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Lichdom: Battlemage review for PS4, Xbox One

Platform: PS4
Also On: Xbox One, PC
Publisher: Maximum Games
Developer: Maximum Games
Medium: Digital/Disc
Players: 1
Online: No
ESRB: M

Well…Lichdom: Battlemage could've been worse.

For example, it could've somehow given your console a virus. It could've triggered mass seizures, along the lines of that infamous Pokémon episode. If we're not being facetious, it could've been The Park, for example, or Murasaki Mist.

Of course, it's that last line that gives away just how terrible Lichdom: Battlemage is. The Park and Murasaki Mist are, as far as I'm concerned, the two top contenders for worst game of 2016. Being a small step above games of that ilk barely constitutes an achievement. Lichdom: Battlemage is so bad, if games were people it would look at The Technomancer and say, "Man, I wish I could be that good." (Note: The Technomancer sucks.)

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It's not for nothing that Digital Foundry declared Lichdom: Battlemage to be the worst-looking game they'd ever seen. Even though it's received a patch that theoretically "fixed" things, this game still looks horrendous. I'm not one to talk about, care about or even notice things like framerates, but considering you can't even turn around in this game without everything stuttering and freezing, I totally see where they're coming from.

And it's not like this game has super-demanding graphics, either. The environments are as stereotypically medieval as they come. It's as if Lichdom's developers saw Skyrim, thought to themselves, "Yeah, I want that!", then put everything off until a week before their work was due, at which point they decided to recreate their vague recollections from memory with the intent of having it run on a PS2. The characters in this game fare no better, looking like stock art that you'd get if you Googled "medieval people". In fact, seeing as the skeleton enemies look like they stepped out of some "Intro to 3D models" class from the mid- to late-'90s, it wouldn't shock me if they were the result of some particularly lazy Googling.

Seeing as barely any care or attention went into Lichdom: Battlemage's visuals, it should come as no surprise that the voice acting is also equal parts lackadaisical and non-ironically retro. The main character — provided you decide to play as a woman — also sounds like she was recently thawed out after being frozen in the '90s, with a weird hybrid accent that's equal parts post-Valley Girl/Clueless and Chandler from Friends.

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She doesn't have a whole lot to work with, mind you. I'd say that the dialogue here sounds like it was written by someone whose first language wasn't English, only that would be a huge insult to pretty much every single other language in the world, since I doubt that any of them sound as stilted and forced as the people in this game do.

Then again, you'd probably sound stilted too, if you were forced to give voice to the boring, nonsensical drek that tries to pass itself off as a story.

I'd be able to overlook all of these massive negatives, however, if the action was at least fun. After all, for all its many, many flaws, Lichdom: Battlemage has one thing going for it: an interesting idea. It feels like someone, somewhere, found themselves inspired by the initial demo for the PlayStation Move game Sorcery, and wanted to apply the basic concept — of you controlling a magician — to the first-person shooter genre. As someone who was disappointed by Sorcery and who wishes that the Harry Potter franchise had ever gotten a game that was half as interesting as the books, I love that idea. In fact, I think that, in the right hands, it could've led to one of the most amazing games ever. Now, read everything that's come before this paragraph. Do you think that the people behind Lichdom: Battlemage count as "the right hands"?

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Spoiler: they don't. This becomes apparent very early on, when you discover that the way to get through this game is to simply hold down the shoulder button and shoot off fire spells at everything that gets in your way. There's no such thing as, nor is there any room for, subtlety or nuance. It's as if you've been given the most overpowered shotgun ever, as well as unlimited ammo, and told to just go to town on every enemy you see. However fun that may be at first, it gets old very, very quickly.

Not too quickly, though, because in between pretty much everything of consequence, you're forced to sit through all kinds of interminable loading screens. Turn the game on: loading screen. Press a button to start: loading screen. Do anything from the menu: loading screen. Start playing: extra-long loading screen. If all the waiting led to something amazing, it might be possible to argue that at least the loading screens are an okay trade-off, but when this is what you get out of it, that argument becomes a lot harder to make.

In fact, there's only one argument that Lichdom: Battlemage deserves to be in, and that's "Is this the worst game ever made?" As I said up front, it's not as bad as The Park or Murasaki Mist — or my all-time worst game ever, Basement Crawl — but your mileage may vary. It's certainly in that conversation, which should tell you all you could possibly need to know.

Grade: D-