Solving ‘the violence equation’ in Lichdom: Battlemage

Lichdom Battlemage
Read our full Lichdom: Battlemage review.

Most role-playing games let players define their roles with endless choices and customizations. Lichdom: Battlemage has one role – the “battlemage” – and players can take it or leave it.

This RPG from Georgia-based indie studio Xaviant is a Steam Early Access release that just went into its alpha phase. But the fundamentals of the game’s spell-based “violence equation,” as the developers refer to its combat, are just about ready for the public eye.

Story/Concept

Heart of violence. Lichdom: Battlemage is a first-person, combat-based RPG. What Xaviant showed of the story involved a mission to take down a powerful enemy, with the hero aided by a female character named The Gryphon. These roles can be reversed — i.e. you can play as the female character if you prefer, with the male aiding her — though the characters (voiced by well-knowns Troy Baker and Jennifer Hale) remain the same.

Lichdom Battlemage

The story is not the focus, though; it’s combat at Lichdom‘s heart. This is not a typical single-player RPG, with a boring open world, pointless side quests, and hundreds of useless loot drops. Lichdom‘s levels are linear, and the only choices given to players involve the game’s deep spell-crafting system. That’s the hook: become a seriously powerful sorcerer, and screw everything else.

Shattering the glass cannon. Lichdom was built for people who love playing as mage characters but hate the limitations most games place on the class. For example, Xaviant wants to demolish the “glass cannon” trope, and this mage won’t fall after a few hits. “If magic was a real thing, then how does a guy with a sword even compete?” Xaviant founder and CEO Michael McMain said during our E3 demo.

There are no mana bars or cooldowns, so players can do their thing without running out of casts. And unlike in most RPGs, bosses in Lichdom are not immune to status effects (though if you hit them with too many they briefly become “enraged” and more dangerous). Xaviant wants every player to feel like an “unmitigated badass,” McMain said, though they’re conscious of creating a challenge as well.

Gameplay

Dive deep. The magic system revolves around a three-layer crafting system. At the core, players choose one of eight elements, or “Sigils”: fire, lightning, ice, telekinesis, and others still to be revealed.

Lichdom Battlemage

The next layer determines how that element will be “shaped,” or delivered, and there are seven choices: a targeted single-enemy shot, a targeted area-of-effect, a local area-of-effect around the player, a ray that shoots in a straight line, a proximity trap, a grenade-like “lob,” and a “pool” that has persistent effects for enemies within a certain radius. Four of those seven were added in the run-up to E3, directly in response to Early Access player feedback, McMain said.

Finally, players can also choose an augment: destruction, which makes spells cause damage; control, which creates persistent effects; or mastery, which weakens enemies and causes them to act as “beacons” that have additional effects on other nearby foes.

It’s complicated, and that’s the point. But when you break it down, the effects are easy to understand. For example, a spell comprised of the ice Sigil shaped in the “pool” formation and augmented with control causes enemies who enter the spell’s radius to become frozen. A fire ray with the destruction augmentation deals damage, but adding mastery or control to that has different effects.

Lichdom Battlemage

Overkill. The fun doesn’t stop there. Every point of damage you cause over the amount required to kill an enemy helps build up “overkill” points, which can be used to unleash strong spell combos, like a kinesis-meets-lightning that forms a deadly black hole singularity.

So yeah, this mage is powerful, and he or she can also take plenty of damage. Health is divided into three recharging segments, and Xaviant wants players to fight the instinct they may have developed in other RPGs to run backward while casting frantically at pursuing enemies. To that end there are two defensive moves that also have offensive potential: right-clicking activates a magic shield that, with expert timing, parries enemy attacks and causes damage; and the space bar activates a short-range “Blink” teleportation move that can be charged to release a damaging burst of spell power on enemies.

Presentation

The speed of Skyrim. Our E3 demo showcased a series of caverns filled with ice and lava, a snowy, enemy-occupied village, and the Maelstrom, a whirlpool that froze solid when the moon shattered some time before the game takes place. There the battlemage fought a giant crab boss aided by a horde of skeletons. Not exactly mind-blowing stuff, but it certainly looks pretty.

Lichdom Battlemage

Combat flows at a pace that’s similar to Skyrim‘s. It looks slow when you’re watching, but it’s nice to have time to charge area spells, set traps, and in general do more than just lob fireballs. That said, if you do just want to shoot lightning or deadly ice crystals in the most straightforward way possible, that’s also OK. “It’s about you choosing where you want to live in that sort of violence equation,” McMain said.

