This weekend at PAX East I was able to go hands-on with The Mageseeker: A League of Legends Story with two of the developers at Digital Sun and walked away wanting more from my first exposure to League of Legends in the world of games.
The Mageseeker: A League of Legends Story is another game in the Riot Forge lineup expanding on the world of Runeterra centered around League champion Sylas as he escapes captivity after a life of abuse by the antagonistic political regime ruling Demacia. During his escape, he is assisted by his former mentor in an effort to make good on the fact he did not defend his pupil while captured in his youth. Upon his escape, Sylas pursues a quest to gather new allies, created by Digital Sun for this story, and take down the regime that kept him locked away to abuse his (very fun) abilities for so many years.
In the demo I was able to play two missions. One took place early in the story following Sylas’ escape from captivity, and the other roughly a quarter into the campaign. The first mission I played introduces Sylas’ motivations and basic kit, including his copy ability, which is essential to the dance of combat in The Mageseeker.
By aiming at an enemy with the right stick between dashing around a barrage of spells and attacks, you’re able to send Sylas’ gold chains flying toward an enemy with a press of the left trigger to steal a singular cast based off whatever form of magic that enemy specializes in. This spell is banked to the right trigger to use in a moment of opportunity whenever you see fit.
These copy abilities range from area-of-effect electrical attacks to volleying a ball of incendiary magic back at whatever unlucky target you take aim at. As you progress to later stages in the campaign, you'll meet enemies that have vulnerabilities to magical attacks of certain varieties. For example, stealing fire from a fire caster then targeting an ice mage will deal heightened damage and vice-versa.
These copy abilities join four elemental attacks you can toggle between mid combat on the directional pad, and I was told by Programming Director Jordi Llopis they can be swapped between when you return to a base camp, used for planning and upgrades between story missions. The use of these core elemental spells are tied to a mana pool that you refill by performing light and heavy combos on your enemies as you dash and grapple around an encounter.
Management of enemies is where the real challenge of The Mageseeker is found. The encounters I experienced required thought and strategy, and I found myself unable to rely on just melee or just spellcasting. A good display of this came when the game introduced an enemy that was colossal in size with wide-reaching attacks that was only vulnerable to spellcasting. The encounter had a limited number of basic enemies that had ranged attacks but were my main source of refilling mana. Deciding when and how to take them out in between spending mana to damage the larger enemy kept me on my toes and constantly on the move.
Fights can get pretty hectic, and you only get so many potions to spend, so careful analysis of your enemies and progression through an arena are crucial if you want to avoid a quick death. I was told the game will ship with multiple difficulties and further levels of adjustments for players to be able to experience the story without dying over and over. So if you’re a fan of Sylas and the world of Runeterra but not into the challenges associated with action combat, the game can still be fine tuned to be as approachable as you’d like.
The second mission I played took place a bit further into the 10-12 hour campaign and saw Sylas traversing a dungeon filled with enemies and grapple points to rescue an ally from captivity. Allies, I was told, will be recruitable and can join you for missions as you progress in the story, with their own upgrades to invest in back at camp. For those that are familiar with Digital Sun’s previous game, Moonlighter, Llopis informed me that while the approach to Mageseeker’s progression is different from the shop you return to after every run in Moonlighter, you’ll have plenty of space to upgrade your allies' encampments and abilities between every story mission.
This rescue mission concluded my demo with a creative boss fight where an incredibly powerful boss spawned in the arena invulnerable to every attack I threw at them. They called in countless waves of enemies and shields protecting the true target of the fight, the cell gate protecting my soon-to-be ally. This was yet another test of endurance that highlighted just how many variables you will have to deal with as Sylas.
As with Digital Sun’s previous title, the art direction in The Mageseeker is pretty fantastic and cohesive. As somebody who is new to the League of Legends world, outside of Arcane, the varied biomes showcased in the demo and trailer all felt cohesive to the pixel-art approach that Digital Sun was already great at. Art Director Alvar Fernández has done a great job defining the take on this world in addition to the animations, specifically the grapple and melee attacks, which added to the characterization of Sylas’ brutal quest for vengeance.
For those that enjoy fast-paced combat full of dashing, grappling across a battlefield, juggling a variety of status effects, spells, and the rhythm of bullet-hell-adjacent encounters, The Mageseeker should definitely be on your radar when it drops April 18. As far as fans of the world of Runeterra are concerned, the backstory of Sylas seems to be an intriguing one of royal politics and a scrappy rebellion uprising. In addition to Sylas, the developers told me “fans of League will be very happy” when encountering a handful of other League characters in the otherwise original story campaign with a cast of new intriguing characters in Sylas’ journey of revenge.
TechRaptor previewed The Mageseeker: A League of Legends Story via a demo build at PAX East 2023.