Killing millions of people and enveloping the entire world in a crippling Miasma that corrupts everything it comes into contact with is bound to cause some bad feelings. Seeing as it was a member of the Fictorum, the same faction to which your character belongs, that caused this great cataclysm, it is no surprise that you are not very popular. In fact, a group of magical users calling themselves the Inquisition has made it their purpose to hunt down and kill down any members of the Fictorum. They were pretty efficient at their jobs too and the game opens with you being the last of your order. Displeased by the wholesale slaughter of your fellow Fictorum, your character is on a mission of revenge to take down the Grand Inquisitor and lay waste to anything that stands in his way. While this is probably not the best way to demonstrate that you are not as reckless as the Fictorum who nearly destroyed the world, it is vastly more fun than hiding from the Inquisition.
It’s always fun to play as a mage or magic wielder, but let’s face it, nobody enjoys grinding away for hours just to get to the cool spells or casting one fireball and then having to rest for three days just to recover the mana to do it again. This is way Fictorum focuses on making you feel like a powerful mage right from the start and giving you access to enough cool spells to make Gandalf green with envy. Casting spells still consumes mana, but it recharges fairly quickly, so there is no need to constantly rest or quaff potions with alarming frequency. This results in a game where you can rain down fireballs on your enemies, shoot lightning from your fingertips to electrocute them or freeze them in their tracks with your ice magic.
To make things even more interesting the game features a rune system, whereby your spells can be augmented through the use of various runes. Do you need that fireball to fly further, that lightening to jump from one foe to the next or your ice spell to only trigger when enemies are close? Using the appropriate runes you can do just that, and what’s better, you can choose on the fly how much influence each rune has on the spell. The only downside is that your mana continues to drain while you are fiddling with the influence of your runes and if you run out your health will begin draining instead. Ordinarily this wouldn’t have been much of a problem if you could simply lug around an inventory full of health potions, but unfortunately Fictorum allows you no such luxuries. Instead, health is a very valuable resource as it can only be replenished by spending “essence” at vendors. Since essence also has other important uses and vendors can only be found at random nodes on the overworld map you have to be very careful with your health. You’ll occasionally find healing potions inside houses, but these only replenish a small amount of health and become more scarce as the game progresses. Resting on the overworld map can also heal your Fictorum a bit, but decreases the gap between you and the pursuing horde of the Inquisition, so it is not ideal either. Just remember that the game auto-saves between nodes, so if you exit a node with very little health and there is no trader nearby you could be in deep trouble.
Fictorum might call itself an RPG, but don’t experience points, exploration or talking to any friendly folks in search of side quests. All the story elements are text based, randomized and presented to you on a scroll each time you choose a new node. Usually they boil down to having to choose between entering a node and wreaking havoc for a reward or declining and moving on to the next node. This gives the game a bit of a “choose-your-own-adventure” feel, but unfortunately a lot of the same “quests” and characters pop up a lot. While you might occasionally have to destroy or protect certain structures or kill specific people, most nodes simply require you to reach the exit, called the Nexus, in one piece. To access the exit you need to destroy the towers protecting it first, which later in the game becomes a little more tricky when these towers are replaced by living magicians you have to defeat.
While Fictorum lacks the usual statistics found in role playing games, you can increase certain stats, such as your health, mana and resistances through equipment. Better equipment can be scavenged from houses or you can spend your hard earned essence on purchasing them from the random vendors. The game also allows you to spend essence on enchanting your gear to improve them and even using the scrolls you find to imbue them with new powers. This makes it a real challenge to decide on how and where you want to spend your essence as it can also be used to upgrade your runes and improve your spells. Unwanted gear can be sold at vendors for extra essence, but since your inventory is so small and the traders are randomly present on the overworld map we often found ourselves having to discard loot between levels.
The biggest selling point of Fictorum is undoubtedly the powerful spells you can cast and the ability to completely destroy buildings. Watching buildings crumble when you unleash your fury is extremely entertaining at first, especially if you manage to take down a few enemies with the falling debris. Unfortunately, that same debris can also hurt your mage, sometimes by simply walking over it. Enemies are also not the brightest we’ve ever encountered and almost all of them seem to think that simply running straight at you in a pack is the best course of action. Depending on the type of spells you favor this usually results in an initial period of trying to snipe enemies from a distance and then kiting as the rest chase you down. In the long run this becomes a little repetitive, especially when you keep seeing the same levels and enemies.
The levels in Fictorum are fairly large, but despite making use of the Unreal Engine 4, the visuals are not that exciting. Destroying buildings obviously look spectacular and the fire effect is also quite nice, but enemy designs are bland and all the animations in the game are also very stiff. There is some variety between levels in terms of scenery and weather conditions, but by the time you reach the end you’ll have played on the same looking levels many, many times. Character customization is also very limited and consists mostly of choosing a style of beard and altering a couple of colors on your outfit. The audio in Fictorum doesn’t fare much better either as the background music quickly becomes repetitive. In addition, the game doesn’t feature any form of voice acting either.
There is fun to be had in Fictorum for sure, but sadly there are just as many annoyances that can get in the way. From the overlong initial loading times to the issues with enemy intelligence, repetition and bland visuals, there are a couple areas where the game falls short of expectations. Players who are willing to overlook these issues will have a blast with the innovative spell system and destruction, but overall Fictorum could have benefited from a bit more spit and polish. The developers appear to be committed to the project, so will tell whether they can tighten up things enough to make a big difference.