It’s a shame that League of Legends has become such a meme for being a source of toxicity, as Riot Games has consistently shown that the world of Runeterra has quite a bit more potential than the MOBA lets on. Through its Riot Forge publishing arm, the company has enlisted several indie developers to make a diverse lineup of games spanning multiple genres to spotlight its lineup of champions, leading to the creation of great releases like Ruined King and Hextech Mayhem. Now, Digital Sun—the creators of Moonlighter—has been given a crack at the IP with The Mageseeker, and we’re pleased to report that it provides yet another deeply enjoyable take on the world of Runeterra.
The Mageseeker primarily follows characters in the nation of Demacia. Demacia is a prim, proud, and powerful kingdom that arose from the ashes of a global magical war, but that war led to a deep-rooted hatred and fear for all things magic. Out of this fear, the aristocracy formed the Mageseekers, a secret police organization designed to systematically hunt down all natural-born mages within the kingdom and either imprison or kill them.
The protagonist of the story, Sylas, became a Mageseeker when he was just a boy. He was recruited because his ability to sense magic in others made the Mageseekers’ dirty work much more efficient. However, he was branded a criminal by the Mageseekers when he attempted to save a young mage girl and inadvertently absorbed her powers, resulting in him accidentally killing her and the Mageseekers he was with. As a result of the incident, Sylas spent fifteen years in prison, and the only reason he got out was because he stole a friend’s powers and blasted his way out of captivity. The game begins with his escape, which triggers a revolution among the mages who are tired of living under the Demacian bootheel, while Sylas sets out on a quest for vengeance against the state that wronged him.
It’s a deeply emotional narrative, one marked by poignant and touching examples of pain, grief, and redemption. Part of what makes Sylas such a compelling and complicated character is that he’s the kind of person who’s doing the wrong thing for the right reasons; he has valid reasons to be outraged about how the hypocritical Demacian state has oppressed mages for generations, but his chosen path for exacting his revenge sometimes strays too far into wrathful extremism. It’s a classic revenge tale at its heart, but The Mageseeker really does a great job of building a cast of likeable support mages who help to remind Sylas who he’s fighting with and for.
Gameplay in The Mageseeker follows a take on beat ‘em up combat that feels like a 2D retro God of War, right down to the angry protagonist bludgeoning his enemies to death with chains. A typical level consists of you alternating between clearing out arenas of Demacian soldiers and monsters and using your chains to explore relatively linear environments to secure collectibles and hidden journal entries. Once you’ve completed a level, you then return to camp to snag some upgrades and greet your co-conspirators before setting out on another mission to further the cause. It’s a solid gameplay loop, one that’s greatly bolstered by the fast-paced battles and frequent introduction of new enemy types.
Sylas can combo various light and heavy attacks together to make short work of his foes, and his ability to use his chains to nimbly snap to enemies around the map helps move things at a brisk pace. In addition to the chains, Sylas has a growing collection of elemental spells he can use to exploit enemy weaknesses and give him more crowd control capability, but their use is limited by a small mana gauge you have to refill by getting in melee attacks. To make up for this, you’re encouraged to make use of Sylas’s signature move, which is the ability to steal magic from foes. With a quick button tap, you can whip your chains at an enemy mage and get a one-shot, mana-free version of whatever spell they were attacking you with, making Sylas feel like a really buff and angry version of Kirby.
Combat encounters thus become a delicate dance of balancing melee attacks, magic spells, and stolen magic as you dodge and dash your way between fireballs and sword swipes. It doesn’t take long before enemies start to really push the offensive and use their numbers to box you in, which makes for fights that feel thrilling and dynamic. It takes a bit before you get into the groove of learning proper timings for attacks and using the right stick to aim your chains, but a couple of hours of practice sees the controls become second nature as you tear through battalions.
