Game Review: Mage's Initiation: Reign of the Elements
Welcome, young initiate. Do you have what it takes to become a full-fledged mage?
I've been playing a pre-release version of Mage's Initiation: Reign of the Elements, a classic role-playing game from Himalaya Studios, done in the style of Sierra On-Line's classic King's Quest series. This is only so surprising given that the people behind this new game worked on creating those classics and their remakes. Mage's Initiation is a medieval-style fantasy game with puzzles, treasures, labyrinthine settings, magic, spell-casting battles and monsters. Mage's Initiation began its life as a Kickstarter where it has been hotly anticipated. If you want to check into all that, I link to the Kickstarter page at the end, but right now, I just want to tell you about the game.
In Mage's Initiation, you play a student mage, taken from your family at the age of six to a mystical tower in Iginor, a seemingly idyllic land. In the Mage's Tower, you spend years studying the power of the elements. After ten years, it's Initiation Day, and you are ready to discover which of the elements has chosen you as its champion. In my case, I wound up following the path of water, but you can play (or replay) any of the four classic elements.
Figure 1. Initiation Day, Following the Path of Water
My young initiate's name is "D'Arc", which is, of course, an interesting name partly in what it might conceal. You find out that D'Arc dreams of demons which, he is told, means greatness. He also learns that the road to greatness is dangerous.
The colorful two-dimensional animation is reminiscent of games I played more than 20 years ago, and it's wonderful. I was taken in right away. There are plenty of characters, all with their own personalities, and the voice acting is varied and excellent. In the first part of the game, you'll wander the halls of the Mage's tower, taking in details, talking to other students, collecting various items, and most important, gathering information about what is to come next. This is, after all, the day of your initiation, and you will face a number of quite possibly, deadly trials before the day is out. Ask lots of questions. Pay attention. No detail is too small.
There are several halls that you access by an element-themed transport pad with a large gem in the center (pay attention, and don't forget the combinations). Each hall may be populated with different characters who will provide you with what you need to continue.
Mages see themselves as something other than merely human (the ungifted). The elements are there "For delivering us from the folly of humankind". The water Master says, "Without us, humankind would fall to pollution and invention." That's interesting, because although I suggested a medieval world, there are hints that this is possibly a post-technology world, where technology has collapsed, and magic has returned. As I write this, I don't know this for a fact, but the hints are definitely there.
On his way to his first task, D'Arc meets the Master Mages, talks with friends in the study hall and visits other mages, including Jonis who spends his entire time in an observatory at the top of the tower. Why visit the world when you can see it all from up here? From this vantage point, D'Arc catches a glimpse of the location of the first deadly task, collecting a lock of hair from a priestess who is pure evil. The priestess is currently trapped on Lone Island, a place that you watch flicker in and out of existence through the lens of Jonis' telescope.
Figure 2. Jonis' Telescope
If you survive the priestess, you can move on to your other tasks, finding a perfect Griffon's egg (which the Griffon won't just give you) and collecting the horn of a Trinocorn (ditto on the not giving up). Long before you get to even the first task, you'll visit the village, encountering more wonderful characters (make sure you talk to the blacksmith; his conversations are particularly interesting), collecting information, and loading up on whatever supplies your meager purse can afford. Of course, every good fantasy town needs a tavern where ne'er do wells hang out. Why not stop by and have a pint?
Figure 3. Visiting the Pub
Eventually, you find yourself in less friendly areas, which means those magic spells of yours will come in handy. Look at Figure 4 and you'll see my Water Mage, D'Arc, in the Bloodbark Forest, engaged in a battle with some rather unfriendly Redcap goblins. It took me a while to get the hang of combat, and by now, everything has killed me at least once. This screenshot makes me look like I pose, at the very least, a minor challenge, and not a complete disgrace to the title of "mage". If you aren't up to fighting, you can, of course, just run away.
Figure 4. Fighting Goblins
As you travel through the game, D'Arc gains experience, new abilities and new spells. Movement is point-and-click as well as keyboard-driven, and you can reconfigure some aspects of how you interact with the game, such as how to access the control interface or what key sequences to use for casting spells. You can save your progress in the game at any time by pulling up the control interface, and you can set multiple save points. This is useful if you want to go back to an earlier section to replay a scene in order to remind yourself of details you might have forgotten. I've used that quite a bit in the time I've been playing.
Maybe it's just the nostalgia trip, but so far, I'm loving this game. The animation style is great as are the character depictions and the voices. The music and sound effects are well suited to the action. There's also plenty to discover and a fascinating world to explore. In short, I definitely recommend this one.
Mage's Initiation is available starting today, January 30, 2019, via the Steam store. It's available for Linux systems and a couple other, less notable, operating systems.