Jeffry Houser shares his initial impression of the old-school Adventure/RPG hybrid from Himalaya Studios
March 2, 2013
Himalaya Studios is the commercial arm of Tierra Entertainment, most famous for their remakes—and reimagining--of King’s Quest 1, 2, and 3. Their first commercial effort, Al Emmo and the Lost Dutchman’s Mine was released in 2006. The game was filled with quirky characters, a wild-west backdrop, and lots of puzzles. Now Himalaya Studios is back, with a Kickstarter for a new game, Mage’s Initiation. I was a backer before I finished reading an announcement on Facebook; but once I found out a game preview was circulating among some reviewers I knew I had to get my hands on that.Enter the Fantasy Realm of IginorMage’s Initiation is the first original game from Himalaya studios that brings them to the genre in much of their remakes. Although the preview only gives us a small hint of the full game; it is intriguing. You’ll play D'Arc, a mage in training. The game seems very much inspired by Quest for Glory; and it contains adventure like puzzles along with some role-playing elements, such as combat and stat building. In the preview; I was able to explore a few rooms of the academy where D’Arc gets trained. There were a few puzzles to solve, and one combat training exercise. The peek into this gaming world was just enough to wet my appetite. The way you move from room to room within the wizard academy involves figuring out the combination that opens to the room you want. It is a creative way to handle room navigation. There is also puzzle in which you must find a gem and instill it with power so that you can raise your RPG-like stats. That puzzle introduces you to the magic elements of the game surrounding earth, air, fire, and water. In the formalized gameplay you’d be able to play as a mage specializing in one of those four concentrations. This reminded me of the Quest for Glory ability to play as a thief, fighter, or magician; each choice representing different puzzles and challenges.The real-time combat will to be fairly simple for those who love fighting games; but I found the controls to be confusing with this short demo. It took me a half dozen tries to get through the training battle. For some reason I kept moving my character instead of attacking because I would intuitively press the wrong mouse button. There are three different spells as well as healing potions for health and mana. Switching between different controls in real time led me to death after death. My combat confusion was the one drawback of the preview game; however I suspect with a longer game I’d learn the key commands very quickly. The Production ValuesI often complain about the graphic quality of many of these retro-style adventure games; but I must say that this preview does not fall into the same trap. The backgrounds are in a higher resolution and greater detail than I’m used to seeing in adventure genre. The character portraits—we see two in the preview—are fantastically drawn. I quite liked D’Arc’s portrait, finding it wonderfully detailed and very crisp. All this leads to a refined, modern playing experience. The controls are your standard for a point-and-click adventure. The sound is sufficient, bolstering the scenes and combat without overwhelming the visuals. The demo doesn't have voices overdubbed yet—but in my head that did not detract from the environment or gameplay. The PromiseIt has been a wonderful couple of years for the Adventure community with many adventure games becoming funded by fans through sites like Kickstarter. I’ve seen very successful campaigns, such as the DoubleFine’s campaign, and some great work by lesser known developers such as Phoenix Online’s Cognition series and the Infamous Quest’s Quest for Infamy. Himalaya Studios is asking for a meager amount of money to complete the challenge presented by building Mage’s Initiation. The promise of the game is a grand one. At the time of this writing they are almost at the goal. I’d love to see them meet that goal twice over. If you love adventure games and want to see the genre continue, you must rally behind some of our own to help raise them up to greater heights. You’ll get another game out of it; one that I can’t wait to play; so what are you waiting for?