And everything else is designed to not distract you from working on that equation. The interface is minimal, and loot is picked up automatically. Story elements seem few and far between (though there’s inevitably more to come in the final release), and so far there are no conversation trees or mini-maps in sight.

Takeaway

Lichdom might have benefitted from multiplayer, but McMain said they wanted to keep a tight focus. Trimming features, no matter how awesome they might have been, was an important part of the game’s development, and the result is admittedly stark. The game might also suffer from having too many options, especially since enemies don’t have weaknesses or strengths, despite the variety of elements at play. There’s nothing besides personal preference to recommend one spell over another in a given situation, which might make a lot of combinations feel redundant.

Then again, that subjectivity might be a plus for some players. Lichdom: Battlemage lets you play exactly how you like, as long as you like playing as a mage. The game’s alpha launched at the end of E3, and the beta is set to go six weeks after that. The wide release on PC, via Steam, is scheduled for August 26.

Product Review

‘Just Cause 4’ is mindless fun that leaves little room for much else

Just Cause 4 revels in explosions and over-the-top action, but its world feels empty and hollow. With few new ideas and a stale open world, it's a fun but shallow piece of escapism.
Gaming

Trash at 'Super Smash Bros. Ultimate'? Use this guide to train up and get good

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is the biggest game in the entire series, and it can be overwhelming for newcomers not used to the universe-colliding fighting game. Here's what you need to know when you're starting.
Gaming

The hottest Nintendo Switch games you can get right now

The Nintendo Switch's lineup started off small, but games have steadily released as the console continues through its second year. Here are the best Nintendo Switch games available now, from Super Mario Odyssey to Fortnite.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix, from 'Haunting of Hill House’ to ‘Twilight Zone’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Gaming

Check out the best deals from GameStop’s Game Days Sale

GameStop has hundreds of games available for discounted prices between now and December 25 as part of its Game Days Sale. We checked out the deals and have rounded up all of the best Nintendo Switch, PS4, and Xbox One deals here.
Gaming

Where we droppin’ (presents)? Perfect ‘Fortnite’ gifts for the fans in your life

Chances are someone on your holiday shopping list is a fan of Fortnite. As the most popular game on the planet, there are plenty of Fortnite-themed gift options available for purchase in stores and online. Here are the best ones we found.
Gaming

Sega Genesis classics now playable on Amazon Fire TV, no retro console required

Sega released the SEGA Classics app for Amazon Fire TV devices, allowing gamers to play Sega Genesis classics without having to buy a retro console. The $15 app contains 25 games, including three remastered Sonic titles.
Gaming

Have a spooky dance party at an abandoned mansion with Fortnite's new challenges

The Fortnite season 7, week 2 challenges have arrived in Battle Royale. From searching for chests to dancing off at an abandoned mansion, here's how to do them and the rewards you get for completing them.
Deals

The Super NES Classic is the perfect holiday gift for Nintendo lovers

Whether you're a long-time Nintendo fan looking to relive the 16-bit glory days or just doing some holiday shopping, the SNES Classic -- now in stock at multiple retailers for $80 -- might just be the perfect Christmas gift for gamers of…
Computing

Turn your Raspberry Pi into a Steam streaming hub with Valve’s Steam Link app

Valve's Steam Link app is now fully supported by Raspberry PI hardware, meaning that just about anyone with a few dollars to spare can build their own Steam streaming box in a matter of minutes.
Gaming

Nintendo pulls the plug on making more SNES Classic, NES Classic systems

Nintendo extended production of the NES Classic and SNES Classic into 2018, but once the current supply of consoles is gone, the company won't be making more. Instead, you'll have to use Nintendo Switch Online.
Gaming

Fancy ‘Kingdom Hearts III’ PlayStation 4 Pro launches alongside game in January

A limited edition PlayStation 4 Pro bundle for Kingdom Hearts III will launch alongside the game in January. The system included has a special design on the side, as does the controller.
Gaming

Want to share your Xbox One games? Here's how to do it

Sharing games on modern consoles is possible, but it takes a few steps. Here's how to start sharing games on your Xbox One console, so friends and family can easily access your library.
Gaming

Here's where Xur is and what he has for wares this week in 'Destiny 2: Forsaken'

The weekly vendor in Destiny 2: Forsaken always brings Exotic weapons and armor, some of the toughest loot to find in the game. Here's everything you need to know to track down Xur: Where he is, when he shows up, and what he's stocking.