Originally exclusive to PC-based VR platforms, The Mage’s Tale has finally made it to Playstation VR and provides one of the best examples of an RPG realized in virtual reality so far. Here’s our review.
Even if you don’t follow the PC-based VR scene, “The Mage’s Tale” might still sound familiar if you’ve been around for a while. Its title is close to The Bard’s Tale for a reason, as the game takes place in the same game universe as that title and it was developed by the same company that recently gave us a proper sequel to the classic Bard’s Tale trilogy: inXile.
Because of the delay in The Mage Tale’s arrival on the PSVR platform, the fact that it’s set between the third and fourth Bard’s Tale game is a bit awkward, but in no way a detriment – the game can even be enjoyed as a standalone title and shouldn’t be a seen as a prequel to the fourth game, but rather as a spinoff title.
The delay also provides benefits though, as many of the post-launch improvements for the PC version have been included at launch for the console edition. The standout feature from that perspective is the inclusion of free locomotion as a movement method. Those who played The Bard’s Tale games know that it’s essentially still a square/grid-based map that you’re moving on, but the new control method makes movement much smoother. You can’t use a Dualshock for this though – it’s a Move-only title. That may sound surprising from a movement perspective, but that has everything to do with the Mage-centric approach to the game and your ability to spellcast.
The Mage’s Tale is pretty lengthy for a VR title, with ten dungeons that make for an adventure that lasted me almost a dozen hours on my first playthrough. Besides combat, which is the core gameplay element in The Mage’s Tale, you’ll also encounter plenty of puzzles. These mix up the gameplay nicely, and they’re never hard enough to stop you in your tracks yet just challenging enough to be fun.
Combat, naturally, is mostly handled through spellcasting rather than melee. You can defend yourself using a (Move button-enabled) shield, but the bulk of the fun lies in thrusting fireballs towards your enemies and developing new spells along the way. Implementing VR nicely, aiming is done through a combination of head control and the Move controllers. There are even a few spells where you can direct your projectile in mid-air – reminding me a bit of Microsoft’s Kinect functionality.
As with most RPGs, you level up both your character and your skills as you progress through the game. This comes in handy when you encounter any of the game’s ten boss fights, which require you to recognize their attack patterns and counter appropriately. These fights, along with the puzzles, traps and loot, make for nice changes in momentum and pace and keep the game interesting throughout the entire run.
There’s a Playstation 4 Pro patch coming post launch, and it’s a shame that it wasn’t ready upon release – The Mage’s Tale on Playstation VR is a demanding (and visually attractive) game that clearly had to be downscaled a little to allow for it to run on a standard PS4. I’m extremely curious to see the difference once PS4 Pro support has been implemented, and the audiovisual experience gets closer to the PC original.
Even without the patch, however, this is a great example of how an RPG can work in VR. Skyrim can be overwhelming in VR with its grand scale, but The Mage’s Tale tackles this very well with its gameplay design and shifts in pace and momentum. Definitely recommended.