First impressions of ‘wizarding world’ MMOARG Maguss

If it weren’t for my promise to write this article, I would have given up on Maguss in less than 15 minutes had I been a consumer.

I understand the game’s in open beta, but from the start it was repeating issues I’ve seen too many times: bad tutorial, terrible UI, and aggressive monetization the likes of which I’ve only heard of in terrible games and dating apps. Like many of you, I grow defensive when seeing industry terms used as shields against bad design when developers (actually) need funding to continue. I’m jaded, I’m suspicious, and I don’t want to be nice or patient about it, especially when my money is on the line. What sounded like a great Pokemon GO challenger left me once again questioning why I bother with video games as a hobby at all.

But then I got past it. I found some things I genuinely liked that were in and functioning (mostly) as advertised. No, I’m not a convert, but I’ve dug through the dirt and found a bit of gold, and if the developer, Mawa, is able to make some changes to the game before really trying to attract a launch playerbase, Niantic may actually have a rival in the location-based alternate reality game genre.

Beta woes

You know things are bad when even a game’s class descriptions are bugged. I understand the studio is small, but the game’s been in a paid alpha for a while, and regular Massively OP readers probably know by now that I’m one of the least patient people when it comes to games asking for money from fans to test their games. To step off that soapbox, I do applaud Mawa for helping fans recover from the bug, as class stats were switched. For example, the “balanced” druid class had the right basic description but was showing stats, pros, and cons for the offensive-oriented paladin class.

Like POGO‘s UI, Maguss’ UI is lacking. I’m fine with learning a new game, but when you’re not using a major IP, you can’t hope to dump game explanations onto the playerbase, especially for a location-based game with touch controls. While I could learn/teach new people due to the popularity of Pokemon GoMaguss has no features that seem particularly multiplayer, making finding other players near me even more difficult. All I remember is this overwhelming feeling that I didn’t have enough information, and even after playing for an hour or more a day for about a week now, I still feel that way about my basic stats.

Combat is less than intuitive. I was in a fight for five minutes and had no idea what I was looking at. I couldn’t tell my health from my “heat” (a stacking resource that adds up but stops you when you’ve “maxed out,” similar to the Bounty Hunter class resource in SWTOR). The game would start counting down, so I’d trace the spell I was taught – except that because of touch control and/or server issues, nothing seemed to work.

As combat is both interactive and turn-based (you have 10 seconds to cast spells, each of which will take up 1-5 slots of your 5 slots per turn), the timer threw me off: Was that my opponent’s turn? (No, you go at the same time.) Was that my mental prep stage? (No, that was my time to cast.) Could I do anything while combat animation played out? (Yes, tapping the timer lets you skip the animation.) A slower tutorial could have helped this, as could a “Help” icon. Based on my duels even at level 10 when game options seemed to pick up, I didn’t feel like people “got” it.

Worse, though, is the tracing to attack. You really have to pay attention to the art as there’s no “Help” button or even a zoom in feature to get a better look at it. I like the idea of tracing figures I secretly attached to spells, especially when it’s simple. The problem is that the game had issues recognizing simple shapes, like (essentially) a spiral vs. a heart. The “practice area” in your spellbook is nice since you can practice on your own, but when I have only four attack options, with the game confusing the first two patterns with the second two, it makes me worried about further patterns and responsiveness.

I loved my Wii, but The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword and other motion-heavy games were very frustrating due to the fact that the technology really wasn’t where it needed to be. As Maguss will also have similar wands you can purchase to “enhance” gameplay (and tell the world that you’re playing the game), I’m very worried about usability.

Still, I must admit that when things do work, the game is actually impressive.

A whole new world

One of the first things I noticed about Maguss was that I could play it a bit more from my house than I could Pokemon Go. It could be luck, but as I’ve taken the game to some of my local POGO stomping grounds, I’ve gotten this feeling that Maguss is just better populated with, well, stuff. There are herbs to pick, monsters to fight, treasure chests to grab… just talking about it makes it feel like a more traditional game when compared to my (admittedly) short time in Ingress. While location is important in Niantic’s games, Mawa’s game feels playable anywhere, as long as you’re willing to walk a bit once you’ve picked and killed everything near you.

