Developer: Black Tower Studios/Aksys Games
Publisher: Aksys Games
# of Players:1
ESRB Rating: T (Teen)
While playing through the comically wretched (in)excess that is Magus, I kept having flashbacks to the time the late, lamented 3DO’s internal studios were churning out games like Warriors of Might and Magic, Crusaders of Might and Magic, Shifters and most importantly, Godai: Elemental Force (one of the most laughably busted games ever made for the PS2). Magus reminded me of those games and more recent ones where any good intentions were waylaid by questionable execution that ended up sapping anything decent out of them, leaving a residue of fun smothered in layers of glaring badness.
Now, I love my bad games to death, but Magus gets a special place in my library for making me laugh out of confusion and unintentional humor at the same time. If Black Tower were trying for some sort of genre-bending parody they’ve succeeded royally. On the other hand, if this was a serious idea gone south for the duration that couldn’t be salvaged, it’s a bit head-shaking how this game got made this late in the PS3’s life cycle…
On the good side, the game works when you put it into your PS3 and the mindless gameplay is SO simple to pick up and play that even if you hate the game, you can’t complain that it doesn’t work at all. On the other hand… wow, Magus is a mighty weird timepiece because it looks and feels SO ancient on every front. The story is simplistic to the point of the plot holes not even being worth covering (it’s a LONG list right from the opening moments), the lead character is obnoxious to the point of him not even having ONE likable trait (unless “ruthless vindictive smart ass” is your type of my) and his immortal female sidekick is useless (and not even good eye candy for those who want that sort of sexist thing).
How bad is the story? It’s about a man jailed 30 years who suddenly finds out he’s a god of some sort who now needs to kill his way to the final sequence where he gets to be one or two types of over-powered ruthless vindictive smart ass that really doesn’t matter after about five or less hours of you wasting your time playing this mess. The game flow is more or less as follows. Enter area, kill anything that’s moving, collect treasure drops and health before they vanish, move on. Rinse and repeat. Yeah, it’s simple to get into and double yeah, everything more or less works as it should and there’s a weird sense of “fun” mowing down stiff looking enemies of a few mostly predictable types with ease even on the hardest difficulty.
The problem is, none of this is enjoyable past the primal act of blasting magic at any and all comers. Despite the fantasy theme that screams for assorted weapon types or at least more interesting gaming than holding down a button about 90 percent of the time while running or strafing in all directions, Magus plays like a third-person arcade run ‘n gun (and a not so hot one at that). The sole redeeming feature, the assorted spells the titular character learns, don’t even need to be used save for some areas where you want to get into secret areas or have to “solve” a “puzzle” that requires using different spells one after the other.
However, while the game IS short, you can extend the “fun” by experimenting with some spells to do stuff the developers may have not intended. Levitating around to drop Maggy into places is interesting if only to see if he can get to some hidden goodies or simply fall into a column that has a light source inside it that really doesn’t need to be there. Yeah! Levels past the first map are massive affairs, but reuse textures and objects that might confuse anyone playing who has a bad sense of direction and hates toggling the map from the select menu. Yes, there’s a compass on screen, but the levels are big enough that you’ll want to see them in their entirety because it helps you find where you need to go next.
As for the aforementioned enemies, you get a handful of generic fantasy types, but it’s the pissed off UNICORNS running around on two legs that will bring you to your knees laughing. They’re so out of place in a game that’s already off the rails that after the initial shock of seeing them go from calmly mining ore to *BOOM!* attack dog raving mad right after a cut scene, you’ll probably just say “Ohhhhh-kay!” and commence with the killing. Since the game is SO easy, about the only enemies you need to worry about are the archers who can pick away your health because they just so happened to all be perched way up high on stupid columns or places that often make no architectural sense.
The list goes on and on here, but at least the boisterous voice acting here is decent to some extent. The dialog is wretched in a so bad it’s campy manner, but the game doesn’t seem to have been made to be funny or intentionally weird like the eternally awesome Deadly Premonition: The Director’s Cut. On top of all that, this game costs thirty bucks new, which is great because it’s absolutely NOT worth $60, but still seems overpriced for what’s gotten once that shrink wrap is cracked open. I was hoping this would get “better” before it’s all done, but the game never changes from it’s bland beginning to it’s bland ending. Disappointment creeps in even after some unintentional laughs and at the end of the day, Magus is one of those forgettable game experiences that’s going to simply disappear from stores… but not because it’ll sell out.
Aksys, I love you guys… but what were you thinking? This one’s a master class in how NOT to make a game along the lines of Drake of the 99 Dragons or those above mentioned train wrecks. Rent it if you must (or can) otherwise, it’s a collectible of sorts you’ll play once and want to most likely not see again.