Wizard of Legend has been the surprise hit of the summer. It really turned into “the little game that could,” selling over 200,000 copies in its first month. The game is a fast paced and action packed dungeon crawler for one or two players. Despite having the most generic video game title ever, it is not simply another indie retro pixel art roguelite. While it certainly contains those elements, what sets Wizard of Legend apart is the smooth controls and its robust mechanics.

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The premise is you are a wizard participating in the Chaos Trials, which entails fighting your way through a procedurally generated dungeon and defeating the Elemental Lords. This game is all about runs—try to get as far as you can before you die. You will take four spells (three attacks and one dash) in with you and can add up to two more to your kit during the run. You can also take one relic, although you can find or buy more during your run, which will provide some kind of passive bonus like enhancing damage or reducing cooldowns on your spells. The variety of spells and relics available would be enough for a full-fledged fantasy RPG. Different colored cloaks you can unlock also provide stat bonuses, such as increased armor or movement speed. On your journey you will also have chances to pick up Cursed items, which bestow powerful effects for a cost—the Glass Cannon doubles your damage, but it also reduces your health. There are three levels to complete, each with two stages and a boss fight, always in a random order. If you survive all of that, you get a shot at a very challenging multi-stage final boss. When you inevitably fall, you will lose your progress and any loot you found and start over on Level 1 – 1. The one thing you keep are chaos gems, the basic currency in the game. These can be used in town to buy new spells, relics, cloaks, and even a few buffs.

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Like many beloved games, Wizard of Legend is deceptively simple. It is easy to pick up the basics by just fiddling around. It handles like a classic arcade beat ‘em up. You sling spells to kill enemies and get loot drops. But if you spend more time with it and learn the rhythms of the game, you will start to see a lot more possibilities. You discover what spells can be combined for massive damage, like using a whirlwind to draw enemies together before you call down a lightning bolt on them. You learn what cloaks and relics will best support your wizard’s build, and you memorize the attack patterns of every foe. The more you learn about how Wizard of Legend works, the more it rewards you. Mid-level bosses and even the Elemental Lords themselves will no longer be threats, but obstacles to overcome. Soon you will be tearing through that dungeon in record time, just to get another shot at the final boss fight. 

And that is all you will do, over and over. Run the dungeon, die, spend gems, repeat. There is no progression other than acquiring new spells and relics, and that is finite and soon exhausted. Once your collection is complete, there is little motivation to keep plumbing the depths. With no story to invest in or characters to fall in love with, the game feels hollow. I know this is common in roguelites, and I’ll admit I’ve never been a fan of the genre. But it is a testament to the gameplay that I still had a lot of fun with it. Wizard of Legend has fast and fluid combat, as well as a charming pixelated art style, strong pillars capable of supporting a much more substantial experience. With a hand-crafted world to explore, full of quests to complete and stories to unravel, I would be sinking hours, entire weekends, into Wizard of Legend instead of just half an hour before bed. In this kind of game, the endless dungeon runner would just be an extra mode.

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I totally understand that Contingent 99 is just a two person operation, and the kind of changes I’m talking about would be a lot more work. It is not my intention to make demands or diminish their creation in any way—it is only because I enjoyed it so much that I want more, and Wizard of Legend has the potential to be so much more. I hope the game’s success continues and gives them the opportunity to keep supporting and adding to it. But even if they don’t, I am definitely looking forward to whatever Contingent 99 does next.

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Written by bhshepherd

Burton Shepherd is a writer in Austin. You can find his novel, "Sweet Benny and the Sanchez Penitentiary Band" on Amazon. Follow him on Twitter @doc_awesomeo.

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