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Lichdom: Battlemage Early Access Review

Uh oh, it's magic!

GameSpot's early access reviews evaluate unfinished games that are nonetheless available for purchase by the public. While the games in question are not considered finished by their creators, you may still devote money, time, and bandwidth for the privilege of playing them before they are complete. The review below critiques a work in progress, and represents a snapshot of the game at the time of the review's publication.

I admit I have very little idea of what's going on in Lichdom: Battlemage. The cutscenes recently added to this unfinished game are gorgeous and dramatic, and the new voice-overs are delivered with conviction, but I am not sure where I am and why I'm there. What matters is that I can summon ice and fire to my palms and fling them at scowling demonic warriors. Never has magic felt as powerful as it does in Lichdom, where it is free from the shackles of mana bars and long cooldowns. I march through ruins overgrown with ivy and rush down snowy paths dotted with evergreens, controlling the elements as if I were a demigod.

I enjoy Lichdom's magical combat so much, in fact, that I suspect it will spoil other games' spellcasting for me, so fluid does it feel. Corrupted magical flakes billow forth from my fingers and infect my attackers with bugs that spawn when their host perishes. I heave bursts of purple energy into skeletons, making them autonomous pets that assist me in battle. An autotargeting system may seem an odd thing to praise, but Lichdom's homing assists let me show off my impressive wizardry even when my opponents and I are constantly on the move. It's a fun and engaging system of dodges, blocks, and attacks that flow smoothly from one move to the next.

You start with only fire and ice at your disposal, though your options grow as you progress through the two sizable levels Lichdom currently offers. You equip three different schools of magic at a time, each of which has three basic types of actions: a targeted spell, an area-of-effect attack, and a shield that allows you to counter offensive moves as well as to mitigate damage. You can flip between these three schools at will, using the mind-control spells of the delirium sigil to gain helpful assists before wading into a mob and burning your opponents to a crisp. During battle, the air is awash with magic as you strafe about, avoiding oncoming spells and slinging icy projectiles.

So hot snow falls up?

The experience is gorgeous, though taxing to your PC, and it's hard not to appreciate the heavily detailed stone temples and splintered ice floes. The overwhelming CryEngine-powered beauty is not enough to stave off creeping repetition, however. Foes appear in a predictable fashion, and while the various spells provide some diversity to how you cut through the swarms, each encounter feels more or less like the last. The specifics change, but the pace rarely wavers, and the second map's rough level of difficulty, which makes for frequent deaths and respawns, emphasizes the tedium of Lichdom's linear path. The spellcasting feels amazing, but I longed for something a bit more--a set-piece show of destruction, a large-scale battle with a legion of mages at my side, or an environmental puzzle to solve. The bosses provide a bit of a tempo change, but my general tactics rarely wavered.

Nevertheless, Lichdom is poised for greatness, with its spell-creation utility helping to lead the charge. As foes fall, they leave behind various spell components that you can synthesize into more effective materials, and then combine to make new, more powerful spells. The types of spells--targeted, AOE, and shield--never change, but they gain new characteristics and statistics, with simple fireballs turning into flaming death balls with a chance to stagger targets and set them on fire for a period of time. Early on, I paid close attention to how I combined spells, choosing skills and components that seemed best suited to my play style from the two or three options the game typically offered during crafting. In time, however, the differences between similar spells were too minute for me to care, and I focused on synthesizing components at random until I had epic-level spells to equip. I love the freedom of the spellcrafting, but there comes a moment when the differences stop feeling meaningful.

Welcome to the Non-Ironic Punishment Division of Hell Labs.

There's no doubt, however, that Lichdom: Battlemage nails the basics. Never have I felt more like a commanding sorcerer than I do here, which makes me ache for more ways to show off my spellcasting skills. If developer Xaviant can give its game coherent narrative context and diversify the unwavering pace, Lichdom could ride its waves of elemental energy to glory.

What's There?

Two large levels, five magical sigils, endless spell customization, and fluid spellcasting.

What's to Come?

A New-Game-Plus mode, bug fixes, performance optimization, more levels, balance tweaks, and more.

What Does it Cost?

$19.99, available via Steam.

When Will it Be Finished?

The current announced release date is August 26, 2014.

What's the Verdict?

In Lichdom: Battlemage, the full power of the elements courses through your veins. Unvaried pacing leads to repetition, but such a forceful foundation is difficult to ignore.

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Discussion

37 comments
VintAge68
VintAge68

Indeed, the game looks & plays way better now than when I first tried it out.

Fun fact: Troy Baker and Jennifer Hale are providing the voice acting for their respective battlemage gender...

