Mage's Initiation: Reign of the Elements (PC) Review

By Renan Fontes 13.02.2019

Review for Mage

Although Sierra Entertainment never made it into the current generation of gaming - formerly defunct since 2004, it's hard to deny the impact they left on the point and click genre. Between King's Quest and Space Quest, Sierra helped lay a foundation that would be followed for years to come. In an era very much dominated by nostalgia and paying tribute to any given medium's catalogue of classics, it was only a matter of time before more developers took advantage of gaming's Sierra shaped hole. Directly inspired from and modelled after King's Quest, Mage's Initiation: Reign of the Elements seeks to bring the graphic adventure genre back to its roots.

Although Mage's Initiation models itself quite heavily after King's Quest, to the point where the former lifts its aesthetics quite heavily from the latter's fifth entry, featuring a vibrant colour palette that brings the seemingly hand drawn visuals to life. Animation is just stiff enough to evoke that early '90s graphic adventure feel while fluid enough to ensure audiences they're experience a title very much developed in the modern era of gaming.

Mage initiate D'arc's adventure is one that wears its heart on its sleeve, shamelessly paying tribute to the franchise that inspired it. More often than not, homage is a crutch that ultimately cripples any given title's identity, but D'arc's initiation wastes little to no time solidifying itself more than just another Sierra-esque entry in the point and click pantheon.

Narratively, Reign of the Elements centers itself entirely around D'arc magical initiation. At the age of 16, D'arc can finally become a mage, needing to complete three separate quests to formally earn the title. Where such a plot would act as a prologue in any other point and click, the present plot begins and ends with D'arc's initiation.

Screenshot for Mage's Initiation: Reign of the Elements on PC

As most fantasy narratives deal with issues of succession, destiny, and end of the world conflicts, it is refreshing to accompany D'arc on a journey that is very much personal. The stakes don't so much affect the world around him as they do affect himself. While several characters allude to D'arc coming into greatness later in life, his first outing is humble, focused, and, above else, introspective.

This is not to say that D'arc is a particularly in-depth protagonist, but that he reflects a very specific period of growing up rather well. He is on the cusp of manhood, and must prove himself more than just another boy in a sea of mages. In that regard, his journey is incredibly traditional in terms of both structure and execution.

Tradition is not necessarily bad, however. From a storytelling standpoint, D'arc's adventure is endearing enough, where it's easy to overlook the clichéd format. Tasked with completing three magical oriented quests, D'arc's initiation offers a surprising amount of leeway, especially when taking into account the Element system.

Screenshot for Mage's Initiation: Reign of the Elements on PC

At the start of his initiation, D'arc will be asked a series of personality questions to determine which of the four Elements he is best associated with: Fire, Water, Earth, or Air. While each Element does present D'arc with a cosmetic change, they more importantly offer him spells which can be used in combat. Unlike most point and clicks, Mage's Initiation features a full blown battle system with stats, spells, and equipment. Combat happens in real time and requires a surprising amount of precision all things considered. Missing with spells can happen fairly easily so it's critical to position D'arc strategically.

Each Element offers a set of new spells that D'arc can use, creating a considerable amount of replay value in-turn. Unfortunately, the spell system poses two major issues: the first, puzzles need to be designed so that D'arc can solve them regardless of which Element he ended up with, meaning that puzzles can't make much use of the spell system; and the second, it's a spell system associated with a combat system that is very much a part of a traditional point-and-click adventure.

Essentially what that means is that combat is awkward. Painfully so. While the idea is cute, and battles can be engaging, they're never gripping for the right reasons. Controlling D'arc in battle can be a slog, and while there is an emphasis placed on legitimate strategy, the RPG elements very much feel tacked on with little consideration to how well they mesh with a point-and-click control scheme.

Screenshot for Mage's Initiation: Reign of the Elements on PC

There is a novelty to the concept, and the RPG half does help to give Mage's Initiation an identity of its own, but it's all painfully rusty. It makes sense to include combat in such a dangerous world rather than designating action to basic cut-scenes, but the same level of polish given to the puzzles, overworld, and exploration simply aren't found in the battle system.

Mercifully, there is a difficulty slider that can be decreased specifically for combat, allowing battles to move at a much quicker pace while still keeping the basic concept in play. Reducing an entire mechanic's difficulty to improve said mechanic is barely a bandage, but it is one nonetheless and the core puzzle solving is admittedly strong enough where combat doesn't pose too much of an issue.

Still, it is disappointing that Reign of the Elements' most unique feature pales in comparison to its more traditional aspects. That said, even without combat, the title as a whole does manage to go beyond its inspiration. Mage's Initiation is more than just a King's Quest knock-off, offering a standard point-and-click adventure with plenty of heart, charm, and puzzle solving.

Screenshot for Mage's Initiation: Reign of the Elements on PC

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

While the combative elements leave much to be desired, Mage's Initiation to pay tribute to the old Sierra titles of yore without failing to craft an identity of its own alongside the homage. D'arc's initiation is almost too simple for its own good, serving as a prologue of sorts to a grander adventure, yet so much focus placed solely on a single story beat is exactly what allows the narrative to lend impact to any given moment. The plot itself may never get too exciting, but active world building, endearing visuals, and focused puzzles ensure that in Mage's Initiation: Reign of the Elements there is seldom a dull moment in D'arc's journey.

Developer

Himalaya Studios

Publisher

Himalaya Studios

Genre

Action Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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