Another neat thing is that the monsters aren’t static. They don’t stand around waiting to be attacked. They wander around. Maybe they’ll come into range for you to attack, or maybe they’re walking out of range. It’s a small but interesting difference that’s mostly nice, except that especially in residential areas, there are times I feel I’d have to get way too close to someone’s house to get something, and clearly I don’t want to just stand around and trace images on my phone while some worried homeowner calls the neighborhood watch on me. But hey, the tracing to slow down the game hopefully means people won’t drive and play this game!

As a single-player experience past the UI issues, Maguss is, dare I say, pretty freaking good for a mobile title. You level, raise stats, find loot, even make simple pre-set conversation with other players you duel. However, dueling is basically the only multiplayer feature right now. As much as I think POGO‘s gym system was a band-aid on a content-wound that really needs to be removed at this point, at least it had that. If Maguss had implemented territorial PvP again, fine. If it’d done trading or group monsters, things might have been more interesting. But simple dueling feels like a beta kludge, and I’m hoping there’ll be something more social at launch to lure people in – if the monetization doesn’t scare people away.

Greedy goblins

After I slowly started learning the game’s UI, the solo experience started to feel solid, and even duels, which you can do online instead of face-to-face with someone who might not take defeat well, left me somewhat impressed. However, from my initial hour of play up to now, there’s one thing that I still strongly dislike about Maguss: its monetization.

Buy to alpha/beta is one thing (not a good thing, but sadly an industry norm). Then you have two forms of currency with one being purchasable. Fine, normal enough. Then you have consumables that you can buy that also grant power. Annoying and pay-to-win, but OK, I’m not that invested in being competitive anyway. Pay to reduce timers? I’m getting annoyed. Lockboxes I get from exploring require the real-money purchasable currency to unlock? I’m mad, but we’re not done yet, people.

This game has ads. Genuine advertisements. For other games. In my Harry Potter-esque game. It’d be like if Harry suddenly turned on the TV and watched an ad for the latest Drizzt Do’Urden book mid-chapter. You watch an ad for yet another currency, or to speed up a crafting process, or to save some cash on your login bonus, or to change the items in the game-gold item shop. It’s excessive. It kills immersion. It’s overly monetized, aggressively so, and while the option to turn it off is there, it means losing the chance of, say, doubling your rewards after a PvP match.

Look, I get it. Games aren’t free. They aren’t charities. They need money. But not this way. Not this much. Not without turning off your audience. I thought about this, and figured, “If Grand Theft Auto, The Secret World, or (hear my cry, Itoi-san) Earthbound advertised real-life games or products in-game, I might be OK with that.” These are modern settings with modern and (mostly) believable storylines. Normal life is a big part of them. Maguss… doesn’t feel that way. Yes, I may have a hoodie, but I’m using a magic wand and making magical potions, not using psychic powers and making medicine. It’s firmly fantasy, and to suddenly have the UI come out and shout, “Watch this ad for a reward!” is offensive to the senses.

Newbie packs that unlock storage, skins, potions, spells, and maybe some stat armor would be understandable. It’d be like an introductory pack. Selling skins and/or the secondary currency would be fine, then, especially if the game rolled out with seasonal skins to purchase. Sell expansions that unlock more content. Ditch the lootboxes for sure– it’s 2018! The commercials are highly intrusive as well, so unless more “reality” gets mixed into the game’s play (and lore), it also feels like it needs to go. Again, I get that Mawa needs money, but when every feature feels like it’s asking you spend money (or annoying you until you do), it’s hard to want not to feel like the whole game is an ad rather than a product.

Final thoughts (for now)

Maguss feels mechanically deeper than POGO to be sure. Drawing for combat makes it feel more interactive, as does having to think of how to use your available moves for which slots for each turn. It’s not a game about one or two simple mechanics with incredibly basic combat tacked on. There’s gathering items, equipping gear, making a build, using an in-game-only currency to shop, getting mob loot, crafting, a combat practice area, exploration perks, health regeneration and healing, skill trees… GASP! It feels like there’s enough there to be a full-fledged game. An MMO even, if Mawa really puts in the work to fulfill that end of it (which it’s advertised). There’s only dueling right now, but if Mawa is serious, the beta feedback sheet gives options to vote on implementing more multiplayer features like trade and territory warfare.

