Lichdom: Battlemage

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Lichdom: Battlemage on Steam

MSRP: $39.99

Platforms: PC, PS4, XBox One

Release: 8/26/14


I went into Lichdom: Battlemage with super-low expectations. It’s gotten a lot of negative reviews on Steam (and elsewhere), and everything I read about it led me to believe that it was a game that’s reach far exceed its grasp.  And that may be true, but really, so far the biggest problem I’ve found with the game is its price.

I held the title in the back of my mind for the day when it dropped below $5 on some absolutely fantastic sale.  And then it showed up in this Bundle Stars bundle and I couldn’t resist. I managed to snag the bundle at the intro price of $1.99, and figured that even if every game in it was horrid, it was 8 more days of blog fodder (that’s right, I’m here to play the worst games so you don’t have to!).

Spoiler: They don’t all suck. The bundle is worth $2 just for Cook, Serve, Delicious!

Anyway, I digress.

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Lichdom: Battlemage plays like a really strange hybrid of an FPS starring fireballs and a complex crafting RPG. This is both why it plays oddly and sounds really fantastic.  The idea is phenomenal.  The execution is clumsy but playable. The tutorial is just shy of being useless – it only saves itself by allowing you to re-watch any or all of the sections from the main menu whenever you like.

If you choose the easiest difficulty, you can probably get away with figuring out absolutely nothing and just mash the left mouse button through the whole game. I went for the second easiest (the default difficulty is third, and then there’s a hard mode), and felt like I was mostly ok with having no idea what I was doing.

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Aside from the mechanics, which are their own can of worms, the game seems to be less about pros and cons as pros and mehs.  Character creation is simply a case of choosing a name and then selecting either a male or female avatar. The opening cutscene is a little ham-handed, but at least as far as choosing a female avatar is concerned, I love the voice work of the player character.  Movement is WASD with mouse look, and while I wish it were slightly more fluid, it’s not bad.  The environments are nice to look at.  I don’t think there’s any kind of map function, but the game is on rails, and you can always press V to get a bright white light pointing you in the right direction if you get turned around.

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I am hoping that my struggles with the mechanics are the result of a steeper learning curve and poor directions than of flaws in the mechanics themselves.  When I cast a targeted spell, it doesn’t always go where I expect it to. I’m not sure if that’s me aiming poorly, or if the targeting system is not really a logical system, but more like a lottery where maybe you’ll hit the thing you want to hit.  For the time being, I’m using the For Dummies version of the crafting system, and here I think the game designers really knew that they were stretching because they felt the need to include a For Dummies version in the first place.  I’m hoping in time I’ll grow past it.

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My bottom line is this: if I had paid full price for this game, I already would have requested a refund and called it a broken game. There’s a certain level of polish I expect from any game with a MSRP over $20, and Lichdom: Battlemage doesn’t have it. I think I am willing to struggle with it precisely because I paid so little.

I’m glad I went into Lichdom: Battlemage with low expectations and gave it a chance to exceed them.  It did, but just barely, in the first hour of play. I’m still optimistic that it will improve as I practice and learn exactly how things work. I’d recommend this to anyone who is interested in complex magic systems and not put off by the permanent first person view and having to look some things up outside the game to make it all work.

Final note: Lichdom: Battlemage utilizes a checkpoint save system.  Unlike most games with these kinds of systems, there are no indications of when the game is actually saving.  This is because your inventory & crafted spells are updated in real time, but you place in the map only saves when you use a void pool. So if you see anything that looks like the picture below, approach it and hold down F, even if you don’t think there’s any reason to after the first one. Saving the game is the reason. You can thank me later.

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