Title: The Wizards – Enhanced Edition
Developer: Carbon Studio
Publisher: Carbon Studio
Genre: Action, Adventure, Arcade
Platform: Oculus Quest
Release Date: 06/06/2019
Price: £18.99 Rapid Reviews UK were very kindly provided with a review code for this title.
Since the very beginning, whether through dice rolls or button clicks, gaming has sought to deliver the experience of being an all-powerful wizard to the user. The advent of VR promises to bring that dream closer to actuality than it has ever been before and The Wizards – Enhanced Edition tries to fulfil it.
Like the cavernous environments that make up The Wizards, the gameplay is grandiose at first sight but upon closer inspection is revealed to be bereft of content and detail. Your base of operation, the wizard tower, is a large open space with a myriad of doodahs and whatnots adorning the area but provide little interaction, if any, and only serves as a place to upgrade your spells and choose which level to teleport to — completing levels grants new spells and experience points (tokens) to upgrade them. Those levels already completed can be revisited to increase your previous score or to find any of three crystal fragments hidden in each.
Of the half-dozen spells on offer, only a few of them provide any real utility in battle with the rest either being too similar or unwieldy to cast and come across as content padding. Casting spells is achieved with hand motions, and when working correctly, they do give the feeling of being a powerful wizard. Sadly, “working correctly” is the relevant bit though as it’s not guaranteed and will be the source of much frustration when you find yourself surrounded by baddies and that super cool fireball you were slinging only moments before no longer shows up.
I also experienced a major bug in the game that severely limited my ability to enjoy it. I, like 10% of the population, am left-handed. On the advertising for The Wizards, the developers make a point of including left-handed play. However, with the shield equipped, a left-handed player cannot instantiate a fireball. This is a big deal. With the controls being as finicky as they are, choosing one or the other only leads to quick deaths and boiled-over frustration. I had to play large sections of the game right-handed which was only slightly less frustrating. I alerted the developers to the bug but have yet to receive a response from them. If you are left-handed, I would either skip this game altogether or at the very least, wait for a patch of some kind before investing time and money into it.
The Wizards is billed as a sitting/standing experience though, in my experience, RoomScale is also available as I was able to walk the entire length of my play space. Locomotion is furthered with the ability to warp and also by using the analogue stick to move traditionally. I appreciate the developers allowing the ability to do both as it makes the game easier when evading enemies and reaching certain objectives.
The gameplay loop is rather shallow and disappointing. The Wizards places you in large expansive environments for you to explore and engage but offer nearly nothing in that regard. One would think that a ruined castle would be an exciting place to transverse with enemies lurking in the shadows, secret passageways to find and exploit, laboratories and sacrificial chambers to uncover but there’s none of that. The player walks from section to section until finding an area large enough for the game to commence a hoard-mode attack. Defeat the enemies and rinse and repeat ad-nauseam. The Wizards is a simple hoard-mode game disguised as a dungeon crawler. Even the scant few end-boss fights are uninspired and tedious.
On PC, The Wizards is a decent looking game. The textures are a little muddy, and the lighting is baked-in versus real-time, but it all comes together to create an atmosphere that drives the narrative and heightens presence in VR. The Quest version has almost none of this. Some caveats need to be made when porting over to the Quest as it’s a mobile device, but the results here are less than perfect…quite a bit less. Gone is the nuanced lighting and with it, any semblance of atmosphere. The lack of strong shadows and transparencies makes the low poly environments and scarcity of detail stand out that much more. The textures are, in some cases, atrociously bad – there are areas where you can count the pixels in the texture from yards away.
“Spellcasting in The Wizards is based on the energy of the four elements, and the key to the victory is adapting your tactics to the flow of the battle. The game is exclusive to VR and uses all the best the technology has to offer.”http://www.carbonstudio.pl/press/sheet.php?p=the_wizards
During my play-through, I saw unfinished terrain and models floating in mid-air. There’s a section in the game where the narrator explains that there are no people in the town below you due to the airships flying overhead, except there are no airships – because they weren’t included in this version of the game! As far as I can tell, floor textures are entirely flat and without depth maps of any kind. Most of the textures in this version are without depth maps, resulting in a game that very much looks like something from the PlayStation 2 era of gaming.
Even so, the scale of the environments can be astounding. More than once, I stopped to admire my surroundings. Far from perfect when scrutinised individually, the set pieces, taken as a whole, form a landscape that can be truly impressive and do a great job at making you feel like a small person on a big adventure.
Enemy animations are very basic with little variation, and the same can be said of the creature designs. With only a handful of enemy types to take-on, some decent attack and death variations would have gone a long way in making the game more engaging.
Aside from the narrator who speaks with you throughout the game giving advice and dropping plotlines, there isn’t much in the way of audio other than your footsteps. Each of your spells has sound effects attached them, and the monsters growl at times, but that’s pretty much it. There is music in the form of a ‘tribal’ sounding track that loops whenever you are fighting. The same track. Every time!
I think it’s also important to point out that the trailer for The Wizards on the Oculus Quest store page shows gameplay from the Oculus Rift version of the game and NOT the Quest version.
Hidden throughout the game are Fate cards – tarot looking cards that change the gameplay by weakening or strengthening enemies, changing point modifiers, etc. Couple those with the ability to play any level previously completed and the game, which is already relatively long, extends play even further. It’s important to note that the key gameplay is still the same so your mileage may vary in regards to replayability.
The less than stellar graphics could be overlooked if the gameplay was better, but it is what it is. A casual player may enjoy The Wizards in short bursts – my mother liked it. A more seasoned gamer will find the controls too fastidious for serious play and the gameplay too shallow for extended play sessions.
Rapid Reviews UK Rating
You can purchase The Wizards from the Oculus Store using the following link, https://www.oculus.com/experiences/quest/2459503397416283/
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.