The Mageseeker - A League of Legends Story Review
The latest entry in Riot Forge’s line of League of Legends spin-offs — The Mageseeker: A League of Legends Story — has been set free, and it just may be one of the best indie action games of the year.
Mageseeker puts you in the chains of Sylas from Demacia, a gilded world within the League of Legends universe. But Demacia’s luster quickly loses its shine the moment you take too hard of a look at it. It is a world of oppression, where magic flows but is tightly controlled, and the mages who wield it are captured and locked away by the police-like force known as the Mageseekers. As Sylas, from a young age you possessed the ability to innately sense those who could use magic, making you the perfect Mageseeker tool. That is until your conscience gets the better of you, forcing you into action to save a young girl who was discovered as having magical abilities causing you to lose control of your own magical talents. This act of heroism earns you your own set of golden chains. Flash-forward 15 years, and the game begins.
Mageseeker has a solid story, even if many of its aspects are well-trodden and can be figured out well in advance. The bad guys are bad, the rebels are good, and your boy Sylas is angry and out for revenge. He eventually discovers he can’t do everything on his own and embraces the role he needs to play by the end. There is clearly more that takes place than I skimmed over, obviously, and Digital Sun has done a respectable job putting together a good story that was entertaining enough, but it never really dug into me and pulled me along. The narrative was a tasty side dish that paired nicely with the main dish of the experience, what I kept coming back for, and that is Mageseeker’s combat.
During my demo preview with the game prior to release, I fell in love with the tight and responsive movement and the deceptively simple-yet-rich combat that was on display, but little did I know that it was just a tease of what the final game would offer. Sylas’ abilities include light and heavy attacks that utilize his massive fists and golden chains in combos, utilizing magics he rips away from his enemies, and controlling the battlefield by dashing around or pulling himself towards enemies. I got to try out all of these mechanics previously in the demo, but what I didn’t get to try was Mageseeker’s Outlaw system, which are special “equippable” rebels that you can bring with you on missions that augment the properties of Sylas’ combo attacks.
Each outlaw that you discover over the course of the game is associated with one of the game's six elements (fire, ice, wind, nature, electricity, and mystic). You can assign two Outlaws to assist in each mission, and when paired with the three unlockable spell slots, allow you to have coverage on every one of the elements or let you further specialize in one or two areas.
You can strengthen the outlaws by recruiting NPCs to your rebellion by finding them during missions or as rewards for completing special tasks that you send your extra outlaws onto. The more of these new recruits you gather will also have an impact on your hideout and stats, too. Certain rewards and shops can only be unlocked by passing recruitment milestones. Luckily, partway through the main story you will meet someone who will join your cause and grant you the ability to replay missions to get any collectibles or recruits you may have missed on the first go around.
Planning ahead and thinking about your loadouts of outlaws and spells becomes immensely important as you will thrust into a lot of encounters that will test both your reflexes and your split-second decision-making. Encounters typically will take place in smaller enclosed arenas that will pit you against various enemy mob makeups, with increasingly complex and difficult pairings as you progress through the story. Many of these battles will see you contending against heavily armored enemies or beasts, mages slinging their spells at you, grunt soldiers and archers, and more, forcing you to learn the best order in which to dispatch your enemies or use the environment to your advantage. I loved how it turned the typical fights into almost a puzzle game that you have to figure out on the fly, which was really important as you will be dealing with a lot of fights.
All those battles, though, are just learning opportunities for you to get comfortable with the attacks at your disposal because when it comes to Mageseeker’s bosses, you will need to pull out all the stops. The boss fights are by far my favorite parts of Mageseeker, where even on the default difficulty, they provided the perfect balance of challenge while being fair. I eagerly anticipated the end of each level to see what wild manner of foe I would be pitted up against, and I can’t recall a single time when I was let down.
That said, though, it is also in these boss fights where I found my biggest issue with Mageseeker. You can’t skip cutscenes, regardless if you have watched them already or not. Every time you die to a boss, you will need to sit through the banter and events leading up to the fight itself before you can actually get into combat. If you decide to back out of a level and retry it later, you will need to rewatch the cutscenes. There is a “fast forward” toggle that will automatically progress the text boxes, but I never found it to be faster than simply mashing the buttons to get through them. Digital Sun, if you are reading this, PLEASE give us a skip scene option, or at least adjust the retry fight option to start right when the boss fight begins, I beg you!
The lack of skipping cutscenes aside, there is a lot here to love in The Mageseeker - A League of Legends Story, even if terms like facecheck or ganking mean nothing to you (yes, I had to look up League terms). There may not be a ton of your usual RPG stat managing and growth genre fans may be looking for, but managing your spell load outs and optimally preparing for the impressive boss and mob encounters will still provide a good amount of tweaking and strategy. I thoroughly enjoyed the combat, and the pixel art was gorgeous, but while the story is fine enough, it wasn’t what kept me coming back.
Digital Sun continues to prove that they are rockstars when it comes to making 2D action games with beautiful art direction. The Mageseeker: A League of Legends Story is an impressive offering that action RPG fans should check out.