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Lichdom: Battlemage [2014 -- Xaviant]

Started by Starfox, May 14, 2023, 03:54 AM

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Originally publiched on December 21, 2014

First thing first, Lichdom: Battlemage is a game for those people who -- like me -- play a mage (or at least a mage based cross class) in every RPG they can find and that offers the option. You'll find in there no armor, no blade, no bow or arrow, not even a tiny dagger. What you'll find are some seriously powered spells dealing when sufficiently leveled up an amount of damage rarely seen in a RPG (amount of damage that is sadly negated by the insane amount of health and resistance of most enemies). There's not even a mana pool. Your spells have a period of preparation more or less extended but you can fire them as much as you want.

That's okay as Lichdom: Battlemage is NOT a RPG (despite featuring a small leveling up system). The game rather qualifies as a first person perspective hack and slash or in this case a "burn and zap". In fact the whole gameplay seems to be there so you can overuse your brilliantly (or not) devised spells. The story supports this gameplay. However and although it has some good moments I've seen -- and read -- better. Player's only choice regarding the main character is the gender (male or female). The name is unknown and the character is generally called "Dragon" (possibly because the game development started in 2010 and back then "dragon" was all the rage, however there's little in term of explanations why the main character is called Dragon -- there's not even a hint of a dragon in the game). There is also another "main" character or rather sidekick called Griffon. This sidekick is the character that the player didn't choose (female if the player chose male and vice versa). The purpose of Griffon (who can transform in a hawk) is to scout ahead and to report back to the Dragon, giving some clues as to what to expect further down the road, although scouting reveals more or less the same thing as the game is very linear and you spend most of the time going from an ambush to another ambush and from waypoint to waypoint. However Griffon gives some more consistence to the story by adding some little details.

Depending on the gender the player chooses the beginning of the story varies but the goals remain the same. The female dragon had her sister abducted by Shax, the villain of the story while the male character had his wife killed by the very same Shax. Anyway that really only changes the premises. Both characters are left for dead after their little encounter with Shax and both are saved by Roth, a mage that will entrust to both a measure of his power in order to defeat Shax.

Due to its linear nature, the game can and will become repetitive after a while (even though attention has been paid to beautiful and varied scenery powered by CryEngine 3); it's not a game that you'll want to play from A to Z in one go unless you intend to be bored to death. It's better to take a break from time to time just to play something else. It's not the scenery that will bore you but the regular fights that after a while feel all the same, especially after mid game and soon you feel just interested in reaching the next waypoint (waypoints serve a quadruple purpose here, they save the game as usual, but they also allow the dragon to alter the magic they are equipped with, they serve as fast travel stations so the dragon can go back to levels they already went through and finally the latest waypoint activated will be the one used for the revival of the dragon should they be killed -- no permanent death here).

The exploration is limited, first because the terrain is not that large and second because the only incentive for exploration is finding new components for your spells and track down some written pieces (scrolls, parchments) that give more background to the story. Even when you are in an urban area you find that very few homes can be explored and that most doors are closed. As I already stated, this is definitely not a RPG.

The only RPG element after all are the spells and there we enter the core mechanics of Lichdom Battlemage, the whole reason for the game existence (which was arguably designed for those being fed up with playing underpowered mages in other titles). A spell is formed of a sigil plus a shape plus one or more augments. Sigils determine the main effect of the spell (lightning, fire... etc) there are 8 of them and they can only be obtained from Roth or from a few of Roth's devices called Reliquaries that he placed at some points in the world (typically at the end of each chapter). Shapes determine what the spell actually do. For example the missile shape form a long range projectile while the pool shape form an area. Augments serves to determine what the spell actually does. A destruction augment is self explanatory and deals damage with a type depending on the sigil used. There are two more augments, control and mastery each affecting the spell in different way. For example the fire sigil combined with missile and control create a missile that will set the target on fire while putting destruction instead of control will create and exploding ball of flames.

There is another spell which is not really one. Shield. The shield is in fact a sigil that you obtain at the very beginning of the game. There are three types of shields each with different abilities but the important thing is that all comes with three layers. Each layer absorbs damage up to a point but beyond this point it breaks (the layer regenerates after a while when taking no damage but doesn't regenerate when broken -- at which point the main character need to quickly find a shield retorer). When all the three layers are broken... the Dragon dies to be revived a second later at the last checkpoint. There's no health in this game, only the three shield layers. So it's kind of vital to upgrade the shield too during the game.

All of this can be done automatically by the game (for those who don't like to scratch their head) via what is called the "smart" inventory. It tells you what spells can be upgraded from what you have in your inventory and you can just click to check what the "smart" inventory proposes and accept the upgrade if you want. The thing is that the "smart" inventory is not always that smart and doesn't allow you to develop the truly good spells. It just keeps you up to date but doesn't turn you into a juggernaut of destruction. So a second inventory exists called "custom" inventory. In it you can do everything you want, deconstruct old spells to retrieve a component, upgrade components, create new spells, recycle unwanted component to potentially obtain a legendary one... etc.

A good part of the game consist in tuning and refining your spell arsenal and only with tinkering directly with them (bypassing the "smart" inventory entirely) will you be able to develop a truly devastating character.

Although "devastating" may be a bit of an overstatement.  Although there was definitely good times I wasn't feeling particularly powerful or devastating most of the time, despite the claims from the developers. My mage in Dragon Age: Origin felt more powerful, as did my avatar in Skyrim (even when not tweaked). Lichdom: Battlemage is so cluttered with ambushes containing multiple lieutenants or even mini bosses in the last part of the game that you don't feel all that powerful. Just one of these encounters can easily stretch a full 5 minutes so no, the Dragon doesn't feel like the badass mage they are claimed to be (unless Xaviant and me don't have the same definition of "badass"). You certainly don't feel badass when one enemy sticks you to the ground with its anchor ability and that another one knocks you down at the same time (which may happens a lot beyond mid game); You feel stupid, sure... Powerful? Not so much. Not powerful either when one has to spend a dozen of spells on a low ranking enemy grunt to bring it down.

So the main purpose of Lichdom: Battlemage which is building a badass mage seems failed to me especially as I have built more powerful mages in other games. However the game in itself is still a good entertainment. At least for those who like to electrify or burn their enemies to the ground and don't mind a challenge, even on low difficulty. A world a bit more explorable would be better. I'd say some side quests would help too but then that would be a RPG. So it's an average feeling as far as the fun I had went. There are good things in there but almost obliterated by the repetitiveness of the fights and the linearity of the game. Nevertheless with some efforts in those areas I'd definitely look forward to a second opus.

Guess what it means!