We’ve had a lot of static shooting games on the PSVR platform as well as a few creative ones which include the use of bow and arrows and melee weapons. However, I can’t recall any games, off the top of my head, which gives you the ability to cast spells with your own hands in order to take down your foes; well, apart from Skyrim VR. The Wizards – Enhanced Edition was released today which allows you to step into the shoes of a Dr. Strange-like character who can create magical attacks by simply waving his hands.
Whereas this is an ‘enhanced’ version of the PC VR game from 2018, this is the first time the game has appeared on the PS4. Looking at the list of what’s changed from the older version to this one, it appears a lot of quality of life changes have been implemented in order to make the game more appealing and more accessible to play. I never played the original version so all of my opinions will be based upon coming into this version fresh. That being said, let’s take a look at why I simply love The Wizards – Enhanced Edition.
The Wizards – Enhanced Edition has a rather simple story that is told via a rather brilliant narrator who reminds me a lot of the guy from The Stanley Parable. Not only because he sounds very similar, but because the narrator in this game also cracks jokes and pokes fun at what’s going on around you every now and again. You play the role of a young wizard who has been summoned by the aforementioned narrator in order to travel through time and save the world.
Basically, the Realm of Men is under threat from a whole bunch of evil creatures and terrible monsters, all out to destroy every living thing they come into contact with. From your low-life orcs to massive dragons, a range of fantastical beasts are out to slaughter anyone who gets in their way, namely you! You’ll be travelling through various lands as you master the arts of numerous new spells and defences to aid you in your journey. With nobody but the voices in your head (the narrator) for company, will you triumph or fail at the task given to you? There’s only one way to find out…
One of the unique aspects of The Wizards – Enhanced Edition lies within its controls within VR. The way you summon your spells is something I don’t recall seeing within a game before as you have to get physical and remember certain hand gestures in order to create the correct spell. That’s right, even though the game is called ‘The Wizards’, forget Harry Potter and his little twig as you’ll be waving your arms in the air (like you just don’t care) in order to create mighty manifestations with your own hands!
The spells vary from simple to a little tricky, but none are impossible to pull off. For example, in order to summon a Fireball you simply pull the trigger on the Right Move Controller, so it forms a fist facing downwards, then you flick it to the right (as if you’re picking something up). However, the Fireball is quite weak, so what about your Bow? Hold the trigger on both controllers as you bring both hands together (like you’re playing the cymbals) – this will create a magical Ice Bow which will remain usable for a few shots before it melts away.
There are six spells in total for you to learn and enhance (as you can level each one up by finding upgrade points and fulfilling certain criteria), each one with its own unique gesture and strength against certain enemies. Not all of them are offensive though, you also have a Light Shield which can be upgraded to reflect enemy projectiles back at the thrower. My favourite though is the ‘Rain From Above’ ability which you summon by pretending you’re a Power Ranger summoning your Zord! There is one downside to the spells though but that lies within the accuracy and tracking…
Accuracy and Tracking
I didn’t have that many issues with the tracking, as such. I opted to play the game seated as there is an option to do so within the settings, which is accompanied by an option asking how tall you want your in-game character to be. After setting these, my camera picked up on everything I was doing just fine and I felt like I was 100% in control, until later on in the game. The PC version of The Wizards – Enhanced Edition has two methods of attacking enemies. There’s the new ‘Look Cursor’ and something else which was there before (based on reading the patch notes on Steam). In PSVR, we only have the option for the ‘Look Cursor’. To those who don’t know what this is, even though you have full control of your movement and looking around, there’s a crosshair on the screen at all times which is locked to where you’re looking – that’s where your thrown projectiles will aim to go.
Now, this works fine the majority of the time, but you have to remember to keep your hands in front of your face and within the play area at all times. If you’re throwing a Fireball and you pull your arm back then let go to throw just before the controller has passed your head, then your Fireball will most likely be very limp and flop to the ground or it’ll shoot off into space. I had similar issues with the massive Fire Orb. That one is done by throwing a massive ball over your head with two hands towards the enemy. Based on your camera setup, it’s easy to put your hands out of bounds and the ball will simply plummet to the ground about two feet from your character.
Although, the above is the exception. Out of the hundreds of Fire Balls I threw, I would say about 90% of them worked as intended. It’s also worth noting that it may have been an issue with my setup and not the game itself, you just need to make sure you are a decent distance from the camera and you take into account that it needs to see from your waist up to above your head for certain spells.
Okay, so what about the movement? Clearly, things get better with tracking and playability here, right?! Yup! The Wizards – Enhanced Edition has two control methods, although I can only recommend one of them to be honest as it incorporates both. The first method is simply teleportation everywhere, hold the Move button and release to instantly appear in another location. The second method is a free movement by holding the Move button on the Left controller and moving it around like a Joystick (think Skyrim VR). This second method also still lets you use teleportation at the same time with the Move button on the Right controller.
