“We’ll never survive!”
“Nonsense. You’re only saying that because no one ever has.”
– William Goldman
Developer: Psilocybe Games
Released: September 2020
Available on: Steam
Players take on the role of marooned space ship science officer, Raymond Everett, in Artificer: Science of Magic, an upcoming new survival RPG due to launch in September this year.
Formerly unmoving in his belief that “magic” is simply anything people have yet to understand through science, Raymond must reevaluate his understanding of the world when he becomes stranded upon an unfamiliar but inhabited planet. On this mystical planet populated by dangerous aliens, deadly creatures and bizarre plant-life, magic is not only real but essential for self-preservation!
Narrative and Styling
The game’s narrative is an innovative mix of sci-fi and fantasy, cleverly combining aspects such as space exploration and alchemy. The story begins aboard an exploding spaceship, the HMS Hawking and continues on the mystical planet of Alcor, where potions and magic are a way of life and where Raymond must determine the fate of his fellow crew members and find a way to escape.
The styling in Artificer: Science of Magic matches the narrative design with its mix of interstellar and fantastical environments and complimentary audio effects and music. These range from spacecraft interior, to swampy and fungal terrain and botanical forest areas. The artwork and visuals are a highlight of this game, its sketchy hand-drawn style has a definite originality to it. The clever colour palettes help set the tone for each different area and the eclectic plethora of distinct flora and fearsome fauna are wonderful (and sometimes gruesome) to look at.
There are two game types in Artificer: Science of Magic, casual and adventurer, with the latter being a roguelike mode, complete with perma-death. Due to some finicky controls, somewhat steep learning curve and a few overpowered enemies in unexpected places, casual mode seems like a good place to start.
After crash landing, Raymond begins with a basic crafting station (the escape shuttle) and a little advice from his helpful but foul-mouthed dog Salazar. The player but then gather, craft, research and survive whilst also completing substantial tasks including tracing signals from potential survivors and curing diseases!
The game combines familiar genres such as RPG, crafting, survival and tried and tested themes to create a uniquely fun experience. Survival and alchemy research are required to unlock a mix of intriguing and useful crafting schematics and potion recipes and in turn, progress in the adventure. There is the familiar frustration of situations like needing certain items in order to craft a weapon that will allow the player to defeat monsters surrounding said item. However, this can usually be overcome with patience, perseverance, tactics and well-managed supplies.
The main downfall of the gameplay is the slightly awkward controls which currently seem to require the player to stand at a certain angle to the item with which they wish to interact in order to avoid colliding and getting stuck on other objects or not completing the action at all. Additionally, clicking ‘X’ to close in-game mini-screens often clicked the object beneath causing Raymond to wander off in its direction.
Overall, Artificer: Science of Magic is an interesting and engaging experience providing a cocktail of palatable gameplay styles and narrative themes. It does have a few small issues currently but as the game’s release date was pushed back from July to September for fine-tuning, it seems safe to assume these things will be rectified. As such, its range of game mechanics and styles, the weird and wonderful artwork and captivating, multi-genre narrative mean that it is certainly worth keeping an eye on.
If you’d like to play more sci-fi, RPG roguelikes check out Shortest Trip to Earth or Distrust, or for a more fantasy themed RPG roguelike with a twist, take a look at Kingsway!