Lichdom: Battlemage is one hell of a cool idea from Xaviant. Remember Hexen, the first-person shooter where you played a mage instead of some gun-toting action hero? That’s the idea behind Lichdom, and for the most part Xaviant takes the idea in the right direction delivering a competent, if not fully-realized Action RPG. The problems of Lichdom come not from combat and the overall idea of crafting and mixing spells, but rather from poor level design and repetitive encounters stretched out over 10-plus hours. As our own HiveLeader puts it in his first impressions video, Lichdom makes a superb first impression. But its welcome wears thin when you realize about a half-dozen hours later that little has changed since the game began. Lichdom: Battlemage one endless cycle of corridors, fights, and more corridors.
You play as “nameless hero” (or his female counterpart), a handpicked apprentice to some magical super-dude named Roth who wants revenge upon the Malthus cult. This cult is ruining your city and fast, and they also killed your beloved… so what better reason to join up with a creepy guy in robes who gives you magical bracers? Right? Right?! Either way, Roth needs you and you want revenge on the cult for killing your wife, so let’s abuse that magical power. And really, as Brad says below… wouldn’t we all do whatever The Kurgan asks?
The actual fighting in Lichdom is brilliant, and easily its biggest selling point. This isn’t your typical RPG. All of your progression and power comes from harvesting and creating more powerful spells. You don’t “level up” or collect gear. You craft spells and become badass as you go along. I suspect internet guides to the spellcrafting are going to be very helpful. You can shield yourself from oncoming attacks, and if you time it well enough you’ll instantly riposte and do some severe damage to the attackers. You can use ice runes to freeze enemies, and then swap quickly to fire to burn them to ashes. It’s all very fluid and reminded me a lot of the original Bioshock when I started playing. Those afraid their aiming skills might not be up to snuff can rest easy. There are no crosshairs in Lichdom. Rather your general pointing direction locks you onto a target. Believe me; the game’s still plenty hard at times without needing to aim perfectly.
Each fight becomes a balance of control, movement, and using unleashing destruction at the right time. You can dodge, shield, and use AOE spells to make things come out in your favor, but chances are you’ll die a few times along the way and definitely will on the game’s bosses. Luckily, Lichdom uses a checkpoint feature that saves progress between fights, but that’s part of what lends Xaviant’s game its biggest weakness.
There’s a big city and world built up for Lichdom, the only problem is you never really get to explore it. And even if you did, there’d likely be little point as the world of Lichdom is not really interactive. The only things you’ll really be able to manipulate in the game are yourself, the magic you wield, and the enemies you fight. Everything else might as well be gray and white background. Xaviant’s art team went a long way to make it look beautiful, but it’s dull and lifeless. The landscape serves as little more than hallways and caverns to fight through, one after the other.
And that’s the big downfall, even more so than the lifeless scenery. Lichdom is one endless series of corridors and staged “fight pits”. As is the trend in a lot of shooters these days, Xaviant’s action RPG is a linear affair that offers little replay value. The developer isn’t exactly a cash-rich AAA studio, and so some slack must be given for not making a compelling open world with character and side quests. But without at least a little diversion from the main path, Lichdom makes you feel like you’re just running down a straight path towards a goal. As fun as the combat and spell-crafting can be, it gets tiresome fast and makes you wish there was more of a world to explore.
Maybe they should have spent less money on Troy Baker and Clancy Brown, and more on building the game world?
Lichdom: Battlemage is a fun, if shortsighted RPG with some fantastic upsides. Is it worth the asking price of $40? I’d say no at this point, and hold out for a Steam sale. It’s definitely something fans of the old Hexen will enjoy, but fans of open ended RPGs will find Xaviant’s game lacking. A solid effort, but not quite what I’d hoped for after seeing the game at PAX East this year.
- Gameplay – 7: Great combat, but boring level design keeps this from truly shining.
- Visuals – 9: The CryEngine 3 is put to good use here, especially from an Indie developer.
- Polish – 7: It’s not altogether buggy, but rough edges like mouth movement with VO peek through.
- Innovation – 7: Lichdom’s premise is novel enough to earn positive marks… the rest of the game, not so much.
- Longevity – 5: There’s about 10-15 hours’ worth of content here, but you won’t really care to play it again.
- Value – 7: If you paid for early access at $20, it was worth it. At launch price of $40? I’d wait for a sale.