The Wizards Enhanced Edition Review: Casting Spells in a Ho-Hum World

The Wizards Enhanced Edition successfully plays its position, but it would be even better with more standout characteristics in its familiar fantasy genre.

Gesture-based VR games live and die on a firm foundation of device movement, which strains The Wizards Enhanced Edition, prompting Move controllers to constantly dislocate and disorient, bugging out beyond the pale. Standing in one place and summoning lightning bolts and icicle-shooting frost bows has an undeniable appeal, and the visual quality is often cleaner and crisper than other games on the PlayStation store, but The Wizards can’t push very far past mediocrity for the lion’s share of its content. It feels like structured around around a decent tech demo…just not all that much farther than that.

For anyone who hasn’t played the previously-released PC version, The Wizards is a spell-casting fantasy action game, which does feel like a fun change from the otherwise common firearms and trigger mechanics in other VR titles. Here, in order to cast a fireball, you hold one hand still and do something of a macarena-ish maneuver with your other one, which quickly summons a bowling ball-sized flaming sphere that can be chucked at an enemy. Other abilities include a feisty lightning bolt blast that echoes a kind of kame-hame-ha movement out of Dragonball Z, or a non-dominant-hand shield which can be enabled to deflect melee and projectile threats.

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These gestures are well designed and quickly memorable, causing them to become reflexive soon enough, which marks the wise attention being paid to The Wizards’ basic combat. Unfortunately, those aforementioned connectivity and calibration issues gum up the works, with Move controllers disconnecting or losing parity with movement, turning opportunities for slick satisfaction into fumbles. An early-game setting adjusts the height of your character, which you think would preempt these connectivity problems (and maybe it does. Maybe ignoring this setting makes it worse?), but drift is still frequent and, oddly, even seems to degrade when placing the controllers down and leaving the game for a short while, then returning to it. For VR play it should be naturally expected that players will want to take occasional breaks, but it’s impossible to isolate this as the main reason for these bugs.

Still, these issues aren’t insurmountable, and there aren’t any additional and comparably drastic bugs in the game. If anything, what The Wizards lacks most is an appealing and/or creative sense of character and specificity, which is more problematic given its placement in an over-stuffed genre. Fantasy video games are legion, so when you’re dealing with a spell-casting adventure that offers generally unremarkable goblins, trolls, dragons, and multi-colored crystals for target practice, they can’t help but feel like the results of an unimaginative splurge in an assets store. The narrator represents the game’s best attempt to inject wit and charm into the experience, but his patiently eloquent English snark is yawn-inducing, been-there-done-that territory, and the magical spells on their own aren’t particularly thrilling on paper, either; most are predictable and essentially obvious, though the head-tracking targeting system is unique and helpfully improves accuracy.

Moving your character requires a mix of teleportation and walking, and most levels are reasonably small, though there are tunnels, breakable walls, secret hidey-holes, and ledges to jockey between. It’s a nice twist that most areas that require more thought than simply blasting at constantly spawning enemies and moving straight ahead, with some light puzzles to solve in order to proceed further, but most of the time you’re just battling mobs after magical walls appear to lock down an area until they are defeated.

There are some interesting challenge tweaks that can be found throughout levels as cards, modifiers which weaken you and/or strengthen enemy monsters prior to loading up the next stage. These can be prepped in the hub area prior to starting a level and are the best way to increase your leaderboard-prepped score, as well as fuel upgrades for each of your accumulated spells. Improving your magical abilities works out fine (and is all but necessary to contend with later challenges), and the Enhanced Edition version features a new instanced arena mode with its own course of upgrades.

To expand on that arena mode: this version’s update main pull is selectable from the start, and it amounts to three additional areas with guided objectives outside of the main story. As isolated bespoke scenarios they’re perfectly fine while not being particularly ingenious on their own, either, and the fact that they don’t carry over spell upgrades from the main campaign seems like some kind of mistake, or a possible way to synthetically extend the content, since it provides more than one route of upgrade progression. Still, more game is still more game, and players who enjoy the combat now have even more of it to engage with.

Altogether, The Wizards Enhanced Edition provides entertaining objectives to complete and some nicely detailed VR environments to look at, but there isn’t a whole lot presented in the way of innovation, something which is crucial when it comes to this advanced hardware. If the above descriptions of gesture-based spells already sounds like a good time, it’s hard to imagine that they would outright disappoint, so long as your PlayStation Move controllers behave. Diverting away from the gunplay that is most common to VR games, The Wizards Enhanced Edition successfully plays its position, but it would be even better with more standout characteristics in its familiar fantasy genre.

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The Wizards Enhanced Edition is available now on PlayStation VR through the digital store for $24.99 — a physical version will be releasing on August 13 for $29.99. Screen Rant was provided with a digital PS4 download code for the purposes of this review.

2019-07-29 02:07:31

Leo Faierman

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