A game where you play as a mage, can blow up every structure in sight and customize spells in hilarious ways. From the outset, it sounds like Fictorum could be a decent wizard simulator… and yet it has some glaring issues that can’t be cast (pun intended) away.
The first thing that a lot of people will notice when loading up the game is the horrible optimization that all but the most up-to-date PC’s will be affected by. When even the main menu suffers from massive FPS drops, you’d think the developers could have invested some more time polishing the fundamental mechanical aspects. For a game that relies heavily on graphical spectacle and massive spell effects, this is an almost immediate deal breaker for a lot of people who don’t own the most up-to-date gaming setup.
While the game doesn’t have classes in the traditional sense, you do get to choose a starting title, which affects which items and spells you begin the game with (fire, ice or lightning). More titles and starting sets are then unlocked by completing certain achievements, which lets you start with more powerful gear. Most of these can be found in the game world though, so you’re not locked to a certain archetype and can adjust your style based on whatever items you find.
Most spells can also be enhanced with runes that either make minor changes to mana cost, damage or stun chance. Still others have a larger impact, such as the trap rune which lets you turn most spells into a proximity triggered version of the original spell.
I find it an extremely strange design choice to put most of the items in buildings that you are supposed to be blowing up however, since this slows the gameplay down a lot, particularly in the early game when you need them the most.
Gameplay, gameplay, gameplay
The map system is very familiar to anyone who has played FTL: Faster Than Light. The main character moves from node to node, with random events taking place on each one. Some can simply be passed, while others give you a choice of fighting your way through or opting for a stealthier approach. Once you’re in the actual game world however, things get a lot more linear.
Every single map apart from a couple of boss fights is completed by destroying the nearby watchtower and exiting through a nearby portal. For a game in the roguelite category which by design relies heavily on replayability, this is probably the game’s biggest flaw. Once you’ve killed the final boss, there really isn’t much more to do. The enemies never require any strategy more advanced than the old hit-and-run, since most of the AI opponents rarely do anything apart from running towards you in the straightest possible line.
While it can be fun to blow up an entire village with huge meteors or shoot enemies off cliffs with knockback effects, a game needs more variety than that to keep players interested for longer periods of time. After the first few chapters of Fictorum however, it starts to feel more like a chore and I found myself running straight for the portals while shooting at the towers just so I could get to the end of the story.
There is definitely potential here, which I hope the developers get to realize in a future game or maybe even a sequel. As it stands however, Fictorum is at best good for an hour or two of fun which does not justify the steep 20€ (~$25) price tag.