Massachusetts and Russia-based developers Creat Studios present their newest iOS game, League of Mages. League of Mages revolves around mages duking it out and using their runes, spells and wands to outdo their rivals before moving on to the next big challenge. Is this mage-dueling, player vs. player title a magician's Fight Club? Or should we give it the Robert Paulson treatment?

In a way, League of Mages encourages both thoughts. All you do in League is fight against other players where you fling spells at each other, trying to whittle down your opponents health with spells and countering the ones sent at you. There are four main attack runes which sporadically appear and float around the screen as you fight: fire, ice, thunder and poison.

In order to do damage, you must tap and drag the runes and slide them at your opponent. Just be mindful that your opponent is doing the same thing, but you can tap the incoming projectiles in order to cancel them out with minimal damage caused to your health. This may sound like a fairly easy process, but once you start to incorporate the stronger spells (by dragging similar runes on top of each other before flicking the rune towards your opponent), the game turns very fast-paced, where you are struggling to mix same-colored runes and cancel out attacks as fast as you possible can.

League's graphics are relatively good. The spell effects, especially the combined rune spells look rather nice. But I got tired of the same background and the same Jimmy Neutron-with-hipster-glasses combo within the first thirty minutes. Three hours later, I was still fighting in the same spot, fighting against the same character model. (It takes that long to start unlocking new outfit pieces.) As of writing this review, I did not fight one character that looked any different than the default player.

After playing a few hours of League of Mages, I can assure you that not much changes, whether you put in three hours of gameplay or three minutes. My major complaint about is that leveling occurs at a snail's pace and it turns stagnant very early; it just takes too long to start unlocking any worthwhile spells, clothes or wands.

My other commentary, which I cannot stress enough, is that I can hardly tell if I'm fighting an actual human player or a game A.I. While having thousands of players fighting each other seems like a rather interesting concept, I believe that they could have axed the entire PvP process and just went with computer-controlled opponents, because every fight felt exactly the same. The only thing that actually stood out in my matches was if someone used a consumable item, like the magic shield or the rope which hangs your opponent upside down and allows you to continue firing. But again, that is something that an A.I. could be easily programmed to use.

Aside from the general chat room on the main screen, I honestly could not tell if I was even playing against a human character. The research and development used in trying to connect person to person for every single match, and pull off real-time mage-fighting should have been used elsewhere with just computer opponents to fight. There could have been movement mechanics where your mage moves around, more rune types, more combinations, just something more to keep my attention and to keep League of Mages not seem like a grind of just flicking runes and tapping glowing orbs.

And all the fights are random, it's not as if you can specifically look for your friends to fight. You just hit a fight button, a countdown happens, and the fight starts. There is no other way to initiate combat, and the fights you get are completely random and all play (and look) the same.

For those willing to stay in for the long hall, expect to level up your character, shoot advanced spells, and finally encounter different-looking players. There are different ways to customize your character. You can buy gems, which add damage to specific elemental types of runes. Clothing choices also alter your health and defenses against the various elements. And a large selection of wands allows you to tweak your elemental damage just the way you'd like it, and also spawns more (or less) runes on the screen. Unfortunately, these felt like they hardly bore any semblance on the gameplay.

League of Mages plays exactly as advertised, but there's not much else to it, with little incentive to keep on playing besides endless grinding for hours in order to change your character's outfit. Given that this is a free game, the lack of ads is a godsend, but the microtransactions of League of Mages are hardly worthwhile considering that you must grind for hours on end in order to unlock any cool features. Most free iOS games would allow you to buy everything right off the bat, but since League is a PvP game, they must force players into grinding levels the old fashioned way in order to keep things balanced. So there is hardly a point to spending money on the microtransactions, since you will be earning money and unlocking equipment as you go (for hours). Again, if League of Mages was NOT a PvP game, i-Free Innovations could have made purchasing microtransactions logical, and could have made League of Mages a little bit more in-depth and varied.


App Store Link: Nuclear Outrun for iPhone & iPad | By SMS Services O.o.o. | Price: Free | Version: 1.5 | 66.0 MB | Rating: 9+

4.0 out of 10 arcade sushi rating