Mages of Mystralia is an RPG centered on the protagonist Zia, a flame-haired young mage, who having only just discovered her powers, almost destroys her home town. Zia is then exiled and sets off to learn how to properly control her abilities with the help of other exiled mages in sanctuary know as Haven. As well as picking to some new spells, Zia soon discovers a sinister plot, and suddenly the fate of Mystralia lies in her hands.
On the surface, Mages of Mystralia is an action-RPG with plenty of combat and an arsenal of spells mapped to the Xbox controller buttons. However, it's not long before you soon discover a well thought out puzzle game bursting to get out.
Here's what I liked:
Impressions count – One of the first things you'll notice is the bright and cheerful graphical style. Simple yet stunning, the colorful animations burst into the screen creating a warm and friendly tone for the game. Not quite a retro style since the graphics show a surprising level of detail, yet it's brightness harks back to 90s 3D gaming which seems to be making a comeback in recent months. The soundtrack is equally cheerful, impressively conducted by Shota Nakama and performed by the Video Game Orchestra at SoundtRec Boston, setting you up for some truly merry questing.
Perfectly crafted – Generally speaking, I'm not a fan of crafting in games, but Mages of Mystralia manages to hit the balance perfectly. You'll start the game with four basic spells which can be tweaked and modified as often as you please using special runes. These runes alter the spell, often in a fairly dramatic manner, such as turning a melee flame into a ranged flame attack or a shield spell can become a dodge manoeuvre. Combining several runes can add further changes and even chaining additional spells into the end once they hit. Each of these variations can be saved and renamed to however you see fit and can be switched out at any point in the game depending on your needs.
Brains over brawn – On appearances, Mages of Mystralia is a typical action-RPG: monsters to fight, spells to learn, bosses to overcome. However far from being a mindless bash em up, at its core, puzzles are the main element for you to beat. Spell crafting in itself is a puzzle game as you need to combine the right runes with little hand holding, to be able to unlock new equipment or gain enough currency to increase your health and mana. There are also bonus reward chests hidden behind doors that require the correct sequence of dots or candles to light before you are able to access the goods.
Beautiful Bosses – Like most good adventures, there are a handful of bosses that you must beat into submission in order to proceed. In Mages of Mystralia, these usually require a combination of wit along with the usual skills. As well as spotting the clever sequence, I was also impressed with how stunning each of these bosses was. Be sure to take plenty of screenshots before you batter these big guys; they make for some fantastic Xbox backgrounds.
Here's what I didn't like
Back again – Whilst, not strictly a Metroidvania, Mages of Mystralia will see you retrace your steps on several occasions as you unlock new spells and plot points. Fast travel portals do exist but not until the latter half of the game and after several trips through familiar areas. This is exacerbated by lengthy loading times as you exit each area only to have to return a short while later as you sit and stare at the same, albeit pretty, splash screen again.
Mages of Mystralia is a decent adventure game. It's also a damn good puzzle game too, keeping you on your toes throughout. Spell creation is well thought out and the pacing is spot on with the difficulty rising at a beginner friendly yet challenging rate. However, whilst the design is great on paper and I found no technical problems, there's no special hook to really wow or truly immerse you enough for a second playthrough. That said if you enjoy adventure, puzzles and a hearty dose of magic, Mages of Mystralia is a solid choice.
Score: Highly recommended
Mages of Mystralia was developed and published by Borealys Games. It was released on August 25, 2017, for $19.99. A copy of the game was provided by for review purposes.