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The title is completely appropriate

Mage Duel, the game where you’re a MAGE who DUELS other MAGES with MAGIC. What a concept!
The premise is simple, you are a mage who ,for whatever reason, has been forced to fight in the arena against other mages for the amusement of the despicable Lord Algus. The game begins with character generation, where you can pick your gender, class, and specialties. I picked a male illusionist with healing as a secondary ability. You are allowed to pick a wide variety of spells to start with, based on your class, giving the game a lot of customization which I am always a fan of.

Before I begin, it must be noted that this game has the coolest title screen ever. Now, let’s duel some mages.

Combat and Balance 4/5:

Combat is really the primary focus of Mage Duel, as there’s…well, nothing else at all to do, really. But the combat does not disappoint. Each of the four classes requires very different strategies to be effective. The direct damage evokers can simply incinerate their opponents, healers specialize in enduring and raising stats, conjurers summon helpers to fight for them, and illusionist rely on status effects and lowering enemy stats. Your meditate command allows you to recover MP in battle, and despite being a weak mage, your melee attack is really quite effective in a pinch. Battles were of satisfactory difficulty as well. You might have to try certain battles a few times to win, but there’s always a strategy that will work. If you’re really having trouble, there’s an option to fight much weaker monsters for money and experience to help you prepare. MY only real complaint is I felt that sometimes my status effect spells, such as sleep, were missing a little more often than they should given that they were my character’s primary means of fighting.

There is also a wide variety of equipment covering a variety of different areas. Armor does not simply raise defense higher and higher, you must carefully select equipment based on its stat bonuses, status and elemental protection, and other factors. However, during character creation it was not always clear exactly what equipment slot each item went into. A cloak of shadows, for instance, is an enchantment, not body armor. Also, my enchantment slot had an annoying habit of becoming unequipped following each battle.
My only complaint is most enemies didn’t quite feel different enough, most evokers were indistinguishable from any other evoker, few had any sorts of unique styles, especially early on.

Level Design 2/5:
There’s only one level, really, the interior of the arena, and while it was well-designed, the walking speed was far too slow and navigating the various stores takes far too long. I’d recommend making the hero walk around much faster. There are also a large number of sweeping views of the arena that look very cinematic, but watching the announcer scene 15 times loses its novelty very fast. I would recommend using shortened versions of it after the fast time, or at least including more conversations in the stands, serving to develop the villains.

Characters 3/5:
Most of the NPCs have only one thing to say the whole game, and since you’re stuck in the same area for the entire game, walking around the arena loses its appeal quickly and there’s little to do between battles aside form heal and occasionally buy new equipment. However, the few characters who do stand out are portrayed very effectively. Rast the legendary badass is gruff and world-weary, and rookie duelist Alex won me over with only a handful of lines. The villains are similarly quite despicable considering their limited screen time.

Your player character is also given a few opportunities to choose his/her own dialogue, giving a positive, neutral, or negative (read: evil) to several characters. If this was done more often, it would add a great deal of appeal to your avatar.

I am forced to question your decision to have your characters use such strong language. While it helps to establish the bleak premise of the character’s situation, there are other ways to do to this just as effectively. From a marketing standpoint, use of such language limits your audience to only the 18 and up crowd when this game would otherwise have appeal to a wide range of demographics.

Storyline 3/5:
The storyline is…well, mostly you fighting mages in hopes of escaping alive. Certain interesting specialty battles involving special characters help break up the monotony, and the demo ends on something of a cliffhanger as your player character is presented with a crossroads to take, for good or ill. The slimy villains provide a motivating force for you to hate and want to succeed. You must finish this game so that I might introduce their faces to my ice rod. The arena will run red with their entrails.

Music and Sound 3/5:
The music is mostly remixes of various compositions from Final Fantasy games, but they tend to fit the general mood of scenes well enough that this fact didn’t bother me. Sound effects are well used to supplement the many spells you will be casting. Nothing stands out as exceptional, but there’s nothing that seems out of place.

Overall 3.5/5:
With its impressively composed battles, this game delivers well on its promise of many duels with mages that manage to be intense and interesting. With a few minor tweaks such as increasing the hero’s walking speed and cutting down on the huge number of unnecessary camera pans, this game would be a remarkable gem and a triumph of good battle design.

Posts

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Max McGee
with sorrow down past the fence
9219
when I'm making at least five figures a year from this, I'll give a fucking shit about demographics. : )

When I was 12, I cursed more than I do now.

Anyway, this was a fair and balanced (teehee) review. I have no complaints.
I held shift, so speed wasn't a problem for me. That's the only false part of this review, the rest I agree with. The Intro is really exciting, but it would be nice if it would change up a little as you got up the ranks.
Pages: 1