Did that feature image startle you? Well, don’t panic, everything’s under control. No matter how intimidating the foe, Xaviant’s upcoming “first-person caster” known as Lichdom: Battlemage aims to grant you the gift of complete and total empowerment as one of the most celebrated roles in all of gaming: The Mage. Personally, I almost always opt to play the mage during a first playthrough of any role-playing adventure, so the design philosophy of Lichdom alone was enough to peak my interest. After spending some quiet time with the team, and getting to learn a lot more about their plans for the title, I like to think my curiosity was well founded. While the game is far from perfect in its current Early Access state on Steam, by the time Battlemage is a grandmaster spellcaster it could potentially offer one of the most satisfying experiences around.
The first thing to know going into Battlemage is that the team wants to create an “uncompromised mage experience”. It’s a pretty bold statement, for sure, but Xaviant is confident they can deliver by structuring the game as follows: For starters, there are no mana bars and no spell cooldowns, so mages have unrestricted, infinite access to their abilities. As you might expect, spell synergy is an important component, so if two elemental spells feel like they should compliment each other on the battlefield, odds are they will. Of course, out of the box thinking is also encouraged, and rewarded. The second key component is spellcrafting. Players will be able to build their own spells and customize each element, manipulating factors such as damage, area-of-effect, and lingering status effects (each with their own benefit and tradeoff). Rounding out the uncompromised experience are the loot pickups. In Lichdom, all loot is valuable, even the lower tier equipment that is seemingly worthless. That’s because the game features a synthesis option, allowing players to recycle old gear into higher tier equipment; this process can also infuse passive abilities into the new gear, giving certain equipment bonus statistical advantages not otherwise possible via normal loot drops.
Spells can also take advantage of this synthesis mechanic, in which case newer spells will be empowered by bonus passive abilities as well. Combining the crafting component with restriction-less casting, Battlemage wants players to truly revel in the power of an unshackled mage, giving them the opportunity to create a variety of unique classes. Off the top of their heads, the team mentioned a few popular choices were the Pyromage, the Necromancer, and the Time/Space mage. No matter what sort of mage you choose, each will be granted a defensive shield spell which can be upgraded the same as any other, including bonus passive abilities. One of the most important design choices the team avoided that could’ve potentially broken the game, is that no enemy will ever be resistant to a particular elemental type; players can build their Pyromage without any fear of running into a fire-immune boss that halts progress and forces them to reevaluate their playstyle. Instead, Xaviant is relying on carefully crafted AI and challenging bosses to create a tough but fair gameplay experience.
Success may be hard to come by in Lichdom, but there isn’t much penalty for failure, as players will retain all of their loot and crafted materials. The best advice the team could offer to give players a better shot at victory was to encourage them to be aggressive; Battlemage intends to put the ultimate, awesome spellcasting power of a mage literally at the player’s fingertips, so backpedaling should be a last resort. For those looking for additional challenges throughout each stage, there are “loot rooms” which lock the mage in a confined space and force them to survive a more difficult encounter with enemies, with the promise of higher tier loot dangling just out of reach.
Believe it or not, as action-focused as Lichdom is, there is also a dedicated narrative threading the experience together. Helping bring life to the dual Male/Female protagonists are some of the best in the business: Troy Baker and Jennifer Hale. (The supporting cast is equally as astounding, including Gina Torres, Yuri Lowenthal, and Clancy Brown among others.) One of the benefits of the game’s story is that both protagonists are integral to the plot, so choosing one over the other simply lets the player experience the story from that perspective, without cutting out the other entirely. The audio aspect of Battlemage has been a part of the design process from the ground up, so both the voice acting and musical accompaniment are aiming to integrate seamlessly into the final product. That being said, I’m told the music is non-traditional and “not what you’d expect”, being scored by House of Cards composer Jeff Beal, with an overall tone meant to feel aggressive. (Which would fit with the whole “no backpedaling” mentality.)
As previously mentioned, the game is still in Early Access, and there is plenty of work to be done. Most notably, the team is looking to add idle animations to the mage, to compliment the sense of immersion brought on by the first-person perspective. Xaviant also plans to include post-campaign play, opening the entire world up to the player so that they can retrace their steps and encounter old foes with new spells, searching for any lost loot along the way that may have gone unnoticed the first time through. An important component of being in Early Access is community feedback, and the developers are actively listening to the criticisms and suggestions that players have to offer. In fact, they admit that sharing builds of the game every step of the way through development has been an insightful experience, allowing them to refine and retool problem areas in an effort to craft the game fans want, while remaining faithful to the core design pillars Xaviant strongly believes in.
Lichdom: Battlemage doesn’t currently have a full release date yet, but progress updates can be found on the game’s Steam Community page. Anyone interested in keeping up with moment-to-moment updates can get their social media fix on Facebook and Twitter. Xaviant also maintains a dedicated blog on their official website. If assuming the role of an all-powerful spellcaster sounds like fun, I encourage those interested to keep an eye on Battlemage; it may just cast a spell on you.
Editors note: Turns out, Battlemage does have a release date after all! The full release of Lichdom: Battlemage will be on August 26. (Thanks Dan!)