Wizordum Hands-On Preview – Scepters and Sorcery

Wizordum is a throwback to times when Doom was all the rage, a new generation of first-person shooters taking the world by storm, bloody pixels rampant and speedy gameplay delighting players. Incidentally, publisher Apogee Entertainment has strong ties with this era and is responsible for classics such as Duke Nukem, under the guise of 3D Realms. Wizordum, currently in Early Access, opts for a fantasy theme with extremely colorful graphics and a noticeable RPG feel that blends past and present in a promising way.

Magical Doom

This retro FPS comes with fast action and bright colors, a step away from the mostly dull shades of Hexen and Heretic, for those who remember these staples of the genre. The start of this adventure is perchance the worst part, as melee combat doesn’t really feel adequate or exciting enough, collision detection revealing itself to be fairly inaccurate and inapt. You’ll end up learning about proper distances and the hit and run combat, but the enjoyment drastically improves as you start using ranged weapons.

Wizordum Hands-On Preview

Shooting fireballs from your hands while dancing between the enemies’ projectiles is a blast, pun intended. Their movement patterns are intentionally rudimentary as to mimic old-school FPS behavior, providing no real challenge unless you are surprised by someone spawning around the corner or behind you, simply requiring that you learn each one’s skillsets and keep on the move. Skilled players will lure goblins into shooting their fireballs right when melee enemies stand between you and them, a nice friendly fire touch that is occasionally forgotten amidst retro shooters.

Combat is fast, fun, with limited but always comfortable ammo counts to be found across the stages, one weapon being used when you are about to run out of ammo for the other. Switch to the staff and now you can freeze your opponents, a mace whack instantly turning them into ice cubes. The spellstriker is your medieval fantasy shotgun, quite effective in terms of damage but requiring a reload after every shot, not the best weapon for moments when you’re being swarmed by enemies. There are other weapons to discover, including an exploding orb – the medieval grenade – and it feels like you have enough firepower and diversity to tackle every foe, from pouncing rats to unspeakable green abominations.

Running in Pixelated Circles

Wizordum Hands-On Preview

Instead of a straight route for every area, Wizordum gates progression behind locked doors and barriers enforcing exploration, with various secrets and many treasures to be found. It’s mostly engaging as you often switch between outdoor environments and inner areas searching for levers and keys to unlock special doors. But in a sense it’s also simple and sticks to the old-school guns somewhat too strictly, without any jumping mechanics or a hint of verticality, apart from the concept of moving between zones via a quick transition.

Exploration can also be a bit confusing, with plenty of backtracking and occasional bouts of frustration as you fail to immediately grasp where you should go next. Sometimes you have a marker on your map, sometimes you don’t, so your only option in the latter case is to explore the same old areas until you see enemies spawning, an indication that this is likely to be the right path, or at least an unexplored section. The Murky Wastes stage is a good example of the occasionally confusing nature of this design, with more levers to find than you would wish for, making this journey through filthy waters overstay its welcome.

Wizordum Hands-On Preview

Wizordum knows what it is and what it’s trying to achieve, so don’t expect a groundbreaking shooter or the second coming of Hexen. It’s more of a fun, almost casual FPS experience with some basic mechanics and simple enemy AI that won’t pose much of a challenge, and the level editor could extend the enjoyment as you create your own stages. Dial down your expectations and this could be the game to give you a fast and enjoyable taste of the golden age of shooters, but we’ll have to wait for the full launch to see just how gripping and charming the remaining chapters are.