Set Forth and Unleash Your SpellsEver wanted to throw fireballs? Check. How about summoning an ice bow? Check. How about casting a huge ray of light? Check. If you ever wanted to feel like an actual battlemage, look no further than The Wizards: Dark Times. Developed in Poland by Carbon Studios, The Wizards: Dark Times is an action-adventure spell casting game developed exclusively for virtual reality. It is also a sequel to The Wizards: Enhanced Edition. I played this game on the Oculus Rift, and let me tell you; this type of game can only work in VR. The Wizards: Dark Times really showcases an experience that can’t be achieved through anything else.
StoryWhen it comes to the story, there really isn’t anything special about it. The gist of the story is; a mysterious dark plague has taken over the realm of Meliora which made the creatures living there fall into madness and hatred thus wanting to kill you. Your job is to hunt down and kill a witch that is causing this plague so you can save the world. As you venture through the realms of Meliora, you are accompanied by a witty companion named Aurelius who narrates your whole adventure. When playing the story; it wasn’t great, but not terrible to say the least. The story felt like it was tacked onto the game and didn’t really add too much onto the whole experience. It felt like it was “just there.” I’ll be straightforward though; when you play The Wizards: Dark Times, you aren’t playing it because of the story, but for its gameplay, which is where it truly shines.
When you are playing The Wizards: Dark Times, most of the gameplay is in its spell casting mechanics where you do certain movements and gestures to cast a spell. For example, if you twisted your hand halfway clockwise, you would cast a fireball or if you quickly put your hands together, you would summon an ice bow.
Some spells that you can cast include:
- A fireball projectile
- An ice bow
- A shield that you can throw
- A powerful force that pushes enemies back
- A wave of electricity
When you cast any of the spells in your arsenal, it really makes you feel like you’re an actual battlemage fighting against the enemies that are in your way. The spells had a really nice weight to them and when you execute these spells, it really makes you feel like you’re powerful.
Virtual Reality Is For Phones, Too. One of the biggest misconceptions with virtual reality is that you need to buy expensive viewing gear in order to participate. That is not true at all. In fact, the latest cell phones allow you to use it as a device for virtual reality. You might need to make or buy an additional piece to use it for that, but it is usually at a low cost. Google, for example, offers a 3D cardboard kit for your phone for less than $10.
As you progress through the story, you gather about 11 spells throughout the whole game. At this point, it starts getting a little more challenging because you have to remember how to execute these spells correctly, but this sort of challenge really adds to the immersion of the game because when you have a range of spells you can cast, you have to learn their gestures to execute them properly. When you’re a battlemage, you need to learn each one and how to use them.
To add to this, each spell has a special version to it. For example, the ice bow can be turned into swords or the shield can be used to cast a ray of light. So not only do you have the base spell, but you have a special variation attached to it. I appreciated this mechanic in the game because it really expands your toolkit and just makes you feel like a total powerhouse. It never got old summoning an ice bow and pulling it apart to turn it into ice picks.
There is some strategy when it comes to the gameplay. You can actually combo these spells into other spells. So what do I mean by this? If you freeze an enemy with ice, you can then use your force spell to shatter them into pieces. This sort of strategy really adds some nice depth into the spell mechanics because it makes you use a wide variety of spells by making them work with each other instead of just blindly using a spell.
A really awesome little detail that added on to the strategy part of the gameplay was your magic reacting to the environment. In one part of the game it was raining, so your fireballs wouldn’t work because the rain would just put out the fire. This sort of detail really added a lot more to the gameplay because it adds a touch of immersion.
Although the spell casting mechanics were executed well, there were a few things I noticed when playing the game.
One thing I noticed is when you progress through the game, it felt like the game got pretty repetitive as time went on. The formula went something like this: kill the enemies and then go to the next area. Rinse and repeat. It felt like I did this the whole game.
