In most games you start out as weak character barely able to light a candle with your magic. In Fictorum, you start out as the Apocalypse incarnate.
Genre: Action, RPG
Developer: Scraping Bottom Games
Publisher: Scraping Bottom Games
Release Date: 9 Aug, 2017
One thing I have often found myself thinking while playing games is why am I risking my life saving these strangers? The good feeling you get for knowing you helped someone? Perhaps for a paltry award? Bah, who needs that…sometimes you just want to be the bad guy. Fictorum is about a corrupted mage travelling the land, doing whatever he pleases on his self-given quest to kill the Grand Inquisitor who had attempted to have him killed first. Sometimes he may opt to help people, other times he may find that notion beneath him and simply raze their homes to the ground. Can’t live in fear of being attacked by bandits if you are dead and your home is rubble, now can you? Problem solved! I did my good deed and amused myself as well! I’ll ensure these priceless family heirlooms you were trying to protect are kept safe from theft… until I find something better and then I will sell them to a vendor for a couple bits. I’m sure the vendor will keep them respectfully for you rather than in some junk drawer with all the other worthless trash.
When first setting out you get to choose your starting spell. Command fire and lob explosive fireballs at your enemies, cast lightning from your fingers that jumps to another target after it strikes, or shoot sharp icicles to pierce your enemies. Other than keeping the related title throughout the rest of the game, you are not actually stuck with whatever spell you opted to start with. There are plenty of spell books to find that teach you additional new spells. Besides just spell books, you will also find shaping runes that let you customize how your spells work. Throwing one explosive fireball is great, but wouldn’t throwing three be better? With a multi-shot rune, you can do that! You are given three rune slots per spell so you can tailor each one how you like. Here is the thing, just because you tailored the spell to cast multiple fireballs, doesn’t mean you have to do it every time. Spell Shaping lets you configure exactly how you want each of your casts to be. While Spell Shaping, time slows down giving you the ability to adjust your spell between your three equipped runes exactly how you want it before letting it loose on your targets.
Speaking of tailoring, your clothing visibly changes in this game dependent on what kind of gear you are equipping. There is plenty of gear and gear types around with various stats. It isn’t simply a matter of finding a pair of “Boots of Slightly Betterness” because while the new boots might be better in some stats, it might be worse in others leaving you having to weigh in which is actually better for your build. Also, sometimes pieces of equipment have magic built into them that gives powerful effects to help keep you alive. Some of them are useful such as freezing melee attackers or putting up a protective shield, others have their uses but sometimes can cause you more trouble than they are worth. A piece of gear my fire-based build uses sets anything that is alive and also near it on fire. This is useful because it basically does a little extra damage over time to anything that gets too close to you, however, if you are on a quest to save the villagers… the burning affects them too, meaning that you are basically killing those you are trying to protect. That leads to another issue I had in this game, I am jumpy. With health being so precious in this game, I tended to shoot first and ask questions later. If I heard a peasant catch fire and groan in pain I instantly assumed an enemy was sneaking up on me, so I would spin around and launch a fireball at them… which is a great trick to save your life… unless you are indoors at the time, in which case you more than likely will bring the roof down on your head… which hurts a lot if it doesn’t kill you.
The destructible buildings, lamp posts, trees, and fences add a certain level of enjoyment to the game. Some people just want to see the world burn, and by some people, I mean me, the Fictorum. My fire-based Fictorum, who I named Trogdor, went through the countryside “burninating” all the peasants and their homes leaving nothing standing in his wake. The reason for this was simple. If I went into the homes I could sometimes loot new gear, then to save myself from accidentally searching the same home twice, I would simply blow it up. Blowing it up both marked that I was done with it, and if I happened to have missed something, bringing the house down would turn the missed item into essence (which is basically money in the game) and therefore I would end up missing nothing! Basically, you need to be careful how you use your magic unless wanton destruction is your raison d’etre. If you are doing battle on a bridge it likely isn’t a good idea to use your explosive magic. Perhaps carefully aiming your ice magic might work better; otherwise you might find the bridge falling out from under you and your foes leaving you to have to find another route to your destination.
Speaking of finding a route, the way the game works is that each time you start a new game, it generates a random map for you to move from the left side of to the right side. That makes it so each replay of the game will feel a bit different. Generally you are given several mountains to choose from and if you find one to be too hard, you can always try another route. However, despite how much you would like to stick around and loot every mountain of all their riches, you can’t take a leisurely stroll like that. The Inquisition is hot on your trail, and if you stay too long they will catch up to you. If the Inquisition catches up with you, you will find yourself being overwhelmed with seemingly infinite enemies as you work your way to the exit portal of that particular mountain map. Each turn you take on the world map, advances the inquisition as well. You are resting? They march on! You help out the village? They march on! You backtrack to hit up a vendor? They … you get the idea! It’s not good for your health to stay in one place too long.
Health in this game is a rare commodity. Unlike most games, you can’t just carry some health potions or heal yourself freely with magic. You have to find potions in the field or pay a vendor to heal you. You might get lucky and find a quest that heals you a bit, or you can rest and restore a smidge of health but that allows the Inquisition to get closer to you. The thing is the potions you find, and even a single unit of healing from a vendor, barely heals you at all. Hmm… you have 1 HP left of your 500 pool… thank goodness there is a potion in this house, I feel much better now that I have 2 HP left! That’s a bit exaggerated, but still it takes a ton of health potions to restore your health to anything reasonable, and you are lucky if you find more than a couple per map. Vendors are not that common on the world map either and vendors also charge a lot to heal you so it isn’t something you want to rely on. Another fun fact is that if you spam spells trying to keep anything from getting close to you, you will start burning off your health as well. Mana regenerates fairly quickly when not in use, but health never regens so it is an incredibly bad idea to swap life to cast a spell.
The controls of this game work quite well. I preferred the keyboard and mouse, but it worked almost as well when using my gamepad. I’ve never been good at aiming with a gamepad though so I decided not to use it for most of my playing. Overall, the game feels a little repetitive, with each quest feeling basically the same. There are a few variances here and there, but for the most part it is just you versus some bad guys until you leave the area. There are multiple chapters to get through, but each chapter more or less feels the same as the last, the enemies’ just flock to you in greater numbers. The mindless destruction element is the real selling point of the game that makes it fun and worth playing.