2D Animator: Dominic Sodano
Lead Artist: Royce McLean
Music: Ryan Ike
Wizard With a Gun is a game that feels like it excels when you’re engaging in its crafting and battling through the end of the world again and again. Some minor identity issues and a base-building system that felt irrelevant did little to dissuade my overall fun with the game.
Not long after the end of the world, your fellow Wizards lead you to The Tower, home of the Chronomancers Wheel you must rebuild. The Tower becomes your base of operations, where you upgrade your guns, track your progress and head through the portal for your next run. The main goal of these runs is to track down gears out in the crumbling remains of the world, bringing them back to the Chronomancers Wheel so you have the power to sufficiently run back the clock to before the end of the world.
Each of your runs is timed, giving you only 5 minutes out in that procedurally generated iteration of the world before the Chaos starts raining from the sky. It is possible to extend your time by destroying chaos rifts and also possible to survive once the chaos starts raining, though the spawning enemies become stronger and stronger, encouraging your return to the tower. The timer on the run makes your expeditions feel very focused around one or two goals, and rarely has you strayed far from these, making it feel like progress was always being made. It did mean that I rarely stuck around once the timer was up, even if it was a good way to farm one of the key resources needed for progression.
Returning to the Tower, you are treated to the base building side of the gun barrel. Developer Galvanic Games describes their game as a “Sandbox Survival” game, which I feel is a bit of a misnomer. To me, the core loop is very much that of a roguelike, with the option to be building out your base, and I always felt that Wizard With a Gun leaned on the run component of its loop and not the base building. Truth be told, this was the one system I was not particularly engaged by, as I did not feel that there was not much efficiency to be gained by creating a base, only ascetics. My Tower was largely a room to spend my resources on upgrades to my guns and outfit. There is resource gathering within runs, and some runs will be focused on gathering materials to quickly upgrade. It is a relatively fun implementation of resource gathering, as shooting down trees and propagating a flame to quickly burn an area down to its base resources never got old, but also, these runs were not frequently necessary, and the grind for resources was never so great.
Pedantry aside, these upgrades that you are purchasing are primarily around the ‘spells’ (bullets) of your guns. They start off fairly basic but start to build into becoming one of the most interesting components of Wizard With a Gun. The first few hours, you have the expected spell genres to slot into your weapons, Ice, Fire, Poison and Charm, and you stick with these largely through the first two biomes depending on how aggressively you want to pursue a build. These Spells also slot into four types of guns that are exactly what you would expect – Pistol, shotgun, rifle, SMG. However, after a number of hours, the build craft deepens and gives you so many different options for experimentation, especially as you upgrade the guns to slot in more than a single spell, allowing you to create powerful combinations with ease. Further utility is added through Powders, allowing you to amplify things like the AOE Radius of a spell or how quickly it travels.
Frequent upgrading of your spells is something encouraged in Wizard With a Gun due to enemies being level-based. Shooting an enemy with a gun two levels or more below their level comes with a warning that you aren’t doing much damage, but I feel that this is almost an overwarning since enemies are still more than able to be defeated, just in a slower time frame. To protect this, another way Wizard with a Guns can be quite trim is that you are able to skip some upgrade nodes for weapons. For example, I was able to skip my Ice spell from Level 8 to 11 due to already having accumulated the materials necessary.
Part of the reason that it was easy to keep pace with the higher-level enemies came down to attack patterns. All enemies had clearly telegraphed attacks, with their stronger attacks lighting up the ground and inviting you to dodge and roll out of the way. This meant there were limited times when combat felt difficult, only when enemy numbers became a swarm. Death does result in losing all the materials that you had in your bag at the time, but again, thanks to the ease of material gathering and the speed at which you are back into a run, deaths are far from debilitating, even if I only suffered half a dozen in my time with the game. However, this still made for an entertaining enough combat loop, as you dodge incoming enemy attacks, then light them up with bullets and let your build craft do a lot of the work.
To complement its tight gameplay loop, Wizard With a Gun dresses everything in a 2D come 3D, diorama-esque art style reminiscent of Cult of The Lamb and Don’t Starve. As an art style, it adds effective characterisation of the characters and environments, bringing alive the magic of a steampunk setting. However, this characterisation does not extend as far into the writing, with it being mostly loose set dressing and nothing I lingered on.