Adventure is a common topic for games, so are magic and wizards for that matter. Mask of Mists doesn't perhaps win many points in originality for being a first-person adventure game based on the concept of solving puzzles and fighting monsters to save a wizard. Not that a game needs to be completely original to work. As long as the title is well-made and uses the lessons learned from previous attempts in the same genre to better itself, it doesn't need to do anything but offer an exciting experience.
Mask of Mists was developed by 9 Eyes Game Studio, a small-time indie developer based out of Russia. Their previous work includes another first-person, puzzle-solving, adventure game, so clearly they've had some practice. The plot puts you in the boots of some freelancer. One day, you're offered a job that pays triple your average fee, in exchange for going off in search of the Archmage of a local magic academy. Being a mercantile sort of fellow, you agree and are teleported immediately to a ruined and corrupt settlement to being your search.
The main gameplay in Mask of Mists, at least the main gameplay that is interesting, is puzzle solving. As you explore the various winding pathways, you come across multiple obstacles that you cannot yet get past. Your job is to figure out what order you need to do things in, and what items you need to continue the game. For example, you need cooked meat to disarm a carnivorous plant, so you have to figure out how to trap an animal, as well as find various bits of wood to start a fire to cook it on before you can use it.
Exploring The Puzzles In Mask of Mists
A big part of the puzzle-solving is exploration. While the map isn't huge, especially at first, you must explore every last corner of it if you want any chance of continuing. Puzzle solutions and clues can be tucked away in little corners of the map, so you have to get stuck in if you plan on finding everything. In a way, it plays a lot like a classic Metroidvania. As you unlock new abilities and come up against obstacles, you can't quite figure out you find yourself wondering old areas and coming across a new way you couldn't go down before.
There's a decent amount of backtracking in Mask of Mists, but surprisingly it doesn't hurt the game. The map is relatively small, but labyrinthine, and opens up gradually. You have to do a lot of backtracking, but because the various areas open up at different times, you're rarely re-visiting a place with nothing new in it to see. Plus, it helps that you get from any location in the game to any other area in the game inside 2 minutes. Even the lack of a map isn't particularly detrimental, as it makes the exploration even more of a focus.
There is also another element to Mask of Mists that I haven't mentioned yet: combat. You start the game unarmed but quickly acquire a sword to swing wildly about in front of you and a gun to miss with 99% of the time. The fighting style is functional but pointless. You don't get anything for killing enemies, and it's formulaic. You swipe your sword at an enemy, press the dodge button to move back, then move forward after the mob is done attacking and hit them again. Do this for every enemy in the game, and you win. On the plus side, enemies don't ever respawn, so it's not like the combat is a constant problem.
The Graphical Glory of Mask of Mists
Mask of Mists isn't going for a high level of fidelity. Then again, it's a game inhabited by sentient mushrooms, blobs, and plants, so realism was probably never an option. The graphics are pretty decent for a Switch port, and there's a whimsical tone to the aesthetic design. The entire game is very vibrant, and the lighting helps to make the various areas feel distinct. The only slight exception to this is the dungeons. There are six dungeons in the whole game, and they all use the same style, but it's a good style, so it's not that much of a problem.
For the most part, Mask of Mists comes out very much in credit. Other than the combat being a bit rubbish, the main issue is the ending. The final boss is very underwhelming, basically amounting to dodging some lasers combined with fighting regular enemies a few times. For a game so heavily-focused on puzzles and exploration, I was expecting some ending boss that required those skills to be tested rather than the dull combat. The actual story ending follows much the central theme of the rest of the story in that it's almost not there at all.
You get a starting and ending cutscene, and that's it throughout the entire game. You might as well have been given a piece of paper that says 'find the wizard,' and it would have had much the same impact as the flimsy framing device that was included. Not that it matters. I forgot that there was a story at all while I was playing and still had a perfect time. It's a game that you can finish in a single sitting. When there's this much exploration, an overabundance of narrative drivel may have just ruined the player-driven pacing.
Mask of Mists | Final Thoughts
All-in-all, Mask of Mists is a short but sweet experience with elements of dungeon crawlers and Metroidvania. It's very light on the story, but it's fun exploring an open and straightforward fantasy world and immersing yourself for a few hours. The decent graphics and great design make exploring the world incredibly fun, and the well-thought-out placements of the various unlockable abilities mean that even though the tiny map is used over and over again, it never gets dull. It's worth picking up if you enjoy light fantasy and have a few hours to kill.
TechRaptor reviewed Mask of MIsts on Nintendo Switch with a code provided by the developers. The game is also available on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.
- Fun, Exploration-Based Puzzle Solving
- Metroidvania Style Progression
- Pleasant Light-Fantasy Design
- Dull Combat
- Disappointing Final Boss