I’ve played League of Legends long enough to know I would rarely ever suggest the mainline experience to the wholly unprepared. It’s a demanding game with a demanding playerbase, to say the least. But with the likes of Riot Forge and entertainment like Arcane, I delight in the idea that more people are able to enjoy the rich lore and characters of LoL without subjecting themselves to a rough grind. I especially like that idea when it’s put in the hands of Moonlighter developers, Digital Sun. Lo and behold, here we are with Mageseeker, allowing Digital Sun to tell the story of the revolutionary magic thief, Sylas. And boy howdy, do they deliver this story with gusto.
Break the ones who once broke you
For the uninitiated, The Mageseeker: A League of Legends Story takes us to a corner of LoL lore known as Demacia. Demacia is generally considered to be a just and honorable kingdom, home to characters like the perky light magic user Lux and the stalwart royal knight Garen. However, underneath lies a dark secret. Demacia’s land is rich with magic, but its lords feared the magic they could not control. So, the Mageseekers were born as inquisitors of sorts who sought out mages and either recruited them as further Mageseekers or imprisoned them till death.
Sylas was recruited as a Mageseeker when he was young, but when the needless cruelty of his colleagues turned him violently against them, he was imprisoned in darkness. Fifteen years passed, and then came his time of vengeance. A strange occurrence rocks the Demacian kingdom, the soldiers, Mageseekers, and nobles are in disarray, the king has been slain, and all think Sylas did it. Sylas doesn’t care. All he sees is opportunity to fight back against the Mageseekers who imprisoned him and others. And so begins his crusade to break the Mageseekers and their subjugation of mages, along with uniting the rebellious mages who will help him continue on his path of vengeance.
I love Sylas’ story as it presents a dark and complicated side of Demacia past its formerly happy and honorable kingdom vibes, and Digital Sun does quite well in showing the context of that tale both visually and narratively. The presentation of this game is an incredible look at their interpretation of Demacia and its wilds. What’s coolest to me is that Digital Sun doesn’t really shed their trademark style to do it either. Certainly, characters in Mageseeker look more dramatic and less cartoonish than in Moonlighter, but the character portraits, top-down pixel style, and flow of the game feel fantastically familiar, and it’s all baked nicely into a League of Legends setting. Seeing buildings, ruins, forests, dungeons, and more from LoL lore through Digital Sun’s eyes is impressive and fun.
It’s aided by a fantastic soundtrack as well. Gareth Coker was on deck for this one, who fans may know from previous Riot Forge game Ruined King: A League of Legends Story, but also the Ori and the Blind Forest series. Even before I knew it was Coker, Mageseeker was already sweeping me up in its orchestral scores. Whether in the pitch of battle, the drama of a cutscene, or even just exploring, Mageseeker has a beautiful score that helps carry the mood of the adventure and bring it to new levels at every turn.
The only thing I’ll fault Mageseeker on with story and flow is that the beginning is very fast-paced. It feels like it relies on players knowing a thing or two about League coming in, so you might get lost in the early moments if you didn’t know who Sylas, Lux, Garen, and Demacia were coming in. However, it does better at explaining itself later on with original or perhaps lesser-known content from League of Legends. That said, meeting those characters is also incredibly cool and the encounters with familiar faces left me giddy nearly every time.
Turn their shackles against them
The core tenet of Sylas in League of Legends is that in addition to swinging his shackles with the magic power he’s stored in them, he can also steal the magical abilities of other characters and use them as he wishes. That quickly turns into a fantastic setup for Mageseeker’s action-RPG style. In general, players wander around Demacia pummeling enemies with Sylas’s fists and chains in action brawler fashion. In addition, Sylas can use his chains to latch onto and yank himself to a foe for a diving attack. These basic setups serve as a good foundation of the combat throughout the game.
However, where it gets really spicy is when you see enemies that wield magic or creatures that obviously exude a certain magical element. Then, with targeting and the press of a button, Sylas can yank a single instance of their abilities out of them and you can actively use it in combat. What’s more, every magical thing has an element it uses and an opposite element it is weak against. Using the explosive power of a fire frog against ice mages or using a sweeping wind spell against earth-flinging foes is intuitive and will force you to think on your toes as you chain from foe to foe, pummeling them with physical attacks and magic.
Eventually, you also unlock a rebel camp and it fills throughout the story with characters you’ve helped along the way. One such boon of this is that every spell or magical ability you’ve encountered and stolen at least once can be turned into a permanent spell for your use. It makes collecting spells all the more fun and interesting, and throughout the game you can increase your capacity to equip more permanent spells and be ready for multiple scenarios you might come across. I will say it feels a little stingy in the early running and takes some time before you can equip an adequate set of spells, but every mission also tells you what kind of elements you could run into before you start it, which helps in determining what you bring along.
Of course, as you get further into the game and save more mages from the Mageseekers, some of them join your cause, and these companions can even be equipped for missions to supplement Sylas’ skills. Early on, you get a fellow who allows you to do an area of effect ice attack as a combo ender, and later you get more companions, such as one that lets you follow up a chain to a foe with a lightning-powered melee strike. Between your regular melee, stolen spells, permanent spells, and these companion augments, there are a lot of ways to fight in Mageseeker and plenty of varied enemies against which to formulate your best strategies.
Exploring the lands Sylas is liberating is also important, and Sylas’ natural abilities play into that too. There are a ton of areas in the game where you must traverse gaps or get to distant areas. To that end, Sylas can hookshot his chains to grappling points and yank himself across. While this is confined to platforming at first, you can discover secrets nooks hiding various treasures to aid Sylas. There are also many battles where the field is splintered and Sylas will have to combine combat with this chain-flinging traversal to effectively dispatch his foes. It’s fast-paced, visceral, and feels satisfying when you do it well.
No more cages
Mageseeker is perhaps my favorite thing to come out of Riot Forge publishing yet. Digital Sun has already proven that they have a good grasp of what makes an action-RPG fun, but they put their chops to great work here, bending a highly interesting corner of League of Legends lore to their style. Sylas fits them well, and they make his story sing in turn. Between compelling ability-stealing combat, chain-flinging traversal, an ever-expanding and upgradeable arsenal, and a beautiful musical score guiding another awesome visual and narrative interpretation of League of Legends, Mageseeker is an incredible time. Whether you’re a fan of League of Legends or not, this is a journey worth seeing through to the end.
This review is based on a PC digital copy supplied by the publisher. The Mageseeker: A League of Legends Story is available now on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and Nintendo Switch.
The Mageseeker: A League of Legends Story
- A vivid and fun intepretation of LoL lore
- Beautiful and varied soundtrack
- Magic stealing is versatile and easy
- Tons of upgradeable skills and abilities
- Traversal through the world is fast and fluid
- Enemies & familiar encounters are well-designed
- Doesn't do much explaining for non-LoL fans at first
- Abilities are extremely limited early on