In the land of Demacia, mages are hunted and feared. The Mageseeker Order claims to keep Demacia safe from the taint of magic. But when one imprisoned mage named Sylas manages to escape from his captivity moments before he is led off to his execution, it begins a chain of events that will see that Demacia is never the same again in The Mageseeker: A League of Legends Story from developer Digital Sun and publisher Riot Forge.
When I first saw the trailers for this game, I expected an action RPG that would let me cut through swaths of Mageseekers as one of League of Legends‘ many iconic characters. While I did have a lot of fun with The Mageseeker: A League of Legends Story, it ended up being decidedly different than what I expected at nearly every turn. And most of these major surprises were to its benefit.
First, let’s talk about the gameplay. Rather than dashing around haphazardly, whipping enemies with Sylas’s trademark chains and unleashing the ever-growing assortment of spells I had at my disposal, this game demanded I slow down and approach most combat encounters in a much more methodical way. Few enemies in the game can be written off as mere inconveniences, as most can do a sizable amount of damage if left ignored, and most encounters saw several enemies appearing at once with mixes of melee and magic attacks that would demand my focus if I didn’t want to be burning through my healing potions to keep going. While I’m naturally more of a hack ‘n’ slash gamer by nature, The Mageseeker: A League of Legends Story did a great job of helping me acclimate to its less forgiving gameplay. But while I enjoyed most of what the game offered from its combat, there are a few caveats to it I have to mention. And the biggest one comes with most of the game’s bosses.
In the time-honored video game tradition, most bosses have three forms that the player must fight through in order to triumph. While many of these changes heralded physical transformations, some simply see an upgrade in the boss’s move set. All too often, however, the final form came with the same game plan, covering the screen in so many area of effect attacks there is little to no way some damage won’t get through. These overwhelming final phases often left me feeling like I would die simply because there was no safe place to hide. It made surviving the early stages of the battle, taking as little damage as possible, imperative, as not having enough health to get through the deluge I knew was coming would be a death sentence to me.
The only other noteworthy element of The Mageseeker: A League of Legends Story‘s gameplay that also felt unfun to me came with its implementation of healing units for your opponents. The healing units the enemy possesses deliver an incredible amount of healing, to the point where it is almost pointless to attack anything else if one is on the battlefield. However, killing one isn’t that simple as they run from you at full speed whenever you draw close. Even using Sylas’s chains to grapple them could prove challenging, and of course, while you frantically attempt to run down the healer, mages are lobbing various magic spells at you while hulking goliaths slam you around. It made these moments challenging but often not much fun. Luckily, the developers at Digital Sun were aware that they had a challenging game on their hands, and in order to accommodate less precise players like me, the developers offered a couple of different ways to shift the difficulty for a player’s needs.
Along with the normal offering of easy mode, players can opt to increase Sylas’s health and damage output. This way, if the players want to face the enemies at their best, they still can, while getting a little boost to help them weather the storm. I eventually had to accept the offer of extra health and damage in order to get me through some of the game’s hardest boss fights.
While the many challenges players will confront in The Mageseeker: A League of Legends Story will keep them on their toes, Digital Sun does a fantastic job of allowing Sylas to grow into the challenges that face him. As the game progresses, Sylas gains access to numerous allies that help him level up himself, his equipment, and his spell selection, allowing him to become a true force to be reckoned with. While there are challenges throughout the game, there does come the point when you realize the lesser enemies that once caused you problems in the game’s early levels now fall before you like wheat before a scythe. I love that the game doesn’t faze out the early enemy types completely. Allowing the player to feel their growth gives a sense of true progress and empowerment.
While much of Sylas’s growth happens back at base, a core component of it begins on the battlefield. Sylas’s unique mage power is to copy the power of other mages. So whenever a player encounters a new magic-using enemy, getting a copy of the enemy’s power is a good idea. Copying gives Sylas a one-time use of the ability, but upon returning g to base, one of his allies can give him permanent access to the ability he can then choose to equip to one of his up to four spell slots.
The final tool in Sylas’s arsenal is his ultimate abilities. Much like his spells, Sylas acquires these abilities from his enemies too. But these come from various bosses the player contends with. But not just any boss is good enough for Sylas to snip the power of. These powers come from many fellow League of Legends champions that grace the game.
If you are a fan of League of Legends or any of the other games using the IP, you are in for a treat with some of the game’s biggest fights. Not only do numerous characters from the Demacian region appear in Sylas’s story, but how they play on the battlefield perfectly adapts the character’s classic move sets. From Lux’s Final Spark to Morgana’s Soul Shackles, every character’s abilities feel consistent with what they have always been known for.
All of these battles and flashy super attacks are brought to life through a fluid pixel art presentation that is always pleasant to the eye. The characters are wonderfully animated, and the world of Runeterra is shown off through numerous biomes that each look striking and colorful. The portraits of characters that appear during dialogues are also gorgeous as they shift to show the characters changing moods during conversations.
These conversational moments make up the backbone of The Mageseeker: A League of Legends Story‘s surprisingly deep and nuanced story. Following Sylas as he first sets out for revenge and eventually something more, the game does a great job of showcasing the ways institutionalized prejudice can get worked into a society. While some characters are clearly good and others evil, many fall in an in-between that helps to show how where a person starts from can color how they think the right way to change a world should be. Accentuated by a handful of truly emotional moments, the story ended up being a far bigger part of my experience than I had expected.
This emotional story is also augmented through a wonderful score. The music helps to build the emotions throughout the game but truly comes into its own in the closing chapters. The epic final battles are heightened immensely thanks to the gorgeous music that sells the scale of the conflict.
The Mageseeker: A League of Legends Story comes together to deliver yet another great expansion of the League of Legends world. If an action RPG that forces you to be calculated in your approach that is married with an engrossing story about a social revolution sounds appealing to you, then this is one to pick up.
The Mageseeker: A League of Legends Story is available on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4/5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, and PC.
The Mageseeker: A League of Legends' Story
The Mageseeker: A League of Legends Story comes together to deliver yet another great off-shoot offering of the League of Legends brand. If an action RPG that forces you to be calculated in your approach that is married with an engrossing story about a social revolution sounds appealing to you then this is one to pick up.