Low Magic Age Early Access Preview

Low Magic Age came to my attention via the new recommendation algorithm that Steam has implemented. It was immediately added to my wishlist. My interest was peaked by the beautiful clean UI, Which is uncommon for this level of game. It shows that the developer is no Unity asset muppet and knows a thing or two for simple yet classic user interfaces. For a sole developer to create such a beast as a TRPG takes some doing. I applaud anybody who’s willing to take on this herculean task.

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On first viewing, the content seems pretty barebones. Only one mode is available at the time of writing. Arena: This presents 5 challenge scenarios. Each challenge description shows what combination and amount of monsters you will face in combat. These can be any manner of goblins, trolls, giant ants, basilisks and skeletons. The game features 7 categories, 100+ classical fantasy monsters. Defeating challenges rewards players with XP, glory points, gold and random magical enhanced items. Once you have completed all the displayed scenarios, a Boss encounter is unlocked. If defeated this drops high-level items. The Arena is then reset with a new wave of harder challenges.

The start of the game plonks your party on what appears to be a generated map and random position. Unlike most TRPGs you can not fix your character’s starting lineout, so weak players might be caught and flaked from dangerous fast moving enemies from the beginning of the encounter.

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The Default party lineup helps players new to the whole D&D universe by providing a good balance of characters. These have all their class upgrades and feats locked so you don’t have to worry about choosing the right build tree options. This eases newbies like myself into the game. Allowing them to understand the core fighting fundamentals before delving into the numerous options from the OPL ruleset.

The opening party consists of a classic mixture of offensive and support classes. You can customise each character’s name, portrait and battle avatar. There is also a random name generator if your creative juices are a tad dried up.

Here is a list of the opening parties race and class.

Holg – Half-Orc -Great Weapon Warrior
Lia – Elf – Dual Blades
Ellywick – Elf – Archer
Chris – Human – Healer
Hathaway – Gnome – Controller

Playing the Arena mode for a couple of waves, was, to be frank, rather underwhelming. Wolf packs and orcs were the usual cannon fodder. It’s only after wave 5 that I started to encounter high level and intelligent foes. Wizards with buffing clerics behaved in an impressive manner. Wizards keep their distance and rained down lightning on my party. Clerics buffing Orc tanks. At one point I resurrected a couple of fallen allies only to have them turned by a wizard, thus leaving my archer exposed and ripe for a good biffing by a close by Orge. Fantastic gameplay.

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Formations add to this heady mix. Flaking and support positioning is key for a successful outcome. Keeping a tight line and using area FX spells to coral monsters into killing zones is a good strategy. In fact, the whole strategy mix is intoxication. I’ve levelled my troops up to 7, but already have a gamut of spells and offensive manoeuvres. Bare in mind this is with the default party with locked skill trees.

In summary, I’d describe the main gameplay loop by saying it has the following traits.

Positioning/Flanking of Fire Emblem.
Spell combinations of Divinity Original Sin
Character specialisation, classes, feats and skill trees of Baldur’s Gate (on steroids)

Basically, 3 ingredients that would make a top tier TRPG soup. These components are already in the game and more are being added.

I’ve been monitoring the steam forum since my purchase of the game. They appear to be alive and well. There are a few key threads where various balance and feature additions are being discussed. The main programmer, Thomas Lee, has been very pro-active, replying to users experiences and concerns. His command of the English language is impressive. At first, I thought it was one of the translation team. But after commenting on a forthcoming feature, the dev directly replied to me stating his preferred name for any further feedback. Given the time difference and the workload of solely developing a complicated title. I tip my hat to him. This all bodes well for the future of the game.

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Given my frustrated programmer curiosity, I gave the file structure a customary mooch to see what engine was being used and any random config files that could be tweaked. The scripting language appears to be Lua based. There’s also a lot of off the shelf “plugins” being used for graphics, sound and text. This good news for future modding and Steam Workshop support. All the games graphics are in popular formats. No custom compression packs are being used so swapping/customising individual files is easy. I’ve already imported a set of character Icons from some of my favourite titles.Minsc was added immediately *smile*. Unlike some previous games where I have tinkered with files, which required high-level tools to import the correct BMP format, eg DXT compression. I found to my surprise that as long as you keep the correct aspect ratio, the library plugin still outputs the said file, even if the file resolution is above the 72×72 pixel default. Very robust. *smile* This opens up countless possibilities for user-generated content.

The foundations that have been laid since the short time of the initial release have been impressive. English language support has been added along with many bug fixes and tweaks to both the UI and game systems. The fighting system is based on the Open Game License made by Wizards of the Coast. Converting a tabletop rule set to a TRPG is a very tricky balancing act. My first playthrough using the default party, undercovered a spell which seems to OPed from the get-go. I notified the dev and got a rapid response. Obviously, during the early access stage, this kind of balance issues can be nerfed. It’s good to see the dev is monitoring the steam forums and appears very proactive with regards to bugs, tweaks and the like.

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If like me you have become a bit weary of the recent weeaboo waifu Fire Emblem titles. Infected with story heavy non-essential baggage, with no real gameplay improvements beyond the classic rock, paper, scissors core gameplay. Then I would heartily recommend Low Age Magic. Even though the current content is minimal. It offers great gameplay depth and “pickup&play” ability. You can enter the Arena and have a quick match in five minutes. Or if you want, spend countless hours creating and tweaking custom characters to your heart’s content. Also to be considered is the ludicrous entry price. I picked up the title whilst it was on sale for £2.37!

I couldn’t recommend this game any higher. A stunning title with tremendous scope for expansion.

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