Magicians & Looters

A game by Morgopolis Studios for PC and Xbox 360, originally released in 2013.
Magicians & Looters is a Metroidvania title, featuring a group of three wizard apprentices who must rescue their kidnapped teacher. The game begins in the Wizard Keep, a floating fortress in the clouds, which acts as a home for the wizards and a school for those aspiring toward magical greatness. At the start of the game, the keep’s security is overrun by creatures known as the Morg Men, led by an evil wizard named Lord Skree.

However, the flip and not-so-bright students hardly notice that the place is under attack, and things go wrong very quickly. Their teacher is abducted and they are tossed into the castle dungeon. Fortunately, being wizards, they decide to make use of their powers to escape. Unfortunately, they’re not terribly good at magic yet, and warping out of the dungeon causes the trio to be separated.

The game features three playable characters. While you start as the long-legged Vienna, and the game even goes so far as to make you choose one of the three characters in the early going, the fact is that all three are equally integral to the story. The opening levels see you playing separately as each of the characters until the three are eventually reunited. At that point, you gain the ability to swap between them at any of the checkpoints.

Vienna is the acrobatic one of the bunch, and she is most suited toward environmental navigation. She runs fast and jumps high. She has no weapons, but she can unleash a good amount of damage with her bare fists. Her defensive move is a quick backward dash, which allows her to deliver a few blows, quickly dodge an attack, and then move back in to finish off her enemy.

Nyn is the strongest of the characters and is best used when facing large numbers of enemies. She carries two swords, and her defensive move supports her offensive abilities by allowing her to roll around behind her attacker. In this way, she can slash at an enemy and then dodge its attack while immediately putting herself into an advantageous position that lets her get in some blows from behind her foe.

Lastly, there is Brent, the brother of Nyn, and he is the defensive character. He carries a sword and shield, and he is the only character that can block attacks rather than dodging them, which allows him to bash his way through enemies, albeit more slowly than his sister. Brent’s shield also comes into play on a couple of occasions where blocking or reflecting enemy attacks is required.

The game’s design emphasizes the equal importance of all three characters by providing areas – and even boss encounters – where their specific talents are required. You may hack and slash your way through an area with Nyn, only to find a high platform that is accessible with Vienna’s jump. Enemies in the area do respawn when you leave a room and return, but Vienna has little trouble running right past most enemies without taking damage.

Each of the characters can learn new abilities that allow them to reach new areas. Vienna has multiple encounters with Captain Cuddles, her cat that “ran away” when Brent was practicing his telewarping spell. The cat – who has gained the ability to speak – appears several times throughout the adventure to grant Vienna new abilities, including a high jump and the ability to run straight up wall like SOFIA 3rd in Blaster Master.

Nyn gains the ability to slide through narrow openings, and Brent gains a wall jump ability, once again allowing for areas where a specific character’s skills are required in order to pass. Another ability given to multiple characters is the power to toss fireballs, which allows for projectile-based combat and the lighting of torches to open doors. Launching fireballs drains the caster’s magic meter, which refills slowly over time.

In addition, all characters gain the ability to execute a blitz attack. A gauge in the top right of the screen fills with each enemy killed, and slowly drains away between kills. Filling the meter will start blitz mode during your next encounter, increasing your attack power and speed for the duration of the effect.

Characters can increase their stats by leveling up, but this is not done by killing enemies as in traditional action-RPG’s. Instead, players must explore the environment to find orbs. Gather enough orbs, and all of the characters will level up simultaneously, increasing stats such as attack damage, magic damage, magic regeneration, and various blitz mode bonuses. Stat increases vary by character in support of their strengths, and each character can reach a maximum level of 10.

At level eight, all of the characters gain the ability to telewarp to any previously explored area, which allows for faster travel and allows completionists to seek out additional orbs and items. There are also several telewarp stations where you can be warped to a specific location, provided that you have the money to pay for the service.

Money is dropped from killed enemies and found in treasure chests, many of which are hidden. In fact, there are numerous hidden rooms and breakable walls spread throughout the world, rewarding players for checking every corner of the map for secrets. However, daring players must beware the penalty for death, which removes 10% of your money (although you can just reload a previous save to keep your hard earned loot). As such, it’s best to spend your money as you earn it, as the cost of death increases as your coffers fill.

Numerous items can be discovered in chests or purchased in shops, including new swords for Brent and Nyn (they can share weapons from the inventory), each with its own stats and passive buffs. Other equippable items offer passive buffs like faster magic regeneration, increased attack and magic damage, and more health. Some items and weapons even have penalties, trading increased attack power or other buffs with the reduction of certain stats or the removal of the blitz ability.

Per Metroidvania standards, a minimap is available, showing the areas you have explored and pointing out important locations, such as shops, telewarp stations, and save points. Health is fully restored at each save point, and the player is able to swap out characters here. Often a bit of dialogue occurs when entering camp, and it’s usually pretty silly.

The game’s overall sense of humor is quite odd. The characters are a bit juvenile and flippant, regularly poking fun at each other and their situation, and this humor style extends to the brief encounters with other characters as well. The non-serious tone of the humor takes a bit of getting used to, particularly given the otherwise serious presentation of the gameplay, visuals, and audio. This puts the game more in line with something like The Bard’s Tale, where the minute-to-minute gameplay is your typical action-RPG fare, and the humor is represented only in the dialogue. Among the more humorous situations are your encounters with Captain Cuddles and a rather odd jester, as well as your fight against the “Fruit Magician” who summons forth a barrage of fruit to defeat his enemies. It’s worth noting that the game offers an abridged version of the story where dialogue is cut down to just the bare plot points for action purists.

Gameplay is fairly straightforward, offing platforming, combat, and no small amount of secret hunting. You explore a number of indoor and outdoor environments and face a variety of enemies, most of whom follow basic patrol routes and are readily dispatched by keeping with a hit-hit-dodge strategy. Occasionally, you will find yourself running through areas with pulleys that let you ride along horizontally, or which fling you upward quickly, often requiring that you string together multiple pulley jumps in a row. The floaty air movement makes this a bit difficult, but there is generally little penalty for failing to execute a pulley jump properly, aside from requiring that you make another attempt.

Boss fights are peppered throughout the adventure, many of which are quite large and detailed, but with very little animation. Each boss cycles through a number of attacks, requiring a bit of pattern recognition to keep working their health down while dodging their attacks. Some of the boss encounters require the use of a specific character, although there’s a bit of a twist to this in the final encounter.

Magicians & Looters was developed by Arizona-based Morgopolis Studios, with programming by Brian Clifton and Dan Peschman, art by Justin Pereira, and music by Ryan Peschman and Dan Horne.