Rogue-lites are all the rage nowadays, and as we look back on a year chocked-full of titles with crushing difficulty and death systems that focus on randomized maps and item placements, they sometimes all start to blend together. So many of these titles feature chunky little top-down avatars navigating rooms of various shapes and sizes with a limited loadout, gaining random skills and selling off loot or incremental progress upgrades. But there is one title that released this year on Switch that uses the best (and sometimes most problematic parts) of rogue-lites coupled with a massive amount of freedom of choice, and though it may not be the first game on your mind this holiday season, its first large content update will be dropping in the winter, bringing all-new additions that might warrant a second look.
Wizard of Legend has a simple premise: you are a wizard-in-training, drawn to the city of Lanova after going on a bizarre museum trip (okay, maybe the premise isn’t so simple). If you wish to return to your original time and place, you’ll have to prove yourself in the Chaos Trials: a punishing gauntlet where you’ll visit the domains of the Council of Magic, three element-based mages. The catch is, in glorious rogue-like fashion, the order of these domains is never the same, so you might start with the Earth-themed dungeons one time only to face down Ice-themed enemies the next. Preparing for the Chaos Trials requires a fair bit of preparation- although you’ll start with a basic set of four Arcana, the spells used within the game, you’ll spend most of your time gathering Chaos gems to buy new ones, in order to find the perfect fit for you.
Being light on the sticks is crucial in this game, as there are a multitude of Arcana that require aiming, and an additional majority of those are multi-use. One of the harshest aspects of the game is the lack of twin-stick aiming, but then again, every single button on the controller is needed for interaction, so you likely wouldn’t have a finger to spare. The four Arcana you choose to start your run with are mapped to all four face buttons, and you can gain two additional options by spending gold within the Chaos Trials. The ability to let six spells loose upon a room of unsuspecting mobs might sound appealing, but the truth is, almost all of the game’s basic mobs have very specific attack patterns that require careful navigation and proper punishment. You’ll find yourself running in and letting loose a spell or two before you start frantically dashing around the room and avoiding return fire. As you progress through the Chaos Trials, you’ll have to comb two basic floors of a dungeon, rife with pits, traps, kill-rooms, three shops, and one mini-boss, before facing off against one of the three boss mages. Then, you’ll be sent back into another two dungeon floors, only this time, all basic enemies are buffed with new moves and tougher stats. Even mini-bosses gain new attack patterns, forcing the player to never get too comfortable.
There’s more customization to be considered before you enter the trials, as you can equip certain cloaks to change your stats as well as relics, which can add passive bonuses and effects that will assist you. This preliminary loadout can be built upon within the dungeons, as you can have your cloak altered and can purchase additional relics. Essentially, you want to make your chances of steamrolling things as high as possible. However, as is the case with all rogue-ish games, your chances of getting a proper steamrolling combination are often slim, so ensuring you start with the right fundamentals is key. While relic and cloak benefits can be helpful, allowing you to reduce damage, heal from critical attacks, and evade enemy projectiles, what this really comes down to is the right Arcana.
Wizard of Legend is an extremely fast-paced game, which means making sure your spells can target enemies and evade attacks is extremely important. But when movement and aim are tied to the same stick, this can often be problematic, especially since many Arcana require aim. In order to circumvent this, I used the very few area-of-effect style Arcana that exist in the game in order to make sure aiming wouldn’t be a problem, and that my enemies would be kept at bay. Sure, it felt a bit cheesy, but without the ability to aim many spells, a great deal of the Arcana in Wizard of Legend feel extremely unwieldy. Maybe there are some who are better than I am at aiming these spells, but when projectiles and leaping enemies are littering the stages, aiming is one less aspect to worry about. Coupling this “walking, whirling AoE tornado” loadout with a high-critical hit rate cloak and critical heal relic enabled me to brute-force my way and finally complete the Chaos Trials. Did it feel good? Not really, especially when I felt I was missing out on utilizing a whole bunch of other Arcana. But that is a level of mastery that is above and beyond what I feel I am capable of right now, and perhaps it would be worth sinking some more time into.
What Wizard of Legend truly excels in, however, is its PvP element. When traversing the Chaos Trials with a friend, you’ll be given the opportunity to duel after you defeat each of the three boss mages, and as your arsenal of tricks expands, these duels become more and more enjoyable. The game has a dedicated arena mode, where you can equip a set of six Arcana rather than the Chaos Trials’ four, and tearing into one another with spells on cooldown, weaving in and out of hazards, is incredibly fun. The lack of precision aiming can actually make this more entertaining and stressful simultaneously. For the amount of variety and silly 1v1 shenanigans, this mode is worth the price of entry.
Although Contingent99 have no specific plans for future content updates, they have announced their first major addition to the game for this winter: a new set of signature Arcana, enemies, dungeon layouts and biomes, and a boss specifically based on the Wind element. Because Earth, Fire, and Ice are already represented, it stands to reason that there will eventually be an Electric boss content update as well, but for now, if you aren’t quite sold on Wizard of Legend, you might want to keep an eye out for impressions and footage of this new content. While there are times when a bit of lack of polish seems to keep Wizard of Legend from being, well, legendary, I do think it is one of the most challenging rogue-lites I have played, if only because of the pace of its content and the unforgiving nature of the Chaos Trials. When push comes to shove, I did what I had to do in order to become a Wizard of Legend, and I’ll be honest, it does leave you feeling like quite the badass.