Want to be a wizard, but you're sick of dealing with all that pesky Mana and those obnoxious cooldowns? Well, the developers of Lichdom: Battlemage felt the same way, too, and created a game which eschewed all of the usual limitations found in video game magic and focused on bringing to life a fast-paced, arcane-charged powerhouse action game, one whose RPG framework works both for and against it.
As either the male or female hero of Lichdom: Battlemage, dubbed " Dragon" by your spooky magical mentor, you're on a quest of revenge against some villains whose dialogue and motivations are about as one-dimensional as they come. Thanks to some decent writing and the vocal talents of the amazing Jennifer Hale and the spectacular Troy Baker, Dragon ends up being a much stronger character than the antagonists. And, in an interesting twist, whichever character you don't choose at the beginning of the game becomes your sidekick throughout the rest of your adventure, meaning that, no matter what, you'll get to enjoy some quality banter between two sharp-tongued rapscallions. Most of the time, however, you'll be crushing hordes of enemies with your phenomenal cosmic power.
Gone are typical limitations like Mana bars, cooldowns or ammunition. Lichdom: Battlemage unlocks the full potential of destructive magic and puts you in control. Fire, Ice, Lightning, Plague... there are countless elements for you to wield, each with their own uses and variations. Spells can be fired rapidly to take down weaker foes, charged for when you need to pack a whallop, or focused into creating devastating area-of-effect attacks. Combine that with a magical blocking/counterattack system and you've got the makings for some serious supernatural combat.
You'll need full command of the many powers offered in Lichdom: Battlemage; while early battles pit you against enemies who amount to little more than punching bags for your power, fairly quickly you’ll be locked into encounters with swarms of intelligent, diverse foes who are more than happy to rend you limb from limb. Lichdom: Battlemage gets pretty tough, at times, and without a difficulty option to ease the pain, you're forced to rely on your wits and reflexes to get you through the toughest battles. Death isn't a severe hindrance -- when you die, you're simply booted back to a respawn point with your experience and loot fully intact -- but some battles are more about endurance than skill, making the deaths more annoying than anything.
As with most RPG-style games, as you lay waste to your enemies your powers and equipment will grow stronger. While most fantasy games would grant you rings or swords as loot, Lichdom: Battlemage grants randomly generated spells, spell variants, crafting materials and upgrade components. Obtaining these rewards is satisfying, but actually putting them to use is a bit of a headache. Spells have far too many effects and variations, especially early on. At a point when you’re still getting the hang of chucking fireballs, you’ll be getting equipment with Mastery and Apocalyptic effect chances and bonuses, not to mention dozens of other stats and variables, and it all will make little sense until you’ve played the game a while and spent some serious time experimenting. It's a rewarding system, once you get the hang of it, but with as hard as some of Lichdom: Battlemage's fights are, it's easy to get discouraged by such an overly-complex upgrade system. Also, there are numerous tutorial videos explaining the ins and outs of combat, spells, and so on, and while they do cover crafting and the like, those videos are surprisingly obtuse, especially when compared to how the other videos which explain most of the game mechanics with clarity.
Lichdom: Battlemage's graphics are second-to-none; dark shadows and ominous glows mark your every step, and your many spells all leave their effects on both your foes and the environment itself. Flame spells leave the grass blackened and reduce monsters to piles of ash and bone. Ice crystallizes attackers and leaves patches of frosty wonder on exposed earth. While these little touches really help battles come alive, it's the moments between battles where you're likely to feel less than impressed. Be prepared to spend much of your time traversing corridor after corridor of straightforward caves and townscapes; there are a few fantastic views here and there, but Lichdom: Battlemage mostly contends to push you through cramped, dull corridors. The sound design, on the other hand, is excellent. The surround sound and masterfully arranged sound effects do a fantastic job of not only pulling you into the game, but letting you know what's happening on the battlefield. And, again, the voice work here is strong stuff from some of the finest voice actors out there.
Lichdom: Battlemage is an experience that's empowering, but obtuse. The magic and combat are often thrilling, fast and rewardingly tactical, but the dull level design and overly-complex upgrade system mar what is, for the most part, a mystical, ass-kicking good time.
This review was completed based on a purchased, digitally-downloaded copy of Lichdom: Battlemage.