For those out there with motion sickness and/or and issues within VR, there are plenty of accessibility options. Smooth turning or snap, with a wide variety of snap amounts, blinders on or off, as well as how strong you want them to be if they are on, and a few other options like walk speed. I have been suffering from headaches recently so I played The Wizards – Enhanced Edition with blinders on at 30% and snap turning to around 30 degrees. I managed to make it all the way through the game without my head hurting at all and I didn’t even feel like I noticed the slight blinders on the side during motion.
So, what did I think about the controls in general? I really enjoyed them. The movement was nice and simple, and both fast and precise, thanks to having the option to use smooth walking and teleportation with the single option. There’s no support for the DS4 or Aim Controller as the joy comes down to moving your hands in certain gestures to create the spells. However, I’ve heard The Wizards – Enhanced Edition is compatible with the 3D Rudder device (which I would love to try out) – this is a device you place your feet on and use to move your character around in VR.
As a side note, I found the game has a lot of points where you can teleport out of bounds and wander around. Obviously, I don’t recommend this as you can easily get stuck, but there were at least six points where I managed to teleport where I shouldn’t be!
The main thing you’ll be doing within The Wizards – Enhanced Edition is venturing through the eleven missions as you take out the hordes of enemies whilst tracking down the evil who’s behind all of this. This is done from the wizards (narrators) home. Simply place a level piece on the table and you’ll be whisked away to the mission. Each one contains a number of upgrade shards and cards for you to collect. The shards are used to upgrade your spells and the cards can be used to make each level harder or easier whilst also increasing or decreasing your score in the process.
That’s right, you get a ‘score’ for each level because the game contains leaderboards. You can see how you match up to the rest of the world on your chosen platform as you aim to do better and beat your friends.
The levels themselves are basically a combination of exploration, horde-mode, and puzzles. You’ll be walking around looking for the collectables until you become locked in an area. Then, hordes of enemies will approach you, which you must kill before you can move on. Then, you’ll continue to repeat this pattern over, occasionally coming across environmental puzzles which must be solved either to progress or unlock new items. The horde sections do happen a lot but they never outgrew their welcome with me – the enemy variety changes and later levels even introduce a new enemy which requires you to completely change your arcane powers in order to kill them!
The thing which does really mix things up is the bosses. Each of the three worlds has its own unique boss at the end, a massive creature that has its own strategy to take them down. Once you know the patterns, it’s not too difficult, but you have to use a combination of all the spells you’ve learnt as well as both control methods to quickly dodge the oncoming attacks.
Okay, so the controls are great, the setting is fantastical and the combat is rather unique – what else? Well, in terms of visual quality, The Wizards – Enhanced Edition looks great. As the game is built in UE4, everything looks like it’s textured really well, even up close. Although, you do occasionally see the textures filter into the higher quality ones as you get close. I saw this most in the third world as you would be walking up some stairs and see the wall in front of you literally warp between three quality stages as you got closer. However, it didn’t impact the game as I imagine this is done to make the game look great up-close yet still run as smooth as it does. Speaking of which…
The most annoying and offputting part of The Wizards – Enhanced Edition was the enemies. Not the enemies in general, as they are also textured really nicely, have their own attacks, are fun to slaughter, and varied enough, but the enemies when they’re dying. The game seems to run at around 60fps (in order to eliminate motion sickness), as you’d expect, but enemy deaths are dropped to at least half refresh (30fps or lower). This is really jarring and pulls you out of the immersion. Imagine facing a giant 15ft Ogre who is walking towards you at a smooth 60fps, then you throw a few balls of fire at him and he instantly cuts to around 20-30fps as he falls backwards before fading away… Again, I imagine this is to keep up the performance, but it was one of the first things that stood out to me.
The second thing that stood out was the destruction. Okay, let’s set the mood – I was given The Wizards – Enhanced Edition the day that all the Crackdown 3 previews were coming out (yeah, it was that long ago). Everyone was mocking the Multiplayer of that game because it went from ‘full destruction’ to ‘cardboard slabs’. However, one of the first things you do within this game is throw a Fire Ball at a statue – this causes it to shatter into smaller pieces based on where you threw it and how hard you tossed it. Later on, you’ll get to smash up crates, barrels, walls, and more statues, all of which will realistically shatter into smaller pieces that fall with gravity. Again, this is the first time I can think of seeing this within a VR game.
Once you’re done with the main story, which should take you around four to five hours not including replays to bump up your score and collect anything you missed, you can back out to the main menu and participate in the Arena mode for three more intense challenges. Each one has its own set of goals: Dont’ let any enemies pass you, defend three crystals, and destroy crystals. These challenges are really hard, I tried them earlier on and I got a semi-decent score but nothing to be proud of. Also, just like the main game, you have a score at the end which is placed on the leaderboard for all to try and beat.