But the monetization absolutely ruins the immersion and feels tone deaf in the context of the modern gaming narrative, especially to those of us who come from a core gamer background and are willing to lay down serious cash for a game that respects us and the hobby and the genre. Bad UI isn’t going to help either, especially now that the world’s seen how much of a turn0off that can be thanks to Pokemon Go. There’s plenty of room for a new king in the MMOARG market, but money alone won’t win the crown.

Massively Overpowered skips scored reviews; they’re outdated in a genre whose games evolve daily. Instead, our veteran reporters immerse themselves in MMOs to present their experiences as hands-on articles, impressions pieces, and previews of games yet to come. First impressions matter, but MMOs change, so why shouldn’t our opinions?
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12 Comments on "First impressions of ‘wizarding world’ MMOARG Maguss"

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thesubsublibrarian

Maybe I’m out of touch with what gamers find off-putting, but I’m surprised that you find the ads a turn-off. I’ve introduced a handful of people to the game within an hour of playing it so that we could play together, and no one had a problem with the ads. IN FACT most of them would excitedly inform me “Did you know you could watch an add and change what’s available in the shop!” or “Aw, it’s cute that they ask you to watch an ad to support them.” And that didn’t only come from my friends who dabble in indie game dev, but also from casual and more serious gamers.

I know that people approach games from different points of view, but I find that the sorts of gamers I know not only enjoy games, but also want to support the dev teams that make the games they enjoy, especially if they can do so without reaching into their pockets, and especially if those dev teams are small companies trying to break into the market. Personally I feel that it’s nice I can do something to help them make an extra buck by just sitting through a short ad, particulally because I don’t have to, there is no necessity to watch the ads and that actually makes me more inclined to do it. I also feel like advertising other mobile games is nice because that way they’re promoting other mobile game companies and potentially throwing some business their way. I do realise that as someone who dabbles in game dev I do have a different view of these things, and I’m not about to tell you how you should feel about it, but it seems like you’re coming at it from the perspective that you’re being forced to watch the ads when you’re not, you’re politely being asked to give some support which could help the team improve the game in the long run.

There is also no need to pay for anything, so I do feel like you’re coming down a bit hard on them in that respect. The only things that require currency using real money are luxury items which don’t influence gameplay. While it may be easier to acquire some items with money, you don’t have to, so it’s not pay to win in any respect.

Other than that, there are some issues with the responsiveness of buttons and symbol recognition which can be a little annoying. It’s not a deal-breaker for me, but I hope they improve on it in the future because it does make it a hassle. I do agree that the tutorials could use some work, they’re not particularly clear. It didn’t take me quite as long it took you to figure out how the combat works, but it did take me about three fights to get it, and in an ideal world it should have only taken one slow, guided fight to explain it.

All in all, if the team asking for support is a deal breaker for you, that’s how it is. But I think there’s too much divide between gamers and developers. Considering how often AAA companies take advantage of the player, it’s understandable, but at the end of the day, these are small teams working with little money, and they’re doing what they can to get into the market, and my personal position is that players should do what they can to support them, it’s a hard market to break into, dominated by companies with a lot of money, and all they’re asking of you is to watch a handful of ads.

Mewmew
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Mewmew

“What sounded like a great Pokemon GO challenger left me once again questioning why I bother with video games as a hobby at all.”

When I see a bad movie, of which there are plenty, I don’t ask myself “Why do I bother watching movies at all?” I could insert countless examples of hobbies and interests where you experience a poor version of something within them where people wouldn’t ever question their love for the hobby.

That you ask that question of yourself makes me agree with asking you that question – why *do you* bother with video games as a hobby at all? If you ask yourself that question, if it’s something forced, maybe you should move on to something else as a hobby that doesn’t ever make you ask that question of yourself.

Maybe you’re doing it just because you write articles about it? If that’s the case that’s fine, but we don’t need to hear your dislike or questioning of the hobby, no offense :D But a hobby is supposed to be enjoyable and something you want to do, to the point of where you experience a negative in it that you are never questioning why you partake in the hobby as a whole but just chalk it up to a bad experience in an otherwise enjoyable pastime.

