There’s no denying that Arcane Worlds is a niche game in its purest form. There’s also no denying that more development time could go a long way. That said, the potential for something fairly unique is definitely present in this Early Access title.
Anyone who’s ever played Bullfrog Productions’ Magic Carpet (or its sequel Magic Carpet 2) will instantly recognize the type of game that Arcane Worlds is. Drawing direct inspiration from Peter Molyneux’s DOS series, this spiritual successor from Ranmantaru Games tosses you into a sprawling, magical land armed with the ability to fly and cast spells. While it may not be the originator of this style of game, Arcane Worlds still feels quite fresh because we haven’t really seen anything like it since Magic Carpet.
You move around environments in first-person perspective. The keyboard handles movement, brings up your map and lets you see what spells you have at your disposal. Meanwhile the mouse is used for aiming, and two spells can be assigned to the mouse buttons. It’s a simple control scheme that’s easy to get the hang of, and it’s not unlike that of a first-person shooter.
The actual levels are quite expansive, and during my first moments with the game, I instantly wanted to go exploring. Unfortunately, that’s where Arcane Worlds sheds its mystique and proves that it is indeed an Early Access game still in the beginning stages of its development. It doesn’t take long to realize that there’s not much depth in this experience just yet. Levels appear massive, but you soon find out that they’re actually kind of barren, which is a bit disappointing considering the vast potential.
Even then, I had fun with Arcane Worlds. Summoning a castle from the ground and watching it rise was pretty neat. And as bizarre as it may seem, I was totally stoked when I saw some flying stone teddy bears pop up above my castle. I wasn’t entirely sure what purpose those stone bears served until after I did a quick search on the Internet (they collect mana for you), but they were a pleasantly weird element in a game that’s meant to break the mold, so they kind of fit right in with the unorthodox vision of Arcane Worlds.
Combat is fairly straightforward. I encountered groups of flying enemies, all bent on attacking me. Whenever I destroyed them with a fireball or lightning, however, they left behind mana. Surprisingly, I noticed that the stone bears had followed me, and I saw them actually eating the mana drops. It was strange if not totally endearing in an inexplicable manner.
It’s easy to see how the foundations for a much bigger game are already loosely implemented in Arcane Worlds. I came across an area with unlit beacons arranged in a circular fashion. I used my fireball spell to light them all up, and upon doing so, I was rewarded with a new spell. I look forward to more things like this, and perhaps bigger puzzles and boss battles will be added in later on to provide you with more spells.
During my initial exploratory run through the very first level of Arcane Worlds, I discovered a portal. This portal sent me to a new screen where I could select from two unvisited planets. It seems that the portals help to unlock new worlds, opening the window of potential even greater. Neither of these worlds was exactly fully realized, either, but it’s kind of exciting to think that you could have a large collection of huge worlds to fly through, adventure in and explore fully once the game’s development progresses further.
Some of the most fun I had with Arcane Worlds came when I activated the game’s cheats. I unlocked the more entertaining spells, and I was able to summon volcanoes at will and watch as entire seas of lava engulfed large sections of the levels. It wasn’t all fiery destruction, though. I also enjoyed flooding the landscape with water and seeing it flow over hills and trees.
Arcane Worlds sports a clean, colorful graphical style. It’ll be great to see different kinds of environments, landmarks and enemies down the road, but so far, the game already looks really nice. Seeing the sun’s light shine across the sky is breathtaking, and discovering more of the color-soaked stages makes for a constant visual treat. Again, there’s a bit of variety lacking even graphically, but it’s impossible to look past the lovely aesthetic.
The BitPulse Perspective
It’s obvious that the current build of Arcane Worlds available on Steam still has a ways to go. Of course, Ranmantaru had already stated that was the case, and that the game as it is right now is more of a sandbox than an actual adventure. Thankfully, the seeds have been planted for what could be a much bigger, much more rewarding experience down the road. Considering the game will feature narrative bits, major events, more spells and multiplayer down the road, there’s plenty to look forward to if you’ve already purchased it on Steam.
In addition, Ranmantaru’s Alexey Volynskov told me that the game was off to a pretty good start sales-wise, and that he would be able to work on it full-time for six months. That’s great news, and it’ll hopefully help flesh out the experience much more in the coming months, especially since the dev’s original plan was to have the full release ready in two years.
If you’re intrigued by Arcane Worlds but aren’t sure whether you should shell out $10 for it, you should at least check out the free demo. It’ll give you a tiny glimpse of what you can expect. I wouldn’t suggest you rush out and buy the game just yet if you’re not sold on this specific open world experience or if you have no attachment to Magic Carpet. If you do, however, play the demo and tell us what you think.
As it stands, Arcane Worlds is an interesting idea that can be turned into a solid game. And since we haven’t really seen anything quite like Magic Carpet since, well, Magic Carpet 2 back in 1996, it’s certainly a refreshing venture into very lightly charted territory.