Date: April 27, 2023
While not unheard of, it’s the rare game that lets you play as the “bad guy”. So when I saw a trailer for Evil Wizard, my interest was immediately piqued. (It also didn’t hurt that the titular character bears a striking resemblance to one of my favorite League of Legends characters, Veigar.) I got a chance to play the first hour of Evil Wizard, and my brief time with the game left me excited for its upcoming release later this year.
Evil Wizard is an action RPG that sees you unceremoniously chased out of your castle by a team of heroes. Defeated and minionless, you return to your lair through a back door, and then fight to reclaim your now-defaced castle. It’s a fun set-up, and creates space for plenty of gags — which the game is full of. Potty humor and sex jokes abound: you save your game by going into a bathroom and quite literally blowing it up.
The humor won’t be for everyone, but I found myself at least chuckling at most of the jokes, and they’re dumb in a self-aware way that makes them not as cringy as they might otherwise be. The wizard also speaks directly to the player a lot, so how you feel about fourth-wall-breaking will determine a lot of how you feel about Evil Wizard; personally, I thought the meta-humor worked well.
The basic feel of gameplay will be familiar to anyone whose played a Supergiant game (Hades, Bastion), or one of the many other indie action games with top-down combat. You dash around, using a melee attack and a spell to dispatch foes. The way magic works is pretty interesting: you can only have one spell at a time, and you switch to a new spell by finding environmental objects that offer a specific elemental type. I got to try two: the fire magic is a ranged fireball, while the lightning spell casts in a circle around your character. Naturally, different enemies are weak to specific elements, so you’ll want to pay attention to who you’re fighting, and what’s available — many of the combat rooms allow you to pick up a useful spell.
Combat is smooth, and decently challenging as well — I managed to die a number of times in the tougher encounters. Many of them have both a melee and a ranged attack, and they’ll swap between them depending on distance. Some enemies can do a decent chunk of your health in one swing, so you’ve got to watch your positioning. You can heal off of mortally wounded enemies by holding an input on them, but this puts you in danger of taking damage, so if you want to do it while there are other foes still alive you have to time it well, adding exciting moments of tension to fights.
Incredibly, Evil Wizard bucks the current trend of indie action games by being neither a roguelike nor a metroidvania. Instead, you’ll make your way deeper into your castle by finding levers and unlocking new magic types, happily saving your progress as you go. There are also environmental puzzles, one of which the wizard mockingly explained to me after I didn’t solve it immediately. Quite early on, I even had to beat the arcade game high score of one of the castle’s invaders in order to open up a locked door.
While relatively light on RPG mechanics, the game does have an inventory system, allowing you to swap out your starter cloak and sword (the cloak you start with apparently smells pretty bad). I didn’t get a chance to try this system out, however. The preview ended right after I defeated the game’s first boss, an ice witch who the evil wizard was familiar with the player character — she’d apparently changed teams to the “good guys”. The boss fight was fun and challenging, taking me a number of tries to learn her patterns and finally defeat her.
Evil Wizard shows a lot of promise, and it’s one I’ll be looking forward to playing in full when it’s finished. If the rest of the game is anything like the initial segments, it could easily end up on my list of 2023 favorites.