For a while, Fictorum looked like it might be one of the best magic-using games to be produced. After dozens of gifs were sent out during their Kickstarter campaign to show off how the game worked and what awesome power you could have, Scraping Bottom Games got their funding and have finally released it on Windows via Steam. But what you see in demos doesn't always translate over to gameplay, so now that we have our own copy for review, we're going to see if Fictorum lives up to the hype.
Fictorum is an action RPG that carries rouge-lite characteristics in a fantasy world. You control a character that is well-versed in magic who is currently evading The Inquisition where they most certainly will meet their doom. In order to get away, you have to escape by traveling from mountain peak to mountain peak, destroying enemies and completing small tasks along the way. Why mountains? Because the ground below is covered in a mist that has corrupted the land, and the only habitable places are above it. So you don't have a ton of exploration options or places to hide.
The gameplay itself feels like FTL: Faster Than Light but kinda dumbed down. You travel from peak to peak to find a node that controls all the peaks in a particular area. You'll need to overcome challenges to activate them so you can travel to the next set and repeat the process. As you go around you'll come across two sets of adventures: text and action. Text adventures give you the options to help people out in towns or take care of issues along the way by making specific decisions. Action adventures put you in a third-person view of your character where you'll traverse the terrain and deal with whatever is in your way.
The action areas will give you a chance to cast spells as you make your way around. You'll be presented with spell casting options along the bottom of the screen, which then activates a triangle mini-game involving runes where depending on how you focus your power, it will determine what kind of damage is done. You can only equip three runes at a time, but depending on what you use, you can turn a simple fireball into a massive inferno, or a heat-seeking magic missile, a wall of flames. This is by far the coolest aspect of the game as it doesn't limit what you can do with a specific spell and gives you variety as to how to utilize it.
One of the nice options to the game is that death is not permanent, it's simply a chance to undo a mistake as you can go back through your journal and rewrite history from a specific point. This can help you make the right choices to win, but remember, every choice has a consequence and you may undo certain things along the way. As you make your way through Fictorum, you'll discover there are plenty of options before you in how you take on the journey and what you can accomplish.
However, this is where all of the cool elements of the game seem to end. First off, the enemies you are battling don't really change much and move very clunky. The challenges themselves tend to repeat a certain pattern as you'll come across a few too many towns in distress. The overall graphics of the game didn't improve much from the initial gifs that were sent out during the Kickstarter, and your menu items are limited. Looting almost feels like you're a Final Fantasy character just collecting what you can until you can sell it off, and there's no emphasis on what is important until its too late and you've picked it up. There's only so much you can do beyond spellcasting to make your character stand out and be an impressive figure, that it almost feels like these were additions to the game that were stapled on after they got the magic system down.
Overall, Fictorum is a great idea trapped inside a mediocre game. There was so much potential here and it feels like the developers could have done a lot more with it. Some people will get a real kick out of the game, but eventually, you're going to run into the repetitive behavior and that just might turn you off from wanting to continue. I would like to see if the devs update the game at all down the road or if this is simply what we're going to get.