Push back the darkness in Wizardlings

Wizardlings is a new iOS game published by Square Enix and developed by Liv Games. It’s available now as a free-to-play download for iPhone and iPad, and will be available soon for other platforms.

Wizardlings casts players in the role of a male or female wizard and tasks them with removing the darkness that has shrouded the land. This is achieved by tapping on squares one at a time on the isometric-perspective game screen, and slowly uncovering the whole level. When a square is uncovered, the player gains experience, coins and sometimes items. Some items restore the player’s “magic” level (effectively the game’s energy system) while others may be used to “brew” various elemental spells. Others still form parts of various treasure collections and reward the player with money and items when completed.

Occasionally, the player will uncover a monster in the darkness. Battling monsters is a case of tapping on them to bring up the combat interface, then either tapping the “attack” button, which deals a single point of damage to the monster, or casting a brewed spell. Spells fall into one of five different “elements” — fire, water, electricity, air and holy — and each monster has an associated weakness. Casting a spell of the appropriate element does considerably more damage to the monster, usually allowing them to be defeated in one hit and thus saving magic power.

The game monetizes through the sale of hard and soft currency. The former may be used to purchase rather than find ingredient items for spells, purchase quest items rather than find them, or restore magic power; the latter may be used to purchase various equipment items that provide bonuses to the player’s abilities as well as the facility for visual customization.

Wizardlings is not a good game, for several reasons. First of all, its core gameplay is simply quite boring. To complete each level, players must simply tap on each square one at a time — a long-winded and tedious task requiring no skill whatsoever, and with no means of “queueing” actions, one which requires the player to sit and wait through the avatar’s “casting” animation for every single square. Combat is not much better — monsters don’t chase the player around the map or attack independently, for example; they are simply obstacles to be overcome.

More seriously, the game has some significant issues with its interface and the perspective from which it is presented. The isometric perspective is highly popular in mobile and social games because it allows the illusion of “3D” graphics, but in this case it proves to be more of a hindrance, as things that the player needs to tap on are often hidden behind other objects. Sometimes when the avatar moves behind an object, it becomes transparent so the player can see what is there, but equally this does not happen a lot of the time, too, with no apparent consistency as to which objects can be seen through and which cannot. On a similar note, the game’s touch sensitivity is not very accurate, often making it impossible to tap on the correct square to pick up an item when a monster is nearby. At times, this can make levels appear impossible to complete.

The game also seems to suffer from a few bugs — most notably, when tested, my avatar changed sex between my first login and subsequent starts of the game.

The game has been panned by App Store reviewers for its overly-aggressive monetization — if the player inadvertently uses up too many of the limited-availability spell ingredients which can be found in the field, they often have no choice but to resort to in-app purchases to be able to progress. The “magic points” energy system, while a lot more reasonable than many other implementations of this outdated and player-unfriendly throttling mechanic, has also drawn criticism, and the fact that the game inexplicably requires a constant Internet connection despite being single-player in nature has also proven unpopular.