Like many people recently, my first introduction to League of Legends comes from the hit Netflix show Arcane. I’m a console gamer so I can’t say I dabble much in League, but I’m a huge fan of Arcane and my interest in the world is piqued, to say the least. Also, I’m a huge fan of the Switch action rogue-like Moonlighter, so The Mageseeker could be perfect for me.
From developer Digital Sun, The Mageseeker feels like an evolution of the combat that makes its last title Moonlighter so addictive (though no shop, sadly), and this pixelated powerhouse goes to great lengths to expand and explore the world that so many League fans love.
You play as the champion Sylus, an imprisoned mage in a world where magic is forbidden, forced to spend years in captivity, eating only rats to survive. Sylus is an interesting character and certainly isn’t a typical good guy. Whether through desperation or by accident, Sylus does bad things, but The Mageseeker explores exactly why he does them and how he pays for those deeds.
First up, The Mageseeker feels fantastic to play. A top-down action roguelike, Digital Sun crafts a smart and responsive system that is snappy and so satisfying. Your main physical attack swings the chains still bound to Sylus’ arms, a devastating blow that has a real crunch behind it. This is supplemented with Sylus’ magic, as much like in LoL, the mage can borrow magical attacks from opponents.
Sylus is capable of stealing magic attacks from foes, which have various effects. Namely, these attacks mostly have elemental properties, and using them against foes with that weakness isn’t just recommended. It’s essential. Fire and ice are opposing forces, and other elements also have an opposing force. Quickly reading those elements and targeting weak opponents is thrilling, and adds a great sense of strategy to the combat.
The mighty mage Sylus can also equip several regular spells, unlocked by exploring the world and finding more opponents with different magical attacks. While you only have one slot in the early hours, a skill tree lets you both expand and improve your spells, but you can also eventually equip more spells.
With the top-down view, attacking enemies with chains means using analogue sticks to target them, and this is also how you throw your chains and steal magic. Importantly, you also use them for grappling, both towards enemies and while exploring the levels. If the combat already feels great, grappling onto your foes and quickly dashing towards them to deliver a fatal blow is just a sublime mechanic I cannot get enough of.
As you progress there are more combos able to unlock, more magical abilities, and of course, more enemies you can steal attacks from. The basics of the combat system are absolutely rock solid and feel amazing from the very first second, but the slow evolution and expansion keep me absolutely hooked.
My only complaints are that things can get a bit repetitive, even with the expansion of abilities. Magic is fun to use, but nothing feels quite as good as the chains, so you may find yourself just spamming attacks a lot. Also, the difficulty here can get wild. Luckily there is a suite of options, including changes to attack power, health, and the damage you receive. So you can tailor this experience exactly how you want it.
You can spend the money you find in levels with vendors back at your base to expand your skills(more on that in a second), but that isn’t the only way to improve. Sylus is on a mission to liberate all mages, and as you explore levels, you come across more mages in captivity. Freeing them adds them to your cohort, and these mages add to your abilities. What’s more, you can even send some on missions between story chapters, unlocking more items for you, much like the missions in Xenoblade Chronicles 2.
Between each mission, Sylus returns to a base filled with rebels and mages, all hoping to restore hope to the land of Demacia. As you explore the story and the world this base expands, and much like the village in Moonlighter, half the fun of the game becomes about returning home to rest, sort your abilities, and get ready for the next battle.
Speaking of story missions, you might notice that Digital Sun describes this title as an action roguelike. While levels are clearly designed and follow a set path, you find temporary magical abilities as you explore and must choose which one to equip. These additional abilities are unstable, so Sylus cannot keep them after each chapter, and this is just another wrinkle to your combat strategy.
The loop of exploring levels, gaining magical abilities, freeing mages, and, of course, rock-solid combat are engaging. I haven’t gotten bored at any point, and the gradual difficulty curve and addition of new enemies are really well done. There are so many places to explore, and you had better believe Sylus is put through his paces.
Fans of League also get to meet several characters from the game, including Morgana, Lux, and a few more. Much like in Arcane, it’s great to see characters given more personality and complexity, but Sylus is the star of the show. His arc is absolutely fantastic, bolstered by great writing, and it’s genuinely hard to root for the anti-hero at some points. Ultimately, however, this is a story of redemption, and it’s up to you to author it.
Coming off the back of Moonlighter, it should come as little surprise that the pixel art style of The Mageseeker is gorgeous. The amount of detail and the gorgeous use of colour is fantastic, as the purple tones and the impressive bursts of magic build a strong sense of character for this world and its abilities.
Conversations are brought to life with expressive character portraits, and on several occasions, I find myself oggling Slyus perhaps a little too much. Particularly impressive is the animation, as the screen-filling bosses lay gigantic attacks on you, and Sylus flits around with his grappling attacks and magical moves. There is occasional stuttering on Nintendo Switch, but this is very rare. Overall the experience is smooth and responsive, essential to any action RPG on the platform.
Finally, the sound design is also great, with themes sticking in my head long after my play sessions. The action feels vibrant and alive thanks to an energetic score, but also the subtle and relaxed theme underpinning your base is just as impressive in a different way. Every move and ability gives a satisfying thwack or whoosh, and it’s just another impressive element I don’t want people to overlook.
I am wildly impressed with The Mageseeker, and while I can’t say I’m about to boot up League of Legends, this is a thrilling and gripping peek into this nuanced world. Anyone who loves Moonlighter can pick this up without prior knowledge and just enjoy it for what it is, but hardcore fans will also love the attention to detail and worldbuilding. The performance could be a tad smoother on Switch, and I would like more ways to mix up combat, but there is an incredibly solid action RPG here for anyone to enjoy.
For more like this, be sure to check out our guides to the best roguelike games and the best Switch adventure games.
The Mageseeker Switch review
The Mageseeker is a confident and immensely satisfying action game with a great mixture of physical attacks and a huge arsenal of magical abilities to steal and equip. I love the multiple ways to improve your moveset and your home base, and even as a Fairweather League of Legends fan, I’m now obsessed with Sylus’s character and the world at large. Digital Sun has crafted a fantastic title for League fans, but anyone with an interest in the genre will find something to love.