Lichdom: Battlemage Review – Unique but falls short

Platforms: Windows, PS4, Xbox One – Console release date: March 22nd, 2016
Developer: Xaviant
Publisher: Maximum Games

Lichdom: Battlemage is a first person action RPG Indie game developed by Xaviant and is the first of its kind. It provides a unique gameplay experience but not necessarily in a good way, with a primary and only focus on casting spells, crafting your own magic aaaaand…well not much else really. There is definitely a story but after the introduction, I lost a lot of interest but the spell casting and crafting system is what kept me going.

It was more of an impulse buy when it was in early access on Steam and to be honest, there hasn’t been much change apart from the extra levels, polished UI and added detail to level design. Sometimes it doesn’t really feel like a finished game and one of the reasons why is because the mini-bosses and bosses are actually named “Mini-Boss” and “Boss”. I don’t even think I need to explain why this is so dreadful. Even using a random name generator from a website would have been more sufficient. This along with the almost non-existent storyline is what makes this game seem incomplete.

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What on Earth is this game about?

The story as I said is pretty much non-existent and no I’m really not making it up! Have a read below and tell me what you think.

“The story is determined by whether you choose to play as a male or female character. Choosing a male will result in Shax (apparently a Demon Boss) abducting your wife because you refuse to sell him a sword. Choosing a female character will change the story a little and result in Shax instead abducting your sister after a dispute about a piece of jewelry you’re selling. After choosing your character, you’re awakened by a man named Roth (your guide) and he immediately marks you to be his Dragon aka the chosen one. In a later part of the game, the character gender you did not choose, would help you and be called the Gryphon.”

It’s fair to say that playing through it for the story will get you bored very quickly as it feels unimaginative and confusing, so if you do give the game a go, just try and keep your focus on the gameplay instead.

How does it play?

Lichdom is a game that let’s you play out your fantasies as a mage or a complete glass canon, with destructive fireballs, chilling frost magic and other forms of sorcery at your disposal. The spells themselves seem really cool to cast and you definitely feel like you’re playing a proper spell casting game.

I haven’t come across and nor do I know of a game of similar type and gameplay but the closest I’d say is Magicka, solely for the “magic is the only form of combat” and it playing the dominant role in the game. And Magicka is a game that does it well, far better at portraying a spell casting game and it is a lot more fun. I mean Skyrim is sort of similar, but it’s not a game that revolves around casting spells, which is why I’ve compared it with Magicka in that regard.

Spell crafting in Lichdom has an interesting concept but, some things aren’t really explained that well so you’ll have to play around with it to get a grasp of how it fully works. Sometimes I got carried away and was too engrossed in the crafting system because I wanted to try and put together something cool. Which usually ended up in a spell I never wished to create. But hey it’s all good fun! Well until you realize it get’s old really fast. This is the same problem with the actual gameplay itself, casting. Once you’re over that “cool” factor or phase, you get pulled back into reality and figure out that the game really isn’t all that great. What Lichdom: Battlemage could have improved on with the crafting system is mixing spell schools to get different effects, just like Magicka’s deep combinations of spells. Crafting a spell with fire and frost properties (of course, they would be weaker than individual spells but would apply both status effects) could make for some interesting gameplay and would have added more depth to the crafting system in Lichdom.

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The game isn’t just about firing off a bunch of different spells until everything dies. There are also these things called Status effects that each spell has. For example the frost spell slow and freezes enemies when they are hit, the kinesis spell roots your target in its place and when they take a certain amount of damage, they take a higher amount of damage on the next hit. The necromancer spell is something that doesn’t effect until enemies die because it’s then that a skeletal corpse rises and fights for you. Some of these spell effects are really cool and although we’ve seen them in other games, it feels more epic in a game where all you do is cast spells.

At first, the controls felt kind of clunky and movement slow but this one of those things that you’ll get used to as you keep playing. Save points aren’t really just kind of figure it out and they are few and far between. They appear as a blue aura which is very noticeable and they aren’t even called save points, it just instructs you to press the action button to use it.

The game does encourages strategic gameplay, especially on harder difficulty modes because you can die really easily if you get overwhelmed with enemies and if you don’t make use of blinking to get away from enemies. Another form of strategic gameplay is the combination of spells and not the kind of combinations in Magicka. For example fire spells on frozen targets shatter, dealing more damage and if you combine a frozen target with a kinesis spell, then use fire spell, you’ll deal a significant amount of damage. This works wonders when you charge the spells for critical damage or if you’re lucky “apocalypticals”, which are bigger critical hits from charging your spells. Charged spells always deal critical damage but you also have a chance of dealing extra apocalyptical damage. The chance for these things to happen can be increased via the crafting system or leveling up and choosing a passive trait (out of 3 per level) i.e. 1% increased critical chance, 3% faster cast time etc. This was one of the mechanics in the game that I liked because you had a choice of either charging or quick firing.

There are some spell schools where you read it and you think “oh this sounds awesome” but when you get it, it’s underwhelming. There are points where you choose one spell out of a list, so you can’t get the others until you get to the next point.

