I adore classic Sierra and Lucasarts adventure games and Mageís Initiation: Reign of the Elements has given me plenty to think about.

Itís not just the retro 2D pixel art aesthetic that was so commonplace through the early 90s or the promise of a fantasy world fully navigatable through pointing and clicking, but itís everything else that Himalaya Studiosí have done alongside that which makes Mageís Initiation stand apart.

The charming writing, quirky characters, promise of multi-story paths and even a combat system that pays homage to Quest for Glory. Mageís Initiation is a very respectful, encouragingly faithful, but also smartly designed, unique experience that is enjoyable and relevant in 2019. We shouldnít have expected any less from a team who remade Kings Quest and Quest for Glory.



Mageís Initiation has been in development for a decade and took to Kickstarter back in 2013 to try and help the team fully realise their vision. Itís been a long, arduous process for them Ė using the formidable Adventure Game Studio tool to put it all together Ė but Reign of the Elements will finally release on January 30.

You play as a young teen apprentice called Díarc, who is so close to being a master mage he can taste it. All he has to do is complete three trials Ė sound familiar Monkey Island fans? Ė and heíll be recognized by his scholarly peers. Theyíre not exactly straightforward, though.

Díarc will have to claim everything from a lock of hair of a powerful enchantress to an unspoiled Griffonís egg in order to pass his initiation but thereís a lot of talking, puzzle-solving, and fighting to be done before that.

The fighting is the wildcard addition, though. Quest for Glory remains the original and one of a few adventures to implement any sort of combat system. Itís clear that Himalaya Studios have taken some inspiration from that.

You and your opponent will have a health and mana bar which drains once youíre hit or cast a spell respectively. Both combat systems act in a form of real-time, but unlike QFG where youíre stuck at a fixed point, not only can you run around the screen in Mageís Initiation, you can actually move between several screens. In fact, enemies will sometimes use this to gain a tactical advantage if youíre getting the better of them.

Also unlike QFG, you donít use swords and shields. All your abilities come from long-range magic, so thatís definitely something to keep in mind as your character is quite vulnerable if a goblin or spider closes in on you. Actions can be performed using the numbers and space bar on the keyboard, or by clicking a mouse on the desired action.

You will also need to replenish your health and mana manually, whether youíve collected a potion from a vendor or youíve filled up a bottle of mageís water. And this is important to remember as your health does not recharge automatically once you finish a fight. If you were on deathís door in the last scrape, youíll start the next in the same state.

Combat is also surprisingly versatile. Before you set out into the world, youíll answer a series of questions from the high mages to determine your class. I ended up being a Water Mage, so used a jetstream as well as a sharp, ice-like projectile and protective shield. But you can also play as a Fire, Air, and Earth Mage, each with unique spells of their own.

On top of that, Mageís Initiation has its own form of Ďsocket systemí. No, itís not as involved as a World of Warcraft or Destiny, but it works well within the context of the game.

You have the option of embedding two different magical gemstones into a Conductor to enhance your stats in Constitution, Strength, Magic, and Intelligence. This gives you an added boost on top of the experience you earn from defeating enemies and levelling up.

Gemstones can be purchased from vendors but are also picked up throughout your quest and can even be looted from the dead bodies of your enemies. From what we hear, there are also over 50 different types of gemstone combinations to find so you can have a decent level of customisation over your charactersí build.

It all sounds great in practice, but it does feel a bit roughly, admittedly, and will take some getting used to. The character model constantly needs to be stopped, then started again, which presents a problem when youíre trying to navigate into tactical positions. Itís tricky as the engine isnít designed for the model flexibility.

Your accuracy is also a bit hit and miss, though this is developed through the game as you build up your stats. It also doesnít help that enemies can also block your attacks, meaning youíre never guaranteed a sure-fire hit even if itís on target. As thatís your only way of attacking, this is also quite limiting and a bit unbalanced.

And sometimes the enemy tends to get a bit lost and can be difficult to find again if youíre moving between screens. Or if one randomly spawned just as you were about to walk to another area. This can be a bit of a pain Ė particularly if the enemy glitched between screens Ė as youíll still find yourself in the combat screen and canít get rid of it no matter how far away you go.

Mageís Initiation probably wonít persuade critics that a combat system belongs in an adventure game, and for the most part, it can be completely avoided as you can sprint through screens with relative ease. It does add another level of dynamism to Mageís Initiation, though, something that more modern interpretations of the genre lack.

I always felt that Quest for Glory was a game well ahead of its time. To this day, it has mechanics few other developers have dared to touch or tinker with. But Himalaya Studios have not only been bold enough to try, they may have actually reinvigorated and unlocked newfound potential in the genre.

Iíve only been able to try a third of Mageís Initiation, so will have a more in-depth analysis later on, but this is a very enjoyable, and potentially exciting turning point for adventure games. Reign of the Elements certainly shouldnít go unnoticed when it launches later this month.

Magesí Initiation: Reign of the Elements releases January 30 on PC. Mac, Linux, and mobile ports will follow.