Lichdom Battlemage is a unique take on a first-person perspective. As a character named simply “Dragon,” you awaken in a sleeping city, roused by an enigmatic figure known as Roth. Depending on whether you chose to create a male or female character, your starting story will vary somewhat, but it all comes down to the villainous Shax. Bestowed with power after your initial meeting with Shax, you embark on a quest for revenge…but might just protect the world in the process.
While the story got off to an extremely quick start, the overall pacing of the game was quite well done. The character interactions were extremely enjoyable, especially in regards to a character called the “Gryphon.” The Gryphon acts as a scout and assists you during the game, but also is one of your more frequent interactions. Wanting revenge on Shax as badly as you do, you can tell she has a chip on her shoulder from the start. This translates in her interactions with you, and creates just one more thing that adds to the tension at the beginning of the game. This is just a single example, but the whole game was a treasure trove of story; from shadows of a Dragon that came before you, to enemies who are all too easy to hate, there is a wealth of incredible story to this game. Coupled with a stellar voice cast, and you would be hard pressed to find a more engaging title.
As a First-Person Caster, magic is at the forefront of the gameplay. You can have up to three powers equipped at a time, which can be changed at checkpoints throughout the game. These checkpoints serve an additional purpose as well; by reaching consecutive checkpoints, you increase your loot rarity level, which increases the quality of items you receive. These loot drops allow you to change characteristics of your magic powers in various ways. By changing your powers around, you are able to drastically change how your character handles in battle.
I was quite impressed with the level of depth behind the magic system. There was no lack of customization at all, with the ability to upgrade skills and tailor my powers to suit my needs. Once I managed to figure out the basics, it was relatively easy to figure out what type of skills would be most beneficial to my style of gameplay. Combining this with the looting system, I found myself regularly checking my menus for various augments to make my character more powerful.
While I loved the customization behind the magic system, I found the controls to be somewhat counterintuitive. You are able to switch between Sigils (your currently equipped element) by using the action buttons on the controller. Casting was handled using triggers, with a dash-type maneuver called “Blink” being tied to the L1 button. A click of your right thumbstick would bring you to your menu to upgrade your magical abilities. While the controls weren’t terribly difficult to understand, it could be a confusing layout, with no small amount of frustration. I would typically stick to my fire spells, because it was simpler than attempting to switch between spell types to make an attempt at strategy. I also didn’t see the point in using R3 to have a separate menu, when the magic crafting could have just as easily been implemented into the pause menu.
Graphically, this title is as beautiful as any title that has come out this console generation. Given the nature of the story, it has a very dark and dreary tone, and the aesthetics reflect this quite nicely. Ruins overgrown with vegetation, subterranean tunnels, and large amounts of stonework give the game a gothic feel that is both incredibly detailed, and hauntingly gorgeous. The characters are well designed, and while the majority of your enemies are undead scourge, there was still quite a variety in terms of enemy design.
Unfortunately, the developers may have been a bit overzealous with the design of the game, which led to a significant amount of performance related issues. I experienced framerate issues throughout the entirety of my experience with my game, which were only exacerbated by passing checkpoints and large waves of enemies. This led to some frustration when under heavy attack, as it made it difficult to target the enemies I wanted to prioritize. It also had a significant blurring effect, which meant that while the graphics were excellent, they were only that way when standing still. Additionally, load times could only be described as obscene. Starting the game and getting to the main menu was around a two minute load, only to be subject to similar load times upon starting my save file. Even after such significant load times, I still had to wait for textures to render after the game loaded. With the amount of power behind the consoles of this generation, it is unacceptable for a game with this production level to have the technical issues that Lichdom: Battlemage has.
I absolutely wanted to love this game, and in many ways I did. I loved the story and the characters, and I loved the presentation. I enjoyed the customization, and thought the game had a wonderful premise. However, the lackluster controls and major performance issues robbed me of an otherwise amazing experience. It is my sincere hope that some of these issues can be corrected in upcoming weeks via patch, so that I can revisit this game and play the way that it was intended to be played. Unfortunately, the present iteration left much to be desired.