While playing Wizard of Legend, I came to a realization about myself:
I prefer crafted or curated experiences over randomly generated scenarios. While randomized levels in today’s popular rogue-likes offer a different experience every time, I find more satisfaction playing scenarios designed by actual humans, not algorithms. I also enjoy a sense of progression, skill building or leveling up to meet the challenge if I fail the first time.
But enough about personal revelations, back to Wizard of Legend.
Wizard of Legend places the player in a series of dungeon runs called the Chaos Trials. Starting in the center of a randomly generated maze, your wizard fights through randomly generated monsters and other magical foes until finding the chamber holding the mini-boss of that particular dungeon. Along the way, you may find a shopkeeper or a mysterious stranger who offers you a trade. These swaps can be treacherous, as you may find yourself with a cursed item, or suffer a drop in stats or health. Beat the boss of the dungeon, and you’re on to the next. Every third dungeon, you challenge one of the elemental masters of the Lanovian Council of Magic. To aid you on your quest, you can equip one Relic that gives you a passive bonus, and four different types of spells, or “Arcana” to attack or dash with. These Arcana are tied to elements like water, wind, fire and earth, and there are over 100 Arcana you can collect in the game.
Wizard of Legend has one of the best tutorials I’ve seen in a game.
Before you embark on your randomly generated dungeon crawl, you start in a museum that is very linear and guided. The museum curators explain the origin of the Council and the Arcana. As you wander into each room, you are given sample Arcana to practice against straw dummies. You naturally learn how to use your dash power, your melee spell, and your main attack spell. A small child squeals with delight as you unleash your “special” Arcana and blow dummies into smithereens. The museum was well crafted and written, gently guiding the player into understanding the mechanics of chaining Arcana into effective attacks. After the revelation that you have been chosen to enter the Chaos Trials, you are magically wisked to your new home. A series of magically animated objects reminiscent of Beauty and the Beast greet you and help you organize your magic gear. The Wardrobe holds your magic robes, the Treasure Chest organizes your Relics, and the Tome holds all your Arcana. I really appreciate the elegant simplicity of this introduction to the game, and the personal touch of having a spellbook named Tomi instead of just a generic menu.
You never know what’s around the next corner.
After going through the hub of the town square, you jump right into the dungeon. Every time the layout is different, and the decor changes from fiery walls, to lush green earth tones. Going around a corner may mean an ambush by several enemies, or a simple environmental puzzle or jump. Randomly generated mazes means sometimes you hit a dead end, and after a while the dungeons all start to feel the same. I wish there were other characters to bump into along the way besides shopkeepers, perhaps other young wizards in the trials. I also really wish there were checkpoints between dungeons, a chance to catch your breath and refill your health before tackling the next dungeon. Wizards of Legend has a charming simple sprite style, while not super detailed, allows for sweet spell animations all over the screen with no slowdown or tearing that I experienced.
It feels good to be a magus.
Combat is fast and furious. If you don’t get familiar with your dash button, you’re done for. Every attack has a cool-down, which is brilliantly telegraphed as recharged by a tiny icon appearing briefly. Dash, Melee, Main, and Special are mapped to each of the face buttons, and I had no trouble chaining these attacks even while playing with the Joycons sideways in co-op mode. When you pick up extra attacks they map to the shoulder buttons, and that got a little more awkward unless I put on the joycon grip extenders. When you get in the zone in Wizard of Legend, it feels great. My sprite would freeze the nearest enemy, I’d send chain lightning through the entire group, singe through them all with my fire dash, and then mop them up with a pounding from my earth fist. When you hit that zone, you truly feel like a Potter-level badass.
Dungeon crawling is more fun with a friend, and Wizard of Legend supports couch co-op very well. Both players get access to all the Arcana and Relics you’ve collected, and you can create very different loadouts that support each other.
I feel like I’m not getting anywhere.
After enjoying a few hours blasting baddies through dungeon runs, I found myself getting really frustrated. I didn’t feel like I was getting any “better” at the game. I would switch out my Arcana loadouts and try new spell combos, but although it was neat to see the effects of different spells, none of them felt any stronger than what I was already using. I would have experimented with more Relics as well, but it takes quite a while to rack up enough gems to buy anything, and any items I bought with gold disappeared after my death. Spending my hard earned gems on spells or relics is also a discouraging process, since the marketplace offers a random inventory for sale every visit, and the item’s effect is not described until after purchase. Since my character never levels up hit points or strength, I never seemed to get noticeably stronger with different spells, healing potions drop scarcely or show up randomly in the dungeon shops, and there are no checkpoints between dungeons, I found myself playing the same first dungeons over and over. And although they were randomly generated every time, they still managed to feel repetitious, and I felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere.
I wish there were checkpoints, or at least a way to restore your health between dungeons.
I wish that you could try out spells in the marketplace before purchasing, the training dummies are right there.
I wish there were some sense of getting stronger to face the next dungeon run.
These frustrations are enough to turn me off from a game that is really fun to play moment to moment.
Wizard of Legend is a lot of fun in small sessions, especially with a friend playing next to you. The action is hot and heavy, and a fun dungeon run can be had in 15-20 minutes. The game offers a lot of variety in exciting magic attacks, controls well, and is very accessible from a playability standpoint. However, in the longterm the player may get frustrated with a seeming lack of progression. Because you are unable to level up your character and are subject to random enemy placement, it is hard to ideally customize the your loadout to successfully get past more than a few stages. While the different Arcana are fun and animated well, they feel equally powered, and it is extremely frustrating not to know exactly how your new Arcana will work before spending your hard earned gems on them. Random items and no checkpoints just isn’t my idea of fun. The feeling of “not getting anywhere” will lead to very few people completing the game in my opinion. Like a level one fireball, Wizard of Legend flares hot in the beginning, but just fizzles out after a while.