The Prototype series got a little attention a few years back for being great rampage simulators. You controlled heroes empowered by a deadly virus that let them lay waste to entire city blocks at once, taking out civilians and enemies alike. Running around killing everything was only half the story, though, and many of the best moments of these games took place when you were trying to restrain yourself and work with delicate subtlety. Those games came to mind while playing Fictorum, a magic-focused third-person shooter that’s all about death and destruction.
It’s not easy being a mage these days. You’ve got an entire religion’s worth of bad guys out for your blood, after all. Staying alive means constantly moving, and taking even a moment to rest could mean that the Inquisition will finally catch up with you and show you that sword beats robe much like scissors beats paper. Good thing you’re not just any mage – you’re the Fictorum, one of the most powerful mages to ever exist. After managing to survive your own execution and the decimation of your order, you’re on a quest for both survival and revenge.
Fictorum’s basic gameplay structure is somewhat similar to FTL: Faster than Light. You’ve got a constantly pursuing threat in the form of the Inquisition and you have to plot out your moves across a map of the world so you can stay ahead of things. When you encounter a combat situation, though, things get shaken up a bit. You’re shifted to a third-person shooter where you can wield the power of the Fictorum against whichever fools have decided to pit themselves against you today.
The key selling point of the game, of course, is precisely how much power that is. The Fictorum isn’t messing around. Right from the first ten minutes of playing, you’re whipping around fireballs, ice spears and lightning bolts that can send enemies flying and turn structures to rubble. Spellcasting costs mana, but that’s a resource that regenerates quickly enough that you won’t have trouble dealing out as much destruction as you please. You’ve also got a teleportation ability to get you out of the fire when things get hot, and as you play you’ll discover new spells, stat-enhancing gear and shops that sell both of these so you can become even more powerful. Later spells let you drop meteors from the sky and summon enormous icicles from the ground, and you can further customize your powers by finding magical runes that adjust various qualities of your spells like range and damage.
You’re such a badass, in fact, that one of your most dangerous adversaries is…you. That rubble that you produce when tearing down buildings is more deadly than most enemies, and having a big chunk of rock land on top of you is a quick way for your game to end. One of the more interesting aspects of Fictorum is learning when you don’t need to lay waste to everything to get the job done, as subtlety can be safer and just as effective as going on a giant magical rampage.
Fictorum’s not exactly a graphical powerhouse, which makes sense given the physics engine needed to make all this chaos come together, but it looks good enough for what it is. Powerful magic looks appropriately devastating and it’s easy to tell what’s going on. My sole complaint was the lack of a minimap, meaning it’s easy to get lost or miss enemies that you need to kill for a given quest. Experience with the game will allow you to get a feel for where that odd missing enemy will be, but it’s still bothersome.
That’s not nearly enough of a qualm to keep me from recommending Fictorum, of course. It’s a cathartic mage-’em-up that lets you give into your childhood power fantasies much as Lichdom: Battlemage did a couple years ago. Whether you choose to wield magic precisely like a surgeon or spew death everywhere like Jack the Ripper, you’re bound to have a good time showing the Inquisition who’s boss.