Review: The Mage’s Tale
Be the sorcerer you always wanted to be.
While epic fantasy role-playing games (RPG) like The Elder Scolls V: Skyrim VR might be coming to virtual reality (VR) headsets in the near future, at present fans of the genre don’t have a great deal to choose from. Luckily inXile Entertainment has stepped in with The Mage’s Tale, a magic fueled adventure for Oculus Rift and Touch that goes a long way to make you feel like you’re an all powerful wizard.
You play an apprentice who’s just begun learning about how to conjure spells when the wizard who’s training you gets kidnapped by an evil sorcerer. With a trusty – and sometimes annoying – goblin like sidekick who floats around telling you how to do things whilst making derogatory remarks about how you’re ill equipped to take on the task of rescuing your master, you begin the journey to becoming a fully fledged wizard.
You start your adventure at a magical base of operations. This hub allows you to warp to each level – and once completed head back if you need to – as well as create the potions you’ll need to fight your way through dungeons and complete the task at hand. The potion side of The Mage’s Tale is a big aspect of the experience allowing you to chop and change your loadout as you see fit, with a myriad of different options as you unlock more ingredients. To begin with you’re only supplied with a basic fireball spell but as things progress ice, lightning and other elements come into play, all of which are needed to solve puzzles and give you a wide array of offensive capabilities.
inXile Entertainment has decided to go for the tried and tested teleportation method of movement for this VR experience. It works as well as any other title, with a reasonable range of movement all controlled with the right stick plus rotational snap movement. The left stick allows for much shorter, incremental steps should you need to side step out the way of an incoming arrow or other attacks.
Learning how to use both is vital when engaged in combat, at points you can be dealing with multiple enemies and using just teleportation on its own can be somewhat cumbersome. If you’re using a three-sensor setup you can teleport behind someone and quickly turn around, but with two-sensors you need to snap yourself round which can leave you defenseless for a moment. When you’ve got the hang of it, the combat does become a lot more fluid even though it’s certainly not perfect.
Whilst talking about combat, selecting your spells is a much easier mechanic to deal with. Holding down the B or Y button on either controller brings up a selection of four and you just wave your hand over the one you want. This means that both left and right-handed players are catered for. One downside is the fact that there’s no duel wielding, you can’t have a lightning spell in one hand and a fireball in the other which is a shame. On the flip side the hand that doesn’t have a spell can make a shield, so its not completely redundant.
The Mage’s Tale is massive, while the studio states there’s ten hours plus of gameplay you’ll likely finish it quicker than that. But that does depended on how much of a completionist you are as there are loads of little collectables to find. The videogame is littered with puzzles and thankfully inXile has managed to create quite a variety so you’re not just looking for a key, or repeating the same old tasks.
It’s a wonderful title to just walk around in, with the dungeons having a beautifully dark, dank, imposing feel to them. It’s not a horror by any means, actually most of the videogame is slightly camp and comedic in nature, even some of the enemies have a humorous aspect to them, evoking classic fantasy films of the 80’s like Dark Crystal.
One aspect that did curtail the enjoyment of The Mage’s Tale were the loading times. Now this is somewhat dictated by your PC’s spec, but any rig running VR needs to be fairly decent. Running a just above spec PC, most loading screens were timed at 2 – 3 minutes, fine to begin with when starting the videogame but this was consistent throughout. Get killed and it wasn’t straight back into the action, just a long pause while angelic celtic music played – beautiful the first few times, less so after a couple of loads. This also had an impact on gameplay, as nipping back to the hub to alter spells then became a chore, only doing so if really needed. This might not be the case for everyone but it will be for some.
Technical gripes aside The Mage’s Tale is a really good magical adventure that really puts you into the heart of the experience. The story provides hours worth of gameplay and the potion creation side adds even more fun, mixing and matching various items to see what they do. If you’ve been looking for a decent fantasy RPG then you can’t go too far wrong with this.