Lichdom: Battlemage (Xaviant)

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Books and movies always portray mages as powerful and nearly unstoppable, but when it comes to gaming it usually only takes one or two hits from a lowly Kobold before your mage is out of action. Even if they do manage to avoid getting killed in the first few minutes of battle they are rendered useless after only a few powerful spells because their mana is depleted.

Enter Lichdom Battlemage, an Early Access game that offers you the opportunity to play as a mage who isn’t a glass cannon. Played in first person and running on the CryEngine 3, the game is already looking great despite the fact that it is still in a pre-alpha phase. While the beautiful visuals are a big draw it, is the gameplay that is the most exciting. By doing away with mana bars and long cooldowns, Xaviant has created a game where you can actually focus on doing all the cool things that mages are capable of without hiding behind a rock waiting for mana to replenish. Refreshingly, your character can also withstand a few attacks without keeling over.

Your mage (male or female) is cast into a fantasy world where everyone appears to be under the influence of some cult. There are some story cut-scenes that set the scene, but at this point the focus is mainly on action. Right from the start your mage has to face off against the cultists and their undead minions, but fortunately there are some video tutorials that teach you the basics of how to kick ass. Everything is pretty straightforward though, left-click to attack while right-click is reserved for block. Press both at the same time and you can cast an area of effect spell for even more damage. You also have a “blink” move which allows for close range teleporting and is quite useful in battle.

Slain enemies drop “etheria” for you to harvest and this is where things become really interesting. Etheria is used to craft new spells and you have a whole crafting as well as synthesis system to play around with. It is quite an in-depth system and really allows you to tweak spells to your heart’s content. Your spells are still grouped into specific categories such as fire and ice, but depending on your tweaking your primary fire attack might be faster and more powerful than that of someone who favors theirs to have a better chance of critical damage or longer status durations. There are a lot of stats and percentages involved, but you can quickly compare what you have crafted with what you have equipped to see if it is worth a switch. You can also combine three old spells into a new one through synthesis so even outdated spells have a use.

The developers plan to launch the game in August so there is obviously still a lot of work to be done. At this point in the alpha the amount of levels, enemies and spells is obviously quite limited, but it does give a very good indication what the gameplay is like. The levels so far are linear, so don’t expect an open world experience like Skyrim, but the combat is action packed and requires a bit more strategy than just holding down the fire button. The developers have promised to release information about new content, new systems and changes to the existing systems after E3 so we are waiting with baited breath for the next update.

This preview is based on Build 2014.05.14.52340-Release_PA2 of the game.

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