VintAge68
VintAge68

I too played into the early access version (thanks to the code I got from GS :) at a moment when there still weren't cutscenes (nor audio or tutorials), but had to stop at some moment due to my apparent incapacity to hop on a stone ledge. Seeing Kevin-V's demigod-like battlemage gameplay I reckon I should definitely give it another try, though.

sadface1234
sadface1234

Looks better ten what I first saw but still looks like it needs works, 

Blue_Tomato
Blue_Tomato

Just bought it and played for a while. Very disappointed. It tries hard to be cool and different, but it is just a poor FPS with spell effects rather than bullets.

SoulScribe
SoulScribe

In the words of Danny: "Lickdom: Battlemaj"

drysprocket
drysprocket

Looks like a lot of potential....but I'm gonna stick to my guns and never support a game that does early access. 

Criggie
Criggie

I have been playing it since possible ..the games really cool if your into the whole magic thing , Every game is the same thing over and over.. if you use that philosiphy  ..IThink its fantastic

Damazig
Damazig

In terms of graphics it looks good, and the idea has potential, now if they can get a good story around it, and not just spamming the same thing at the same pace as you say, it might be worth something. 


I'll wait for August then, and some more intel from you in the mean time.

jenovaschilld
jenovaschilld

Looks good, like a snapshot of a battlemage from skyrim, which is not a bad thing. I would rather wait till August, for a finished product. 

play4him
play4him

Spam...Spam...Spam...Spam... AOE!!!!!... More videos of Spam...Spam...Spam... AOE!!! Spell Creation... Videos of same Spam... This looks terrible.

GT_APE
GT_APE

Can't wait for this game.

Goddammitj
Goddammitj

I havent played this, but it really looks like the gameplay is just constantly spamming the cast button. I dont like the look of that. You say its so good, but the video doesnt really seem to match.

Stebsis
Stebsis

I'm not sure if these are planned or are already in the game, but this needs some really epic mass destruction spells. Would be so satisfying to clear out like 50-100 enemies with huge AoE spell I got to create myself. I really hope spell crafting gets just ridiculous in what you can make

Cloud_imperium
Cloud_imperium

This game used of Early Access properly . They just used early access 1-2 months ago and now balancing stats in the game . They were also quick to announce release date for the game which August 26 . I don't like other developers that use early access to earn extra cash instead of funding their game and looking for feedback .

Trev9421
Trev9421

Little more depth and this would be a dream come true

BrunoBRS
BrunoBRS

i'd watch the video review, but ever since the new new redesign, i haven't been able to watch gamespot videos for more than 10 seconds before they freeze, even if i set it to low.

Gwarpup
Gwarpup

Looks like a more simplistic version of Hexen

bbq_R0ADK1LL
bbq_R0ADK1LL

Looks good, but I'm gonna wait til it's finished.

I like the idea of crafting spells. I watched some PAX videos & it looks like you can create some cool custom builds.

ferna1234
ferna1234

looks like it could totally be an android tablet game

Wistful_Gamer
Wistful_Gamer

I've always played like a mage in RPGs. I like casting spells and using magic. Looking forward to this one.

GSGuy321
GSGuy321

Thanks KVO.. Loving the Early Access Reviews on Gamespot.

xantufrog
xantufrog

Sounds interesting - I love being able to develop my own spells (Betrayal at Antara, anyone? That game sucked but the magic system was so interesting - I've always been on the lookout for good successors)

roguedev
roguedev

@drysprocket some games are amazing during early access... natural selection 2 and contagion are two that instantly spring to mind.

dani3po
dani3po

@drysprocket  You're right, it is much better to fill the pockets of the publishers than give money to the developers who are actually making the game.

k41m
k41m

@play4him  God I can't stand you whiny ass babies, everything sucks, nothing is ever good enough. Your pathetic.

Kevin-V
Kevin-V moderator staff

@Goddammitj  The feel is quite good, but as I mention in the review, the pace doesn't change much. Hopefully that comes across: that the basic spellcasting is great, but there's not enough diversity in the overall pace. 

xav_apothecary
xav_apothecary

@Stebsis  Yes this will be in the release.  Some of the more complex spell-casting has not been implemented yet.  

Stebsis
Stebsis

@BrunoBRS Works perfectly fine for me, must be something on your end. Try different browser(I'm using Firefox) and updating flash

ShimmerMan
ShimmerMan

@dani3po @drysprocket  key word being "making", ie: the game is not finished. it doesn't matter who's selling the product, the smart thing for a consumer to do is not to spend money on something which is unfinished. 

Geminon
Geminon

@Gelugon_baat @play4him  considering they arent real, who the fuck knows?


you may live in a fantasy world gelugon, but the rest of us dont.

BrunoBRS
BrunoBRS

@Stebsis @BrunoBRSi think it has to be the website. it's been (comparatively) much slower to load since the new redesign, and videos will outright freeze arbitrarily and not load past a point.