On its base difficulty, Mageseeker isn’t exactly a hard game, but Sylas doesn’t exactly take that many hits before he goes down. Luckily, the abundance of checkpoints and saves help to take the sting out of deaths. Those of you who don’t have the reflexes needed to keep up will be pleased to know that the developers saw fit to include an accessibility menu that lets you tweak variables like Sylas’s health or damage output to create a custom level of difficulty that fits your abilities well. We especially appreciated this because it allows The Mageseeker to be a game that can be approached by players of all skill levels; even if you feel that the base game isn’t difficult enough, you can always adjust those sliders the other way to make things much more brutal.
As we touched on above, when you finish a level, you return to your camp with your spoils and can spend your supplies on things like new spells for Sylas or some upgrades to his base stats. Though these upgrade systems don’t exactly feel robust, it seems like the game always dangles something just out of your reach, giving you plenty of reason to scour every corner of every level. Once you’ve taken care of your upgrades, you can then return to the war table in the middle of camp to either go on the next story mission, or to take a side mission to hopefully find more loot and recruits.
As you go through levels, you’ll occasionally come across other mages sympathetic to your cause, and these mages can then join you to add their power to yours. Back in camp, Sylas can then ‘equip’ companions to follow him on a mission, which will grant him passives that add elemental effects to some of his melee attacks and bolster the strength of certain spells. As you add more recruits to your ranks, the effects of these passives get even stronger, giving you all the more reason to be thorough in your ransacking of the Demacian kingdom. These support mages don’t add a ton to the gameplay loop, but they act as yet another meaningful reward that can help take the edge off those tougher combat encounters.
Visually, Mageseeker utilizes the same gorgeous hi-bit art style that Digital Sun showcased in Moonlighter, characterized by a broad color palette and some impressively detailed environments. Whether you’re hacking your way through a picturesque seaside port or the bowels of a horrifying human experimentation lab, all these locales manage to appear visually distinct while still feeling like they all fit within the same kingdom. Character portraits in dialogue sequences are also a highlight, displaying a level of expression that the spritework could never match while punctuating the lines with more emotional heft.
As for the soundtrack, The Mageseeker generally sticks to a surprisingly melancholic and serious selection of music, underling the often grim implications of Sylas’s mission. It perfectly fits the overall tone of The Mageseeker, and while it can feel sometimes like the music disappears a bit too easily into the background, we were pleased with what it adds to the atmosphere and cutscenes—chiptunes simply wouldn’t have cut it here.
Though it excels nearly everywhere else, Mageseeker is unfortunately pretty rough on the performance side of things, with numerous bugs and frame rate issues affecting the gameplay experience in both docked and handheld. Though some smaller arenas and uncomplicated environments will often see frame rates that appear to be close to 60 FPS, this often dives substantially when the screen gets loaded up with enemies or you find yourself exploring more open environments. We even noted instances where it started to mess with input timings, which delayed dodges and threw off combos. On top of this, the game crashed literally every time we came back to it after putting it in sleep mode for a few hours, and once it closed in the middle of browsing a menu. Hopefully Digital Sun is working on a patch for such issues now; they don’t make the game unplayable, but we’d suggest you hold off on buying until things get polished up a bit.
If you can get past the bugs and performance issues at launch, The Mageseeker proves itself to be yet another strong addition to Riot’s growing catalogue of intriguing spin-off games. Sylas’s bittersweet quest supplies a compelling story that nicely complements the fast-paced combat and magic-stealing action, providing fans with an enjoyable action experience that fans of 2D action games will want to take note of. We’d give The Mageseeker a high recommendation to anyone looking for another good retro hack ‘n’ slash for their collection—this one is deeper than it may appear on the surface, and it stands up well next to peers such as Unsighted or Hyper Light Drifter.
I wonder if it would run better on ps5…..
Game crashing Bugs: -2 .
Framerate problems: -1.
So we are starting at a 7. Game isn't perfect: 4 or 5 at best. How can a game that doesn't work properly be called "great"? It objectively isn't great. It is a good game with broken code.