That you would question why you “bother with” video games as a hobby at all probably means that you shouldn’t. It’s possible that you just need a really long break from them to appreciate them again one day, or maybe you’re just done with them and should find other hobbies.

I’m frustrated with types of games, certain systems, but never ever games as a whole. If I ever asked myself that same question that you did, I would certainly move on to something I enjoyed more and never had to ask myself that question about.

I know this was only one line at the start of an article, but that one line told a lot about your inner feelings about gaming, and maybe is something you need to reflect on for your own happiness in life. Maybe you should find another diversion that never makes you ask that question of yourself.

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David Goodman

I played it a little bit, but to be honest, i’m not as mobile as I once was so even though it’s a better standing-still experience than Pokemon Go, i uninstalled it – not as a bad experience, but as simply a game that wasn’t meant for me, which is OK.

I liked what I saw though and do recommend giving it a shot.

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Nemui Byakko

Well, take this review and the response of bill bunny, sum them up and divide by 10 – still it is very promising game :) Of course, if developers will make territory wars, item exchanges etc etc. Comparing to it PoGo is just a bad joke.

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Nick Smith

Sorry guys. The mobile games are just not for me. Nickle and dime you while popping up advertisements… I honestly cant stand that type of gaming. Its like watching a favorite movie you love only to be interrupted by commercials. Bleh.

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Al_Bundy

My biggest problem with all of these games (and Pokemon Go in particular) is that they drain your battery waaaay to fast.

I usually charge my phone at night (Galaxy S5). I’m using it moderatly over the day and usually when I come home in the evening I’m still at 50-60% battery. However, back when I played Pokemon Go somewhat actively, it would drastically eat my power so I frequently dropped below 10% by early afternoon.

Now I really don’t feel like carrying around a powerbank all the time and I also don’t want to worry about charging my phone every couple of hours. Sorry. I think it will take a couple of years until we have better battery technology to make these kind of games really viable for the casual masses like me…

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bill bunny

You pretty much got a good review here, accept how you are calling it pay 2 win when it is set up to be the least pay 2 win game out of the movement based games (draconius,pokemon). They did an ad revenue based system which means I can get basically anything you can buy for free, besides cosmetics, and a couple boosts. You can’t even buy gear in the game with real money, it takes gold you earn from playing….

You messed up the chest, they are free, you just weren’t close enough to it so you paid 4 currency to bring it to your bag, they can also be opened for free it just takes a bit of time…or a 15sec ad. Also, I can keep a 24hr increased circle interaction size by watching a few minutes of ads every day, or I can buy it….how is that bad? They let free players keep up easily with paying players….how do you do that in pokemon? Since you are limited to gold you can make every day p2w players fly by you with raid passes and incubators…..greedy….lol….don’t make me laugh….they decided to try and give free players a way to compete through watching ads instead of paying and I think it’s brilliant how it doesn’t exclude anyone….you don’t have to watch them for fucks sake.

As far as you having problems drawing…that is just it….you having a problem. Most people I talked to just practice for a bit in the test until they can consistently get the result they want while drawing….if you are drawing first and second shapes and it recognized then as 3rd 4th then you are doing something way wrong. For every shape there is a way to draw it and get it to work every single time….it just takes practice….which I also like….it should take practice to learn to cast spells before you try PvP or high lvl creature combat.

It does need faction wars though, as you said. The devs are hard at work on this feature so that it will be out on release, you can find info about it by reading the forums. There is also a dungeon system in the works with boss monsters you will be able to fight as a group at the end. This game is rough as it stands, but it has some real potential to be the first movement based mmorpg….which is what alot of people would probably prefer over pokemon/draconius capture games.

I mean there is actual PvP with other players in this game and it’s very good. Probably the best mobile PvP I have played….it requires deep strategy depending on what class and school of magic you choose to climb to the top of the wizard tiers…oh yeah did I mention there are seasons where you can actually fight to be the best wizard in the game? So if you are more into fighting creatures and players than catching then I would definitely give this game a look, at least when they release it, because it is a bit rough atm.

Dantos
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Dantos

If any Pokemon go-esque game were to interest me, it will probably be the Ghostbusters-themed one in development.

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Godiva

It sounds interesting but the article’s introduction is making me wary of trying this title. Maybe in 6 months or so after letting it cook a bit longer.