Lichdom: Battlemage first emerged several months ago in the form of a trailer showcasing some excellent-looking spellcasting action . Now, its pre-alpha version is on Steam. It's pretty great.
Admittedly I only played a whopping 44 minutes of it, but I can already tell that this is probably the most polished and fun pre-alpha game I've ever played -- and that the game's blurb, which promises a game where the mage is a "total badass," pretty much speaks the truth.
On the surface, Lichdom very much looks and feels like an HD, spellcasting-based version of Dark Messiah of Might and Magic, a linear, but very fun first-person hack and slash game from 2006 with combat that felt really, really good. Combat in Lichdom is similar in that your spells have considerable "oomph" to them. Fighting is very kinetic and visceral.
When you throw a fireball, initially, it melts away on your opponent's shields, but as you manage to whittle that shield down, they stagger under your continued assault, eventually flying away from the sheer force of your attacks. An ice storm can freeze weakened enemies in their tracks. Timing up your blocks with enemies' blows causes them to stagger, letting you sneak in an extra shot or two. But the best bit is the dodging.
Dodging is almost like that part in The Matrix where Neo dodged the Agent's bullet, but in a more horizontal fashion. As you dodge, time freezes, and you sort of slide out of the way of attacks. This similarity becomes more apparent when you dodge out of the way of a ranged attack, as you can literally see the arrow freeze before you. And when you exit this time-frozen state, you unleash a localised blast of magic that can immediately take down weakened opponents.
Out of a total 8 elements (or sigils, as the game calls them), 4 are available in this pre-alpha, though I only tried the first two you get, Fire and Ice. The sigils all tie into the game's crafting system, where you use Diablo-style loot items to create spells with various modifiers. All you do is take a sigil (say, fire), a pattern (for example, Targeted, which gives you a Fireball), and one or more augments (plus damage, faster charge-up time, etc). You push the button, and your new spell is ready to use.
It's a complicated-looking but actually very intuitive and easy to pick up system, which you can use to customise literally every spell you cast, down to your blocks and your magic shield, which serves as stand-in for health points in this game.
At the moment, Lichdom costs $US20, which gives you access to the pre-alpha and every update to come after it -- though do note that, being a CryEngine 3 game (an unoptimized, pre-alpha CryEngine 3 game at that), you'll need a beefy setup to run this game at a solid 60 frames per second. Also keep in mind that at the moment, the game is very rough, with no voice acting, a story that's basically in pieces, and bugs across the board.
However, as I said, it's a surprisingly fun-to-play preview, and I'm very much excited to play the final version. Expect to see it on Steam in August.
Lichdom: Battlemage [Steam]
Crafting pic courtesy of J. Alcatraz's Let's Play.