The Wizards: Enhanced Edition PSVR Review
The Wizards: Enhanced Edition (originally called, well, The Wizards when it launched on PC) puts players in the first person role of an apprentice mage, who is tasked by his constantly chatty, frequently sarcastic master to halt the nefarious plans of a rogue wizard while performing all sorts of hand gestures with the Playstation Move controllers to cast various elemental spells against a horde of goblins, ogres and…wait, this sounds familiar.
Indeed, anyone who had read our previous Playstation VR review of The Mage’s Tale will no doubt notice the numerous similarities between the two titles, including the innovative (and physically demanding) control scheme where players perform specific hand gestures to conjure up the corresponding spell in order to fend off against hordes of enemies, not to mention solving various puzzles littered throughout the usual RPG locations such as dungeons, castles and caves.
The good news is that the control scheme of The Wizards is significantly more responsive than the not-always-accurate Mage’s Tale. Developer Carbon Studio seemed to have a better grasp for the Playstation VR, particularly its limitations: much of the aiming woes that plagued The Mage’s Tale are circumvented thanks to a more strict lock-on feature: while players can still freely chuck their fireballs in whatever direction they choose, the lock-on reticule guarantees that their spells will always hit their intended targets. Hand gestures also work well enough, with specific motions required to bust out a fireball, lightning bolt, shield, or bow and arrow. Each has their own trajectory, but thankfully all operate as they should. There is a certain level of satisfaction in using the Move controllers to simulate spell-casting with both hands, and everything feels snappy and responsive, an accomplishment every VR game should strive for.
The Wizards also features the kinds of options that should be mandatory for every PSVR game, including the ability to have two types of movement at once (free roaming and “snap into place”, the latter which is necessary for teleporting to otherwise unreachable platforms), left and right handed controls, sitting vs standing, and even an option to set the player’s height. Be forewarned that setting the height setting too high can result in objects on the floor being significantly harder to reach, at least in the case of tall players like yours truly; it is ultimately more prudent to set the shortest height possible.
As stage progression goes, both The Wizards and The Mage’s Tale feature familiar (which is a kinder way of saying “generic”) fantasy backdrops. The difference is that the former follows a more arcade-like structure by separating each area into smaller stages…in fact, the game even features a high score system with online leaderboards to further encapsulate the arcade feel. Fortunately, The Wizards is not totally void of RPG elements, as each spell can be enhanced in various ways by spending the requisite amount of tokens, which are essentially experience points. Though this game lacks the more charming alchemy system of The Mage’s Tale, which had players mixing potions together to brew new types of spells, the more simplistic system of The Wizards wins out from a convenience standpoint.
One area hampered by the simplicity, however, are the visuals. The backdrops are decent enough for VR, but the enemies operate at a noticeably lower framerate, giving them this uncannily stilted feel that feels, well…like a videogame. The physics are also oddly rubbery, with debris from destroyed walls and statues bouncing around as if they were made of foam. It’s not the ugliest PSVR game by any stretch, but better care should have been taken to create a more convincing environment considering the extra emphasis on immersion that is expected out of VR games. The music is also a dollar store CD collection of public domain fantasy music, and the narrator’s incessant chatter will no doubt grow annoying…just because someone has an English accent doesn’t mean that every sarcastic line they spew is comedy gold by default.
When all is said and done, for anyone who has a desire to pick up a VR magic-casting simulator, The Wizards: Enhanced Edition is the better-controlling option, though it lacks much of the overall polish found in The Mage’s Tale, particularly when it comes to exploring areas (there have also been a few cases of progress being halted due to the occasional glitch, forcing a restart of the level). The number of Dr Strange-inspired hand gestures for each spell is silly, but also satisfying, though the same cannot be said for the bland, uninspiring combat. As a brief VR experience filled with short bursts of play, you could do a whole lot worse, but anyone besides hardcore fans of sorcery and snooty accents expecting a longer-lasting and/or immersive experience should perhaps look elsewhere.