So s&m Mitch it seems.😂
@Cashews quite the negative dude are we? These problems will be patched. It sucks but welcome to gaming on Switch in 2023.
We love league of legends!!!!!
@Bablommebite I guess I am old school. I think a review should be about a game TODAY. Not a game months from now - that may or may not be.
This whoever developer decided to ship a broken game, I have no doubt they skimped on testing (if at all). So that's my problem? I should spend $20 on a broken game in hope it sells enough that they don't abandon it and move on?
This isn't about this crum-bum game - it is systematic of reviewers all over. They don't take into account technical issues, no matter how large they are - with the promises and hopes of fixing it later.
Is Pokemon going to get a significant patch? It sure doesn't look like it. If this game sells 3,000 copies will it get a patch? Nope. The number should reflect that. 5, tops. If I was playing a game and it repeatedly froze I'd give it a 3. Or a 0. Maybe then these developers will complete a game.
@Cashews Or the technical issues have been noted and called out but didn't ruin the what was otherwise an excellent experience?
@Indielink Maybe. The only listed cons were framerate and crashes. So otherwise The Mageseeker is a perfect game: 10/10.
I don't think so. It didn't read like the perfect game - handed down from the heavens for us to play. It read like a super common game. One that is churned out on near constant basis. I think the bugs were completely ignored and instead just went with the gut feeling of 8- as is always done with these games.
But hey...opinions and such.
I need to try some of these. I know nothing about the original source material but some of these spinoffs look really cool.
@Cashews If you're old school, many SNES games with framerate issues (that never received patches, btw) still reviewed well back in the day. Seems like it's historically been a Nintendo thing to overlook performance in professional reviews.
@SonOfDracula ehhhh...back then I didn't even consider them framerate issues. Games were just like that. If it was too bad word would spread and no one would buy it. Then again, reviews didn't have a really big impact until the later 90s imho.
@Cashews So if a modern game slows down, it's framerate. But if an old game slows down it's..?
No impact on gameplay? Why are romhackers actively fixing them with FastROM, then?
@SonOfDracula framerate. But it wasn't as considered because all games were limited by technology at the time. Today the technology isn't the limiting factor. It is work or talent.
I didn't say framerate didn't affect gameplay. I said reviews in general were not as impactful. Game magazines were about as niche as niche gets.
@Cashews Technology isn't a limiting factor...someone is legitimately saying this on a website that covers a console that is more often than not, the limiting factor. Unless you think the Switch is next-gen?
@Cashews like I said dude, that's gaming for you in 2023. I'm also old school (46 👨🦳) and I certainly don't agree with shipping an incomplete game but it's the new standard nowadays. For every Metriod Prime remastered there are tons of Bloodstained. By the way, it's publishers and not developers that make these decisions. Also, the Switch is by far your best option to get games that run "well" without any patches at launch. Maybe if we all banded together and stop buying things would change... yeah right.
@Bablommebite This. At the time of review, there are more often than not, performance problems. Elden Ring still got game of the year, even though it had a REALLY bad launch in terms of performance on PC. In fact, many reviewers didn't even address the PC port technical issues.
@SonOfDracula Yes the switch isn't as powerful as PS5 or PC. Could the Switch run Hades flawlessly? Could the Switch run Monster Hunter - with 4 separate humans placed around a sprawling map who can be fighting seperate flailing monsters while operating online? Can the Switch run a fairly high def version of a 8 man paintgun battle with colors flying everywhere?
Yes. Can the switch run a pixel art hack and slash made by a developer with switch programming experience without game crashing bugs?
@Cashews A game review doesn't start at a 10 and then have points docked per issue, that's not how it works
@Bablommebite @SonOfDracula I'm just giving my opinion on how it is a problem to me. If I boot up a well reviewed game, in 2023, and it freezes on me multiple times while I'm watching a slideshow - it is not a Great game.