There are 7 types of spells that excel in different situations and they’re all pretty much self-explanatory.

  • Targeted – Spells that lock onto targets within a certain distance (my personal favourite because it does most of the work i.e. aiming for you)
  • Lob – These don’t lock onto any targets but they are cast like throwing grenades and usually deal damage over time and very poor AoE damage
  • AoE (Area of Effect) – AoE spells deal damage within a certain area, making these type of spells the best for killing enemies who are close to each other (my second favourite)
  • Trap – Pretty much like in Skyrim, these spells are cast on the ground so when an enemy walks over the trap, it triggers
  • Homing – I don’t really see why a homing a spell is in the game because it acts similar to targeted spells with the exception of it not having a distance required
  • Ray – Ray spells cast a stream where it deals damage as long as it’s being cast. But I loathe this type because you’re vulnerable and move very slow whilst casting
  • Blink – More of a defensive ability, blink spells teleport you a certain distance and when reaching the destination, you unleash fire damage

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Some of the spells aren’t great and you can tell which ones excel in most situations i.e. targeted, AoE, trap. It did feel nice to have a selection of different spell types but I ended up not liking half of them so I stuck to the ones I did enjoy using. There’s also an ability called Barrier Nova which when timed during an enemy attack (melee), you counter them and deal damage. This was a handy spell when you get into those situations where you panic like crazy because you’re overwhelmed with enemies and don’t know what’s going on. But usually it isn’t needed very often if you’re able to keep your distance from attacking enemies, which is where blinking becomes your best friend.

Fights can be challenging if you’re not paying attention to where the enemies are and if you’re not using strategy (trust me you can get overwhelmed quickly if you’re not using control spells like freeze/kinesis etc!). Especially on the last two difficulty modes where avoiding attacks is the most important thing to do, otherwise you will die easily. Which I thought was good because it punishes you by taking a big chunk out of your health, even from standard level enemies on the highest difficulty modes.

Recycled enemies

Not much variety among enemies. Very repetitive in this regard. Can get a bit dull. This is one of my pet peeves when it comes to games. If a game has way too many recycled assets, I go nuts because it shows that the studio(s) couldn’t be bothered with creating new assets and thought that they could get away with putting in the same thing over and over again. Yeah there are different enemies like skeletons, Humans etc. but how would you feel if you had to fight the same looking enemies across multiple levels? However there is a monster that I liked the most, and it’s the one you see below!

Undead Monster

It kind of feels more like an FPS with spell casting and that’s not necessarily a good thing nor is it a bad thing! It’s unique in this sense because I’ve never played a game like Lichdom before. That’s what interested me and even though its not perfect, it’s different. The crafting system is another thing that stands out because of how it works. Parts of it I really hate and some parts I quite frankly adore, well mostly the actual ability to craft your own spells. What would be nice however is if you were able to change how your crafted spells looked independently, instead of having it tied to the type of the spell.

As linear as it gets

Lichdom is the very definition of linear gameplay because there’s literally 0% of any open world. Yes there’s a couple of pathways that lead to a crafting material but ultimately, you always follow the same route. I’m not saying linear games are terrible, I’m saying this game does linear gameplay terribly. It get’s boring going through each level which really is the same as the level before it i.e. you start a level, you kill every enemy you come across and you kill the boss, proceeding to the next level or zone. There seems to be no creativity in this regard. The images below deceive you into thinking that there’s a lot to explore, but there’s usually just one path with one or two dead end paths with an orb or scroll for crafting materials and/or lore.

The world does look beautiful and I did find myself stopping to admire the scenery a couple of times but for the most part it’s nothing we haven’t already seen before and honestly I just wanted to plough through the levels as quickly as I could. When this happens, you know you’re playing a game that isn’t working out.

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It looks very similar to Skyrim i.e. tents, item sharpeners (weapon grinders), general look of the buildings, ice caves, voices. Gives off a very Skyrim-ey feel. This is good and bad because it feels atmospheric and somewhat alive but seems like a bit of a “copy” at times in terms of design, which is why I wasn’t entirely impressed.

So is it a game I’d recommend?

Lichdom: Battlemage is a game with an interesting play style and a great concept with the crafting system but everything else isn’t quite up to scratch. As cool as playing the game as a pure mage seems, it can get old really fast. More depth into the story, level design and a wider variety of enemies would have provided me with a better experience. You’ll have a different opinion and I’d love to know what you think of the game but personally, I can’t see myself recommending this game as a whole because it feels unfinished, especially with the £29.99 price tag. If the appeal of playing as a pure mage is what interests you, then this might be a game for you, especially if don’t care for stories and just want to blow “shit” up! 🙂

Overall Score: 59%

Just a heads up, I’ve got some gameplay of some of my playthroughs but at the time I publish this review,  it’s not yet ready. But it will be soon! Also make sure you subscribe to our YouTube channel as well for any video updates and you can catch me on Twitch where I stream a bunch of games that I enjoy playing!

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