So, I’ve only played the PSVR version, but some of you reading this may have played the original PC version, or seen someone play it previously. If so, here’s the list of what’s changed:
• New stage – the longest level in the game
• New cutscenes filling in the story
• Checkpoint system
• Significant performance improvements
• HP bar on gloves replacing “flat” UI
• Glove colour customization
• More languages: Spanish, French, Russian, Japanese
• Full Windows Mixed Reality support (second beta)
- Added checkpoint system
- Added dynamic shadows to environment and enemies
- Major CPU optimization
- Added some general quality of life changes to leaderboards in Sanctum
- All achievements should now be unlocked appropriately
- Added full Windows Mixed Reality support (still needs testing)
- Added 3dRudder support
- Restored LIV support
- Restored KAT VR support
– Health is now displayed on player’s hands
– Score is now displayed in the pause menu
– Objectives are now displayed in the pause menu
– Added (adjustable) vignette blur while using free locomotion
– Fixed some hand animations
- Added new optional aim system: gaze-based, with a floating crosshair.
- You can toggle between the classic and gaze-based aim whenever you want in General Settings
- Various visual tweaks and improvements
– Fireball will now cast dynamic shadows on surfaces
– Particle effects adjusted to detail levels
- Frost Bow
– Added new arrow drawing method for players with tracking issue
– Now you can choose to grab the arrow from the quiver on your back or have the arrow be ready on the bowstring
- Enemies now properly stagger when they receive enough damage
- Spell Catchers now grants a single-use healing aura instead of redirecting players’ projectiles
- Change in progression: Healand Mines will unlock after completion of the fourth ruins stage
- Most score requirements were changed (now it is easier to score the first and second point but more challenging to obtain the third one)
- Fixes and tweaks during region introduction cutscenes
- Fixed some arena mode glitches
– Added hand customization stand. Visit Sanctum to recolour your hands
- Shooting Range
– Redesigned the selection of gesture tutorials
– Added a completely new stage
– Relocated the third fairy shard on stage 2
– Graphics changes throughout the game
– Redesigned the ending cutscene
– Added a new cutscene introducing the Shrike’s Desert
– Redesigned the final cutscene
- You can now toggle between standing/sitting mode
- You can now change your in-game height
- Graphics options:
– Removed foliage quality setting
– Particle Settings changed to Effects Settings; it will now control whether or not some GPU-based effects render
– Graphics settings have now more impact on performance, especially Shadow and Effects Quality
- Added subtitle languages: Spanish, French, Russian, and Japanese
- Localization fixes throughout the whole game
For a PSVR game, The Wizards – Enhanced Edition looks great. If you can look past the visually changing quality as you approach certain textures, the game looks really clear and sharp from all distances. It’s also really colourful and bright whilst also gives off a semi-realistic vibe within this fantastical land of magic and beasts. I wish the dying creatures didn’t have to do so at half the refresh, but if that’s a process that had to be done so the rest of the game runs smoothly then that’s fine.
The sound is equally as good. I love the narrator who talks to you throughout the whole game. The music is very fitting but also a little jarring at times as I had occasions where it just stopped playing the battle music without gradually fading out or the music just kicks in out of nowhere. Again though, these are the exceptions and not the norm. The creatures all have generic screaming noises but fit the look of the beasts making the sounds – no high pitched shrieks from the big fat ones for example.
I’ve just found out the narrator is Jason Marnocha, the voice of Megatron in a lot of Transformer TV shows.
I believe the tracking issue may have just been on my side as it can work perfectly and then the next minute it doesn’t pick up my hand properly. That sort of inconsistency usually relates to the setup and not the game – so I’ve mentioned it but it won’t be taken into consideration for my final conclusion.
An hour of gameplay!
I think that The Wizards – Enhanced Edition is a brilliant PSVR title, one which easily stands among my favourite this year. Take the role of Dr. Strange as you summon a shield, a bow, or one of the other projectiles to destroy the evil beings who are trying to destroy mankind. Okay, you’re not Dr. Strange but you certainly do aspire to be like him with all of your hand movements and gestures which casts unique spells depending upon how you manoeuvre your limbs.
If you strip away all the fancy spell casting and the brilliant narration, you’ll be left with a standard free-movement horde-mode shooter which has a few puzzles thrown in here and there. However, we don’t want to strip away these key elements as they are what make The Wizards – Enhanced Edition stand above similar titles and as one of the best out there in the genre.
The Wizards - Enhanced Edition£19.99
- - Unique combat in which you summon various spells with hand gestures
- - Great looking textures from afar and up close
- - Great Narration in terms of the voice and the dialogue
- - Some clever puzzles and well-hidden collectables
- - Online leaderboards for everything
- - Easy to teleport out of bounds and go for a wander in places you shouldn't be
- - I did have tracking issues but that may be my setup
- - Some textures do wobble and shimmer as they progress from low quality in the distance to higher quality when you walk towards them
- - It's a bit short (but priced accordingly)