Mage’s Initiation: Reign of the Elements has a curious blend of point and click puzzle adventure and a RPG. The world of Iginor is a classic magic-filled land with a rich history woven into it. But I found myself begrudging some the classic 90s methods of unravelling D’arc’s adventure.
As someone who missed out on most of the seminal point-and-click adventure games of the 90s at the time, I was excited to jump into Mage’s Initiation to see how it stacks up compared to the greats.
Every element, if you pardon the pun, of pure 90s gaming nostalgia is here, from the Monkey Island-era pixel graphics to the corny Dungeons and Dragons-like magic lore. It’s not going to be for everyone, but if you grew up playing point and click games on your parents’ massive old Windows 95 PC, then there’s plenty for you to get a kick out of.
The biggest obstacle to me enjoying Mage’s Initiation was the laborious pace of the game. At the start of the game, you must read through a library full of exposition, scanning each word for a possible clue. Things are not helped by D’Arc, the main character, moving at the pace of a snail, even when he ‘runs’. If you can overcome his speed limitations, though, solving puzzles with D’Arc can be very rewarding – it’s always welcome not to be spoonfed any information.
As fun as some of the puzzles are, though, aside from combat (more on that in a minute), it’s the role-playing elements of Mage’s Initiation that I got the biggest kick out of. The fact that this feels like your typical puzzle game, but you’re able to progress using different methods based on your choices and abilities, is a whole new experience for me. Every decision that you make feels like it alters the game drastically, and for me that meant I took every decision I made seriously.
The combat, however, really lets down the RPG side of the game. Running around and shooting spells, figuring out weaknesses and carefully planning your character’s stats sounds truly great, but in Mage’s Initiation, the flinging of spells in a pixelated environment just feels out-of place. The idea is fun but I can’t help but think that perhaps a turn-based system would’ve been more fitting.
Mage’s Initiation: Reign of the Elements has plenty of highlights, especially if you’re a fan of retro puzzle and adventure games, but it’s let down by a slow pace, which ultimately meant it struggled to hold my interest after a few hours. For better or worse, Mage’s Initiation delivers on its promise to give you a nostalgic experience, all while painting a very rich story full of lore and wonder. It could quite easily go down as a cult favourite. But for a lot of us, Mage’s Initiation will simply be a reminder of why things may have moved on.