If you own a VR headset like the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, then there are tons of ways out there for you to get your spell-flinging fix. The Unspoken and Wands have great multiplayer-focused combat and a whole slew of RPGs like The Mage’s Tale, Skyrim VR (PSVR), and Runes: The Forgotten Path expound upon the magical powers of wizards in single-player adventures.
Now with The Wizards, one of VR’s most promising magical adventures, we’ve got another experience solely focused on single player action with interactive gesture-based spell-casting and a decent length campaign to keep players busy. It’s not as polished or as varied as it could have been, but it does enough to be worth a look for fans of the arcane arts.
The Wizards is split into two game modes: the single-player campaign and the Arena mode. For the campaign you play through a linear grouping of levels, one after another, as you progress through the game. While there is a good amount of level variety in terms of locations and decisions, the flow of gameplay isn’t very original.
Most levels devolve into the same exact rhythm: explore the area until you find enemies, kill all of the enemies, and advance to the next area that’s waiting to be explored. Every now and then there is a bit of variety in terms of secondary objectives to worry about, but that’s really pretty much the entire game for a few hours until you reach the end. Boss encounters shake things up enough to keep things interesting, so it’s not entirely repetitive.
There is some great voice work, good sound design, and entrancing music to keep your ears happy while your eyes take in the blasts of color that constantly assault you from all sides.
The best part of The Wizards though, just like any good sorcerer game, is the spell-casting. Instead of drawing annoyingly complex runes in the air like we’ve seen several times in VR at this point (SoulKeeper and Left Hand Path come to mind) it’s all simply gesture-based.
For example, to ready a fireball in my right hand I just hold my left hand steady, make a fist out in front of me with my right hand by holding the trigger, then sliding my right hand to the side quickly. Boom, fireball. Just throw and release like any other object to send it flying across the level. Slide my left hand to the right and a shield pops up on my wrist for blocking attacks. Move each hand towards my chest and an ice bow appears with a quiver of chilling white arrows on my back.
And while the spell-casting is easily the best part, even that does start to grow old by the end of the journey. There just aren’t enough spells to really keep you engaged. You’ll unlock enhancements over the course of the game and find collectible cards that can be used to alter missions for replaying, but there should have been more original, different spells to cast.
If I had to pick a favorite though, it’s absolutely the double-handed blast of lightning. You can really feel the power of magic coursing through your veins.
The Wizards’ Arena mode is a nice change of pace, but ultimately doesn’t shake up the formula anywhere near enough. There are three environments to pick from and the only way it really differs from the campaign, on a functional level, is that you exclusively fight waves of enemies instead of breaking up the fights with moments of exploration.
By the end I was left wanting more spells, more variety, and more game modes. For example, a multiplayer mode would have been amazing to see — either competitive or cooperative — or at least some other way to use the powerful magical spells I’d been given. The core mechanics and ideas at work were so fun, I wanted to see it live up to its full potential.
I absolutely enjoyed my time with The Wizards and it’s definitely a step up from Carbon’s previous project, Alice VR, but with a few additions it could have been the definitive VR spell-casting game.
On the gamut of magic-based first-person action games, The Wizards is definitely one of the better ones. Its spell-casting system is interactive without being too cumbersome and the campaign mode packs a decent amount of content. Plenty of collectibles, a replayable Arena mode, and lots of mission augmentations add up to this being one of the best ways to live out your most fantastical magical fantasies in VR. We just wanted more and preferably multiplayer of some kind.
The Wizards is now available on Rift and Vive as of March 8th through Steam and Oculus Home. A PSVR version is planned for later this year. Read our Game Review Guidelines for more information on how we arrived at this score.