Indie developer Contingent99 drops you straight into its game's universe in a way not many other dungeon crawling titles often would. With no conventional storytelling methods or tutorial system in place, the wannabe hero you control in Wizard of Legend starts out at the front steps of the fictional museum of Lanova. It's at this location you are taught about the history of the wizard world and powerful magical elemental spells known as 'arcana', as you work your way through various interactive exhibits within the museum. You'll learn how to perform spells while listening to modern-day exhibit guides discuss the history of the chaos trials (an annual invitational event administered by the Lanovian Council of Magic).
Once you’ve completed the museum’s trial, a mysterious relic known as the Insignia of Legend shatters from its display case and transports you to a magical location. Before you even have time to realise you’ve undergone a crash course in the basics, your hero has arrived at Lanova Plaza and is preparing for the actual chaos trials. Using the knowledge acquired at the exhibit in modern times, you must now battle fierce foes as well as the famous elemental wizards you’ve heard so much about with arcana spells.
Similar to other games in the same vein, luck may or may not favour you during each procedurally generated run. What’s going to improve your chances of a successful play session is experimentation with the many unique elemental spells in order to find the best combinations. With over 100 to acquire, there are plenty of mixtures. Arcana types cover all elemental bases including fire, air, earth, lightening, water and more. In addition to these are relics – which are available in the form of a range of items and provide you with special advantages and abilities in combat such as improved damage, the chance to poison foes or the ability to summon spiritual minions that attack enemies with special elemental powers. There are plenty to collect as well.
Depending on what exactly you equip, your play style can change each run from more direct combat, to ranged – or even a reliance on spiritual minions to aid you in battle. There is a degree of flexibility, allowing you to play in a certain way that not all dungeon crawler games with rogue-like elements tend to embrace due to fixed weapon systems. Here you can focus on a mixture of different styles with the assistance of multiple elemental arcana. As well as selecting the type of arcana you want, each one falls under specific hero abilities including a basic attack, dash, standard attack and signature move (powered by a blue meter). Each of these slots is filled by a single arcana at a time. The dash move will allow you to jump over gaps and tear through opponents while the signature move tends to deal a devastating blow to enemies. It's mostly a matter of deciding which element and arcana will power each slot. Opting for a specific element and enhancing arcana can be a beneficial way of gaining the edge in battle.
Each time you start the chaos trial, you’re presented with a new environment with a unique layout. You could find yourself in a lava or ice-filled dungeon, or a magical forest. Regardless of the location, it’s wise to fill every section of your map in order to discover everything the dungeon has to offer and eliminate all enemy threats before taking on the boss. As with a lot of rogue-like games, the map spawns enemies, chests with loot and various trader shops across several areas. Enemies gain new elemental abilities each time you play and can attack from a close or ranged distance, so you never know what to expect.
With a wide variety of challenging enemies out to get you, visiting traders will increase your chances of survival – with purchasable spells, relics and potions along with the potential to make enhancements to your clothing – provided you have the right amount of coin. There are even event-like NPC such as piñata that will reward you with certain items for performing small feats or trading an item of value, like a spell. The main barrier with a lot of characters in a dungeon is the amount required to buy the items. It just means you'll need to take down more enemies if you are insufficient on funds.
Back at the plaza, you can take a break to gather your thoughts about what spells may have worked better than others and strategise before you head back into battle or buy any new outfits, arcana or relics to further improve your chances. You can even go and talk to a magical mirror, wardrobe, chest and book for more specific item and skill management. What’s available when it comes to customisation does enough to fulfill the required tasks.
The combat in Wizard of Legend is everything you could want from a rogue-like dungeon crawler. It feels vastly superior in contrast to the average release filed under this genre, even if the difficulty is a bit overwhelming at times. Character movement and actions are fast and responsive making fights more manageable. Zipping about in battle as you unleash a barrage of fireballs from multiple angles or spray icicle daggers at opponents, and then perhaps performing a combo of multiple attacks provides a great sense of satisfaction.
Even more basic actions like destroying barrels and close combat is rewarding. It’s more a matter of picking which spell best suits the situation. Provided you’re proactive in how you manage your character on each run, moves are always fun to perform. The co-op mode enables you to take your spell management to the next level with a friend. By teaming up you can combine elemental forces and there are even items like relics that will give you added benefits in a party. This option is a handy inclusion for anyone who may be in need of some assistance. Else you can take each other on in the verse mode.
Visually, the art style isn’t anything out of the ordinary, with the developer opting for a classic pixel art look. The colour in every area along with the special effects is hard to fault, though. The music goes well with the overall look and does an apt job providing a much-needed sense of adventure in a game like this while fuelling curiosity. The sound effects also add to the enjoyment when executing the same moves repeatedly for hours on end. About the only problem is the occasional dip in the frame rate during the more frantic moments of a fight.
Wizard of Legend has some novel concepts. Being able to swap and mix spells to create a seemingly unlimited amount of combinations keeps the action fresh and encourages you to experiment on each run. What’s also likable about this game is how polished the entire package appears to be. It’s these aspects that make it more favourable than the average offerings that frequently pop up on the Switch. If you are looking for yet another dungeon crawler with rogue-like elements, this is a step above the competition.