For the same reason Elden Ring should have been reviewed accordingly.
But advert dollars, etc. I get it. You can't hold these guys to the fire too aggressively.
@SonOfDracula From software are really pushing it though. Why they always get a free pass is beyond me.
@lizardbish Lol, how does a game review work then? Do they compile a list of previous games and hold the present game to that list? Do they deduct points for any reason?
There isn't an answer there is no basis at all for any number they put on a game ever. It is arbitrary and pulled from thin air. That is my point. A game that freezes isn't held accountable. Why?
@Bablommebite I don't think they got a free pass, since they are still actively patching their game. Fromsoft is very openly criticized on forums related to the topic. It's also kinda like how you mentioned, the game in this review will probably get patched.
But no, they do not get a free pass, hardly ever. You just won't hear much about it on a Nintendo fan-cult, ahem, I mean site.
@Cashews The answer is right in front of you:
Also weren't you the one just saying that you didn't care about game performance back in the day?
@SonOfDracula I'm just whining loudly a bit. I appreciate the review I just wish companies would get knocked in the same way the consumer get knocked when they buy it out of gate.
Reviewers, publishers, consumers, developers...they should really hold the day one, full price guy with a greater respect. They keep the lights on and the fingers moving.
edit: I cared about game performance back in the day...but nothing outside of the best of the best performed exceptionally well. I wish I could remember the name of the game. It was on the commodore 64. It had a horrible live action picture of a screaming, shirtless warrior on the cover...he looked like the wrestler The Ultimate Warrior (it may have been without the makeup).
I agonized over the decision. My mother would buy me one game a year, it was for a graduation. I read the back of boxes for months until I picked up what i thought was the perfect all summer game for me. A deep, involved RPG.
As soon as you left the first town and got into your first goblin fight the game froze. No matter what you did the game wouldn't last longer that two battles. My pc would get so hot trying to run it - it would freeze up itself. I was devastated and would try to run this game for at least a month until I gave up. I may have given up on the c64 after that event - for real it really hit me.
So I guess this comes from a 30 year old place of bitterness. Can someone hug this grief stricken little boy? I'm not crying I swear...
@Cashews Cons don't equal -1 each. Maybe the game would have been a 9 without issues. And, aside from the technical issues, it does seem to be rather well liked as opposed to something bland and churned out so an 8 can still be a reasonable score.
@Cashews It's like I've been saying for the past 15 years: we are paying for beta testing, at this point. Even with Elden Ring, from a developer I love, I waited until the performance was patched instead of buying day one. Luckily, that only took them two weeks or so! So in that case, it wasn't a big deal.
Buying day one these days is a huge gamble that I'm just never willing to take. Hell, nobody should be buying day one, due to the risk of performance issues. Look at how D4's demo was literally bricking specific video cards from overloading the GPU.
@SonOfDracula "In fact,many reviewers didn't even address the PC port technical issues.". That's what I meant by getting a free pass.
@Bablommebite Ah, gotcha.
Yeah, reviewers should take more responsibility for delving into how a game performs, so that we can make informed decisions. It seems like some games on this site get a pass on performance and others don't. Feels very arbitrary and random. EVERY review should have a section addressing performance, either yay or nay.
That's one of the reasons i appreciate things like the Digital foundry tech reviews though it feels like DF really gets to some people here.
heck if anything getting the cold hard facts would help the player come to their own conclusion whether a games performance issues would bother them. For me im usually fine with 30fps as long as its stable and tend to always go with "performance" options in games over visual ones when offered the choice.
@Mgalens I adore DF, they're great and very informative!
People who say this is a "Switch problem" apparently have never bought a PS4/5, Xbox or even PC game.
Cheers for the review. I take it it had similar cons on the other platforms? Anyway, I still want it off my wishlist, but maybe a bit further down the line. Still my kinda thang.
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