|At the beginning of the game, you're found outside the Mage's Tower of Iglinor|
- Reviewed by: Mark Goninon
- Developer: Himalaya Studios
- Publisher: Himalaya Studios
- Release Date: 31 Jan 2019
- Time played: 12.5 hours
What is itHimalaya Studios was a company founded in Arizona by Britney K. Brimhall and Christopher T. Warren, two developers who used to work at Tierra Entertainment (which was later renamed to AGD Interactive). They worked on remakes of classic Sierra adventure games using the Adventure Game Studio (AGS) engine: free downloadable remakes of King's Quest, King's Quest II, King's Quest III and Quest for Glory II are available on their website.
In 2006, Himalaya Studios released their first commercial game called Al Emmo and the Lost Dutchman's Mine. The game currently holds a Metascore of 77 on Metacritic (generally favourable reviews based on 7 critics). The game hasn't fared as well on Steam with 65% of the 20 user reviews for the game being positive, giving it a "Mixed" Steam rating.
Fast forward to February 2013 and Himalaya Studios decided to launch a Kickstarter project to raise $65,000 USD for a new point 'n' click adventure/RPG hybrid in the same vein as Quest for Glory called Mage's Initiation: Reign of the Elements. The project was successful and $125,174 was raised from 3,157 backers (including yours truly).
Then came the long wait and while the game was initially forecast to be completed by February 2014, it eventually took almost 6 years for Himalaya Studios to finish the game. Anyway, unlike a couple of other Kickstarter projects I backed, the good folks at Himalaya Studios eventually delivered a product in January this year and now that I've finished the game, it's time to give it a review.
Mage's Initiation: Reign of the Elements follows the exploits of a sixteen year-old mage called D'arc who has to successfully complete three trials in order to become officially recognised as a pirate… er, I mean, mage. The game is set in a magical, fantasy world full of dark, goblin-infested forests, barren desert wastelands filled with bandits as well as more civilized locations such as the Mage's Tower, the town of Iglinor and the Flyterian village (the Flyterians are a race of winged creatures that live in the mountains). Gameplay is quite similar to the classic Sierra adventure/RPG hybrid Quest for Glory except you have different schools of magic to choose from instead of different classes. Like Quest for Glory and its different classes, picking a different school of magic means you not only have different ways to dispatch enemies, but also solve puzzles.
How I got itAs mentioned, I was a Kickstarter backer since 2013. Almost six years later, and I finally received a copy of the game to play with 😊. I'm a big fan of the Quest for Glory games (and anything that remotely resembles them) so this was the reason I backed the project in the first place. The game has featured twice (in 2018 and 2019) on the Choicest Games 10 Most Anticipated PC Games List so it's obviously a game we're quite excited to see released.
|I love the game's artwork and its memorable characters|
What I like:
Convincing charactersThe characters in this game are quite convincing thanks to most of them having their own flaws and motivations. As a result, many of the characters are quite memorable, to the point I was sympathetic with some of their plights.
Gorgeous pixel artI love the high-res pixel art (I'm guessing you can still call it pixel art, despite it being at a much higher resolution than traditional point 'n' click adventures of yore) and the portraits are gorgeous too.
Voice actingConsidering this is an indie game, I was quite surprised at the quality of the voice acting. There are great performances by almost everyone but the stand-out performer for me is Stewart Crowcombe who voices a character called Fend.
The only (major) exception to this is the voice acting for the main character, D'arc. Maybe I'm being too harsh though, since maybe a sixteen year-old boy's voice is meant to sound annoying 😉.
QuestionnaireI always loved the fact that in games like Morrowind or Ultima IX you would have to answer a questionnaire with moral dilemmas and that the choices you made would determine which class suited you best; Mage's Initiation is another game I can now add to that list and in my case, I actually ended up with the school of magic I expected (and wanted).
