STAFF REVIEW of Wizard with a Gun (Xbox Series X)

Saturday, March 30, 2024.
by Adam Dileva

Wizard with a Gun Box art Wizards are cool and all, but give a wizard a gun and they become that little bit more bad ass. While I don’t normally gravitate towards roguelikes often, when they are done well, they can be incredibly addicting, wanting to always play ‘one more’ round. Each ‘run’ you get slightly more powerful as you gather more materials and learn how the world works. You’ll play as a Gunmancer, a wizard who can imbue their bullets with a variety of different elements in this interesting twin-stick shooter. You’ll be gathering materials, turning back time, shooting endless foes and trying to srop the world from collapsing.

You are tasked with trying to prevent the Collapse, a world ending event that’s going to happen in five minutes. Luckily for you, your home base is inside a magical tower outside of regular time and space, where you’re not confined to the regular time limits while outside. Thankfully for you, you’re able to head back to your tower through special portals, rewinding time back five minutes once again as you try and make another run at preventing the apocalypse.

Every time you set out into the world with your five minute timer, you’re searching for a special gear, one that can be slotted into your time machine back at the tower, slowly accumulating so you can reset the world to what is was once before, before Chaos caused destruction everywhere. To be successful though you’re going to have to not only survive, but craft upgrades, enhancements, and crafting unique types of bullets for your weaponry.

While five minutes surely isn’t a lot of time, every time you enter the world it is randomly generated and filled with plenty of enemies and resources. Long as you make it back to the tower before dying, you’ll keep all that you’ve collected. If not, you’ll lose the resources you didn’t deposit back at your base. Certain Chaos enemies can randomly appear, and if destroyed, will add some time to your clock that’s constantly running out. This is why I found it stressful in the beginning, always having to worry about racing against the clock and making it back in time before it was too late, as the world doesn’t end exactly after the five minutes, but becomes a much more deadly and destructive place until you return and reset the clock once more.

Wizard with a Gun is exploration and crafting heavy, constantly needing mass amounts of resources so that you can survive just a little longer each run, maybe finding another gear or boss to make some overall progress. Create bullets, design modifications, outfit yourself in different garments with enhancements, and even furnish your tower.

While you don’t have traditional spells as a wizards, where your talents come into play is crafting specific types of bullets, once learned. This is how you’ll fight back in each loop once you turn back the clock and head back into the world. With each time to enter the world being randomly generated, you’ll have to explore and search, constantly weighing risk versus reward. Do you opt to stay a little longer before heading back to the tower and risk dying and losing everything you’ve gathered this run, or be cautious and quick to try and keep more resources and progress further even though it may not be as much?

I’ll admit, I was quite overwhelmed and frustrated for the first couple hours, as you’re taught the basics, but there are so many more mechanics and nuances to learn as you go that doesn’t really get explained all that well. You’re unsure what materials to keep, how to make new materials and what you even need to keep or not. While everything has a use in some ways, it’s not always clear or in what step you’ll need each type of item, as the crafting system becomes quite vast and convoluted.

As a twin-stick shooter, you’ll use the Left Stick to move your character and the Right to aim. Triggers are your bullets and you dodge with ‘B’. The core gameplay revolves around your guns, swapping them out and using the different elements against enemies. While there are different types of weapons from rifles, SMG’s, Carbines, Blunderbuss, and other types, the real interesting part is crafting the different bullet element types and choosing which upgrades as you mix and match to figure out what works best for you.

While the varied enemy types aren’t all that challenging, as they simply fire or rush at you, you’ll start to do well in combat once you learn how to use the elements in conjunction with one another and how they affect the world. Using regular bullets to destroy a tree will give you wood, but using fire or poison to do so will give you a different material, such as charcoal or poisoned wood. This again is something not explained very well, so you’ll need to do a lot of experimenting to figure these basics out, then having to memorize.

Upgrades are done in a number of ways. The most obvious is crafting the different ammunition types with resources you gather. Fire, ice, poison, lightning, force, and even bullets that can charm enemies and have them fight alongside you for that run. How you combine these elements will alter how they affect enemies. You’ll eventually be able to unlock and alter specific traits as well, like being a more powerful shot, leaving elemental trails behind and other ways to customize your guns.

While you get to choose a handful of different wizard robes and garments, these seem cosmetic at first, but you’ll eventually be able to upgrade specific components to each piece of gear, adding health bonuses, movement speed, carry capacity and more. The more you can craft, the more you’ll realize how much grinding you’ll need to do for specific materials you need. Certain upgrades may require a specific amount of mushrooms for example, so on your next run you set out with that specifically in mind. You’ll of course become distracted, looking for other materials, finding gears, harvesting Arcana from enemies, all while keeping an eye on the five minute timer.

There’s also been a large 'Bounty of Guns' update recently, adding much more gameplay to the predictable gameplay loop. This added new exciting bounties, where you’re hunting massive minibosses who will have some unique attacks you’ll need to learn the patterns of. More than 50 new guns also await to be crafted, though to find the blueprints you’ll need to scan specific NPC’s and enemies, which is easier said than done when trying to avoid getting hit.

There is an option for two player online co-op, though I was unable to find any games being hosted, nor did anyone join mine in the dozen or so hours I had a lobby open, so unfortunately I’m unable to comment on how co-op changes the gameplay, if at all.

The visual aesthetic is quite colorful and has a very distinct style. Enemy designs are quite varied, and while there is a lot of repetition for creatures, they are designed quite well, as are the animations for movements and attacks, telegraphed with large red markers. The soundtrack fits the mood of each biome and backdrop with light instruments, though largely forgettable for the most part. You’ll mostly hear a lot of your footsteps and weapons firing more than anything else though.

While the tutorials for a lot of the mechanics are lacking or not explained well, with enough time, I went from not really enjoying myself to having to do just ‘one more run’ for a specific upgrade. Once you’ve wrapped your head around all of what’s possible and how to craft, it goes from being a confusing and frustrating grind to being a fun yet repetitive shooter. While it does become tedious at times, Wizard with a Gun starts to really shine once you learn of its elemental intricacies.

**Wizard with a Gun was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 8.0 / 10
Gameplay: 8.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.5 / 10
Sound: 7.5 / 10


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