When it comes to fantasy games, the first thing that comes to mind is a wonderful, vast, epical open-world where the sky is the limit and you’re the centrepiece of it all. You’re going on an epic quest, discovering breathtaking landscapes and fighting to defeat an impending evil to save the world. That’s not really the case here. In this fantasy game your objective here is to make many magical wonders and use them to turn bad guys into heaping piles of ash. There is a plot to it somewhere but that’s soon forgotten when you start playing and seeing what’s on offer. Developers Xaviant Games with their title Lidchdom: Battlemage hopes to let the players loose in a world where you’re given mighty, destructive powers to unleash hell against anyone who stands in your way.
The city of Drivasser has fallen into anarchy. The Cult of Malthus have unleashed their wrath and will not stop until they’ve taken the rest of the world. Roth, a powerful mage has chosen two individuals to become a Dragon and a Gryphon, both whose lives have been ruined by the cult, to take them down.
You’ll start off by choosing either a male or a female character to become a Dragon. Once you go through a segment regarding your character’s past and quest, you’ll soon be in the possession of magic “sigils” granting your powers. You’ll start out with a basic fire sigil and shield that you can upgrade and use to create new spells later. You’ll get new sigils early on in the game and you’ll find yourself being able to pick and choose which sigils you’ll want to take with you to the fight. The gameplay really shines through as you unleash a destructive manner of all kinds magical death on your enemies. It’s a lot of fun to watch these over-confident enemies charge at you with great ferocity, only to watch them disintegrate in a bloody mess when you zap them with your spells. As for the enemies there’s quite a nice variety of them: from sword wielders to crossbow users, various magic users, the undead and other monstrosities and they actually put up a good fight too. They’ll take cover, dive out of the way of your projectile spells and fight in great numbers. Fights are frantic, bloody, challenging and it never gets old to charge into the fray and raise hell even when you’re outnumbered.
Another great highlight about this game is the excellent crafting system where you can craft and customise new spells to throw even more magical action into the mix. As you progress and fight enemies you collect items called “Etherea” which contain bonuses such as increased damage, greater area of effect and passive bonuses for your shield. These can be used with existing spells which combine the two and produces an entirely new spell with new attributes, making your arsenal even more deadly. You’ll be able to create new spells such as summoning an icy hailstorm, a fiery grenade, a debilitating lighting strike and much more. You can also upgrade existing items by combining them with others to create even more useful Etherea and you can break down spells you’ve created into their original components to create something else. Using this interface for spell crafting becomes so addictive that you’ll find yourself mixing and matching components instinctively just to see what you can make next. The more you experiment the more rewarding the results and you’ll soon be building up an arsenal of destructive magical wonder to bring about some serious pain to anyone stupid enough to take you on.
Lichdom: Battlemage runs off the Cryengine 3 for it’s graphics and Xaviant Games have done a damn fine job of utilising this great engine to it’s full potential. Arenas are nicely detailed with unusual architecture and geometry, highly detailed character models and impressive special effects, especially when magic spells are cast. Sound production is also a strong point too, with a musical score that continues to drive the action and top-notch voice acting from talent such as Jennifer Hale (Diablo III, Mass Effect, God of War: Assension) Troy Baker (Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes, Bioshock Infinite) and Cree Summer (The Boondocks, Young Justice). Of course there’s also the hugely satisfying thunderous and loud booms, zaps and pows of your spells impacting on your victims, which never get tiring to listen to.
There is the opportunity to play the game again with a different character and see their story, along with the opportunity to experiment further with spells. When you complete the campaign, you get “New Game Plus” where you’ll be able to unlock and play with the best of the magical items to use with crafting. New, more powerful spells for you to play with will no doubt make your second round even more loud and exciting.
Lichdom is undoubtedly a great deal of fun to play. It never gets old to rein complete magical destruction on anyone who gets in your way and the crafting system is a joy to use. Unfortunately in a game when most of the focus is on the action, other important aspects of the game are neglected which effect everything else in a negative way.
The level design, while nicely presented, tend to be rather linear and repetitive. Each level follows a similar pattern and it soon becomes a case of just going down the same corridors with a different facelift. Walking through these corridors gets very monotonous and the tedium is only broken up by the next battle. It’s a shame because these areas appear so expansive and just cry out to be explored but are unfortunately linear and narrow in their design.
Even though Lichdom: Battlemage presents itself as gritty and dark tale about vengeance with superb voice acting and elaborate cut-scenes, there’s actually not much emphasis on the game’s story or it’s characters. The plot isn’t very original and the characters are rather one-dimensional, as villains don’t seem to have anything going for them other than the fact that they’re evil and the protagonists don’t have anything either other than the need for revenge.
The game can get extremely difficult even during the earlier stages of the game. Even if you’ve crafted some badass spells, enemies can hit you back just as hard and as they attack in great numbers, fights can become very disorienting when getting attacked from multiple directions which make you lose your bearings. The game gets tough especially with bosses, with your powers damaging only a fraction of their health while one attack from them is able to completely obliterate you. You’ll find yourself restarting battles quite often if you haven’t kitted yourself with the right spells for the right jobs.
Lichdom: Battlemage is all about pointing your fingers at something and watching it go boom. It’s also about making new things which make the boom even louder. Sure it’s rather linear and there’s not much context as to why you’re doing what you’re doing, but when you have all these powers at your fingertips with the chance to take down a hoard of enemies, lack of context and linearity isn’t rally a big deal. If you’re expecting a immersive, beautiful fantasy world full of wonder and adventure with an engaging captivating storyline, then you’re best bet is to look for something like Skyrim. Alternatively if you just want something where you’re given an array of powerful, magical tools to bring the noise and a lot of pain to your enemies, then grab Lichdom: Battlemage and get ready to take your role as the ultimate practitioner of destructive magic.
This review is based on a retail version of Lichdom: Battlemage for the PC provided by the publisher.