Logical puzzlesThankfully, unlike some other games I've been playing recently (*cough* King's Quest *cough*) the solutions to all the puzzles in the game, seem to make sense (and this is a world which involves the use of magic, mind you). I never felt that any of the puzzles in the game were impossible to solve (unlike Sierra adventure games of the 1980s) or the solutions too far-fetched to figure out (unlike some Lucasarts adventure games).
Excellent replay valueThe fact you can play as a mage from four different schools of magic means the game offers excellent replay value. Each school of magic has a different way of approaching combat, a different way of solving puzzles and even different side quests (yes, the game has side quests tailored for each school of magic)!
Not only that, but when you've finished the game, you can save the character file which I assume can be used to import your character in a sequel (similar to games from the Quest for Glory and Mass Effect series).
One playthrough took me 11 hours to complete so if you were to play with every school of magic (keeping in mind subsequent playthroughs will be quicker) there's probably a good 20-30 hours of gameplay here (at least).
Steam AchievementsThe game has 44 Steam Achievements you can earn and it encourages playthroughs (since you'll only earn certain achievements using a particular school of magic). What I also like is that performing good, honourable deeds in the game not only results in a warm and fuzzy feeling you'd typically feel playing as a paladin in Quest for Glory, it also results in extra achievements being awarded 😊.
|The difference in style between the cut scenes and the rest of the artwork, is jarring.|
What I dislike:
Pixel huntingUnfortunately, I managed to get stuck at one point in the game and sadly had to resort to using a walkthrough… What I discovered, infuriated me because I had fallen for an old flaw of Sierra point 'n' click adventures: the dreaded hunting for pixels. To be fair on Himalaya Studios, the first time I encountered this (yes, it happened again later that same week) the object wasn't only a few pixels in size; it's actually quite noticeable but it's camouflaged with a whole bunch of other things on the screen, and that's the main problem: there are so many items on screen that you can interact with that 90% of the time, there's no point interacting with them because they'll give you a generic response when you're looking at them. So, when the object you're actually looking for is mixed up with several items or bits of scenery that have given you generic messages, you just assume there's nothing to discover on the screen.
Exits you didn't even realise were thereOh, and while on the topic of flaws found in old Sierra point 'n' click adventure games, I also succumbed to the good ol' I-didn't-even-realise-there-was-another-exit-to-this-room trick. I spent a good amount of time trying to find my escape route for a room when it turned out there was a doorway at the bottom of the screen. Argh! If only the mouse cursor changed to an "EXIT" sign or something when hovering over potential exits.
CutscenesAnother aspect of the game I wasn't a big fan of were the cinematics. I love the portraits and the art style they've established in-game and the art style they've used in the cinematics just doesn't gel. I think they could've just stuck to using the in-game engine for the cut-scenes to be honest, and it would've been better.
Bugs and glitchesI did encounter a bug where an inventory item didn't change depending on which state it was in (which really confused me and resulted in me wasting time on a puzzle when I didn't need to). I also encountered a couple of animation glitches too, however there was nothing too serious that I couldn't overcome and generally, the game is rather well polished.
Score – 8/10 (Recommended)Mage's Initiation: Reign of the Elements is recommended for those hankering for a game similar to Quest for Glory: A Sierra-style point 'n' click adventure with RPG elements. Sure, the game suffers from many pitfalls that were commonplace in old Sierra adventure games, the player character's voice acting isn't always the best and I'm not a fan of the cutscenes either, but overall this is a game I found addictive and ultimately worthwhile: convincing characters, gorgeous artwork, a strong voice cast, logical puzzles and excellent replay value means this is a game I'll likely come back to again and again.
Is the game worth $20.99 AUD?: Yes. Around $20 for a new AGS adventure game is a fair price.
If you like this game, you might like…
- Quest for Glory series (1989 - 1998)
- Heroine's Quest: The Herald of Ragnarok (2014)
- Hero-U: Rogue to Redemption (2018)
[ LINK: Official Website ]