The Wizards: Dark Times drops today for PC VR and we’ve already blasted our way through spellbinding RPG action adventure epic. What’s the verdict? Read the full The Wizards: Dark Times review below to find out!
Note: This review was original published on June 4th, 2020. It’s been updated today to include impressions of the just-launched Oculus Quest version.
Back in 2017 The Wizards released on PC VR and delivered a capable single-player action-adventure romp through a handful of fantasy-themed levels. Basically you’d mow down the enemies, advance to the end, and repeat. There wasn’t a whole lot of meat on the bones there, but it was fun and the gesture-based magic was inventive and highly interactive.
Fast forward a few years and Carbon is back with a bigger, better, and more robust follow-up that feels like a more fully-realized version of what the original wanted to be.
In The Wizards: Dark Times, a mysterious plague befalls the realm of Meliora and it’s up to you to journey through the Forsaken Wood and take on twisted apocalyptic evil mages. It’s a pretty straight forward plot, but it fits the game’s more linear design well.
Admittedly, things start off very slowly in The Wizards: Dark Times. In fact, it’s a solid 15 minutes or so before you even battle your first enemy. Instead, you spend those minutes learning your beginning spells like the fireball, shield, ice bow, and a force push (sorry, erm, Arcane Pulse!) spells that are all activated by different hand gestures.
For example, you create a fireball by holding the trigger in one hand and twisting it over — it’s simple and effective. Summon a shield by holding the trigger and sliding a hand from outside your shoulder to in front of your chest. Use the pulse spell by holding the grip button, pulling your hand in towards your elbow, and then pushing forward quickly. It can sound complicated when listed out like that, but all 11 spells are unique and feel extremely natural. A lot of thought clearly went into gestures that feel appropriate for the specific spell, it’s not just randomly mapped movements.
One great example is a massive burst spell called Storm Nova (shown in the GIF above) that’s triggered by casting Lightning in both hands, holding the grip buttons, rotating your hands to create an orb of electricity, and then dramatically spreading your hands out wide so the ball of energy erupts. The magic system is like this throughout the game so that it’s less about memorizing gestures and more about intuitively moving your body and interacting with the environment.
Compared to the first game there is a lot more going on here. Throughout levels there’s constant (and solid) voice acting that fleshes out the world a bit and makes it feel more established. You’ll not only blast away enemies with your powerful magic, but also solve some light environmental puzzles and climb plenty of walls.
Speaking of climbing walls, they take quite a while to scale. Reaching between ledges (or in some cases, mushrooms) is a bit tedious — especially after flinging myself across entire islands in Stormland. Luckily you can leverage the teleportation system to quickly reach areas instead of climbing if you want.
Pretty much everything else in terms of gameplay, combat, and the like all felt and flowed well. Audio is another story though. The voice acting itself is better than I expected, but the audio quality is hit or miss. Sometimes the volume spikes and leads to a garbled static sound for voices. I also noticed your character’s footsteps are incredibly loud (and far too rapid) when using smooth continuous movement. I had the speed as high as it would go and it sounded like my character was taking two or three steps for every slight movement forward. There is no footstep volume slider, only sound effects, which means lowering that also lowers all spell sounds, which are supremely satisfying to hear.
I’d also recommend turning off subtitles unless you need them to enjoy the game. The font and color are obnoxious and extremely distracting.
The Wizards: Dark Times Review – Final Verdict
At its core, The Wizards: Dark Times is a power fantasy come to life. There aren’t any mana bars to worry about, potions to refill your magic points, or any complex skill trees. You play through the game, learn new spells, and use those spells as you need them, when you need them. By the end, you’ll feel like an earth-shattering powerhouse of arcane fury.
All of this stuff adds up to this feeling like a fullyrealized adventure rather than just a series of arena-style battles strung together. Carbon has a real franchise on its hands here. Minor gripes aside, The Wizards is one of the few action-adventure games in VR that isn’t all about melee combat or shooting guns. It’s still a bit rough around the edges, but it delivers on its promises all the same.
The Wizards never lets you forget you’re playing a VR game. Rarely do more than 10 seconds pass without the need for grand hand gestures to summon magic or for you to reach out and interact with things around you. They’ve got a great magic system that’s intuitive and fun to master in a fantastical world that provides a unique type of adventure you won’t quite find anywhere else.
You can read more about our five-star scoring policy here.
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