Although this is the case, finding different ways to use your spells and combo into them did sort of break away from that formula. If it wasn’t for the robust spell casting mechanics, the game would have gotten really boring. Something else also that helped break away from this formula were the segments that allowed you to interact with the environment. In some parts of the game, you would climb up mountains or towers to get to your next destination. This was a nice way to break from that formula.
Another thing I noticed is that when you start having a huge arsenal of magic to cast, it starts getting a little difficult to cast your spells. I soon found myself sometimes fighting the controls to cast the correct magic spell. For example, I wanted to cast my ice bow, but it kept on casting my electric spell. This means that when I am fighting enemies mid-battle, it would just cast the wrong spell. It got pretty annoying, but to counteract this, I just used other spells that were easy to cast. The reason why this probably happened is because of the gestures having some similarity to other spells combined with your huge arsenal of magic to cast, the game would confuse itself on what spells you were trying to do.
Virtual Reality Has ROI. While it might feel as if virtual reality has been around forever, it’s still a relatively new technology. This has caused some businesses to question whether virtual reality is actually beneficial. The truth: of course virtual reality has shown to have positive ROI. British travel group Thomas Cook reported a 190 percent increase in tours booked to New York City after offering a virtual reality experience of the city in their stores. Amnesty International reported a 16 percent increase in direct-debit donations brought on by its VR campaign.
Aside from that, when it comes to the movement, the game includes teleportation, smooth movement, or a mixture of both. I recommend playing on both because when you are in mid-battle, you’re going to be doing a lot of dodging which is kind of hard to do with teleportation. For the most part, I found myself moving around mid-battle with the smooth movement, while I explored using the teleportation. So if you get easily nauseated with smooth movement, just know that it will be a little challenging to dodge the projectiles.
My first playthrough clocked in at around three hours, so the game isn’t that long. There aren’t any other alternative modes aside from only the campaign, but it does offer some replayability with its new game+ mode by unlocking all your spells in the beginning.
Overall, aside from the repetitiveness of the game and the difficulty of casting your spells, the core gameplay mechanics of using your magic against your enemies along the way still make this an enjoyable and really fun game to play.
Let me tell you, this game does not hold back on the graphics. When you look at the game, the details and environments are really amazing to look at! You can really tell that world of The Wizards: Dark Times feels like a believable world. I played the graphics on medium settings, and the game still looked really good!
As you progress through the game, you will be adventuring through different environments such as a swamp, a cave, or a mountain top to name a few. These different environments really showcase the power of Unreal Engine 4, the game engine it was made on. At some points in the game, you might just stop and appreciate the environments because they just look really good. There are even little details such as the light that emits off the fire. Stuff like this really added another layer of immersion to the game.
All in all, I really appreciate the developers putting a lot of thought and care into the world of The Wizards: Dark Times because it really shows. The graphics really made the game more immersive.
If you want to feel immersed as a battlemage, I really recommend this game. Combined with the really fun gameplay mechanics from casting your spells and the levels of immersion, this game is perfect for anyone looking for a really nice short fantasy VR experience. I’d also say it’s a really nice demo to show your friends or family if they want to try out VR and feel like a magic caster.
The First VR Headset came out in the 1960’s. Coined as the “Telesphere Mask” by inventor Morton Heilig. This device features stereoscopic (3-D) TV, wide vision and true stereo sound.
I don’t think there are many VR games like this with this sort of detail and scale, so it makes this game even more unique. In fact, this game is only $24.99 USD, so I would suggest this game even more as it’s a unique one-of-a-kind experience.
THE WIZARDS: DARK TIMES IS RECOMMENDEDCompatible Headsets:HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Valve Index, Windows Mixed Reality.
Platforms: PC (SteamVR, Oculus) Purchase Links: Steam, Oculus, Viveport If you are interested in the series and want to check out the first game, here is our review of The Wizards: Enhanced Edition. We have other Virtual Reality reviews too. Many thanks to Carbon Studio for a review copy!