption. Unfortunately, you can only wield three sigils at once, so you won’t have all eight powers at your disposal at any point during the game. I have to admit that this was quite disappointing for me, but the decision to limit sigils may have been made to make sure that the player is never too powerful.
This makes sense, because even on harder difficulties, you’ll find yourself blowing through enemies like they’re made of paper. Lichdom: Battlemage is by no means a hard game. The bosses will challenge you from time to time, but most of the regular enemies are complete pushovers. The only exception is when they’re in the air or far away, in which case the lack of a crosshair might cause your spell to miss or hit a different target.
Within each sigil are spell types. Overall, there are seven of them. Lob spells are good for attacking from a distance, while trap spells are great for taking on large groups of enemies. You can beef up your spells by using a unique spell crafting system, but it’s incredibly complicated. Luckily, there’s a simplified version that’s selected by default – this option allows you to let the game level your spells up for you, and the stronger versions are immediately equipped. If you choose to do it manually, you’ll have to learn a lot more about the game than most players.
Throughout the game, you’ll pick up augments – they have properties like mastery, focus, destruction, and control. By putting augments together, you can create new spells. It sounds simple, but most players will grow tired of the complex menu and stick with the simplified version. There’s definitely a lot of depth to the spell crafting system, but it’s very hard to get into.
The sound and visuals are where Lichdom: Battlemage struggles the most on Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Framerate stutters are common. Glitches in the audio are routine. At times, I found myself looking at the screen and thinking I was playing a backwards compatible Xbox 360 game – this simply isn’t what a current-gen console title should look like. The rendering time is far too long, and you’ll be seeing obstacles pop up out of nowhere as you move through the linear maps. Enemies blend together, and even environments start looking the same after a while.
All of the gameplay and plot issues are bearable to a certain extent, but I had a lot of trouble getting over the audio / visual component of the game. Again, these flaws are extremely unfortunate, as Lichdom: Battlemage has a great idea – it’s just that the execution could have been much better.
If the concept and the gameplay trailers intrigue you, you should definitely give Lichdom: Battlemage a try. It’s not too expensive, and it provides a decent amount of genuine fun. Just don’t expect a game that you’ll be coming back to again and again.
I believe in Maximum Games, though, and I believe in this concept. With enough support and effort, Lichdom 2 could be one of the best games we’ve ever seen. For now, though, proceed with caution.
Review copy provided by Maximum Games