The Wizards OG Edition was released mid last year for Oculus Rift and Vive, but has spent some time in incubation, awaiting the promised eventual release on PSVR.
Now that it’s arrived – it’s fair to say the port has been somewhat of a successful affair, albeit having never played the original version.
There are two modes, a three-act campaign containing a number of bite-sized Levels, and a fairly pedestrian arena “wave” mode that includes an online leaderboard.
The campaign has you play as a spellcaster and sends you through a number of locations fairly typical of a fantasy setting. You come up against a fairly paltry bestiary of ogres, orcs and goblins to slaughter as well as solving a few light puzzle elements, mostly involving pressure plates and matching enchanted doorways.
There are some collectables, namely red jewels for upgrading your combat tree, or chests containing modifier cards that can be used to assist, or add challenge to your experience.
But the real seller is not the conceit of what you’re doing, it’s in the act of doing so. Your attacks are assigned to a number of gesture-based movements that cast distinctly useful spells, each having their purpose among the different enemy types. And it doesn’t take long before you’ll have unlocked all 5.
Swipe both arms across each other with the move controllers and conjure an ice bow that can quickly dispatch distant or ranged enemies. Quickly flick your right forearm across your body and a light shield materialises, as per Dr Strange. Move opposing arms in a sort’ve Yin-Yang pattern and you have a ring of crystals appear that function as a flurry of enchanted mortar fire. It’s definitely fun, and keeps what could otherwise amount to uninspired “duck shoot” combat interesting.
And it might be uninspired, because if the enemies aren’t attacking you from mounted locations, they’re directly moving in on you or charging you down.
Whether the goblins scuttle quickly, or the ogres lumber slowly, they generally move in a direct line on your position, with little self preservation effort, making most battles a timed calculation of which enemies to pick off first. But not always, as in numbers you can quickly get cornered. Since there isn’t a melee attack, and under pressure conjuring spells at close range can amount to futile, panicked thrashing of the move controllers as they fail to register, the best exit strategy is teleport the heck outta there and re-orient. This is a shame, as the shield could’ve easily have doubled as a melee.
One other issues is tracking.
Both the head and hands have issues, both in technical limitation and design choice. If you want to hurl a fireball grenade at an enemy, you have to have your head trained on the enemy until a lock-on reticle appears above their head. If you don’t, or the lock-on disengages, the physics applied to your projecting has a mind of its own and could shoot-off in any direction if your head happens to wobble just a bit. This was frustrating. Furthermore, the two move controllers have some tracking issues when placed near each other, making the bow and arrow sometimes hard to steady. After a bit of practice, there were ways of getting around this, but the problem never disappeared.
Graphics are pretty good, if not particularly great. It’s a lot of masonry arches, rocks, wooden pillars etc, the staple of much geometry and texture work in many VR games. An aspect of the presentation that does stand out tough is some of the light destruction on objects like crates and statues. It’s fun to arbitrarily smash this stuff up and watch the rubble and splinters fly when otherwise wandering through nondescript hallways.
Sound is decent also. Your journey is guided by a storybook style narrator who acts like a dictatorial inner conscience, telling you where to go, where to look out for danger or just stating the obvious. It would be easy for this to get irritating but it never really does, and feels more like a disembodied companion.
The attacks sound like you expect them too, and some of the other non-digetic ambience such as panflute score or drum crescendos during action are routine but inoffensive for a fantasy game.
The binaural placement of player footsteps seemed a bit off though. They often sounded like they were coming from a character walking directly behind the player in perfect step. But this was only noticeable when I was conscious of it.
All in all, The Wizards – Enhanced Edition is a fun, yet unremarkable VR experience that never really outstays its welcome through its half-dozen hour play time.
Unless you’re just shilling for the absolute cream of the PSVR library, then this may be a satisfying itch to scratch until the next must-have drops.
Released: February 2019
Platforms: PlayStation 4, PSVR
Genre: Virtual Reality, Fantasy
Developer: Carbon Studio
Publisher: Carbon Studio
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