If I were to rank my favourite game genres, action-adventures would definitely feature in the top five. Immersive worlds populated with strange creatures and magic are the sort of games that offer a real sense of escapism. However, they can also demand a lot of attention. Games like Skyrim, The Witcher 3, and Dragon Age Inquisition all require at least 40 hours of game time just to complete the main story. Add on side quests, exploration, and DLC, and these games can easily be played for over 100 hours.
Sometimes, the thought of tackling one of these huge games is exhausting just to think about. Sometimes, it’s nice to sit down and complete a game in an afternoon. When that’s the case, a game like Mask of Mists is exactly what you need.
Mask of Mists isn’t a mind-blowing gaming experience, but it doesn’t pretend to be and it is a lot of fun because of it. The game begins with a quick introduction to your character, a mercenary, and you’re given the job of finding an archmage who’s gone missing in somewhere called the “infected territory.” You’re transported to where you need to go and, without much hand-holding, you set off on your quest.
The world is instantly charming. It’s full of vibrant colours and the sort of things that give the perfect fairytale, fantasy feel: crumbling ruins, glowing mushrooms, runes drawn onto the floor, as well as rickety buildings of wood and stone. You’re free to explore as you like, but to start off there are plenty of obstacles—doors you can’t get through, strange plants blocking the path, and broken bridges. You also find things that don’t appear to have a use—a frying pan, a recipe you only have half the ingredients for, a pair of eyes staring at you from inside a tree trunk. Luckily, things start to fall into place, and items that seemed useless are suddenly vital to unblocking your path. Every few minutes there’s a moment of excitement when you make a connection and hurriedly rush back to something you were unsure about because it suddenly makes sense.
The game progresses in this fashion, and before long you’ve found some weapons and are delving into dungeons to activate navigation stones, of which there are six in total. Each dungeon has puzzle mechanics of its own that get progressively trickier the deeper you go, although are never hard by any means. Aside from puzzle solving, the other thing you’ll spend a lot of time doing is combat. Unfortunately, this is the weakest part of the game, which is especially disappointing considering it’s a significant part of the experience.
The problem is that it becomes extremely repetitive, and not only in terms of the actual actions; you can swing your sword or shoot a pistol that has a limited amount of ammo, but there are also only a handful of monster types, meaning there’s very little variation in your tactics. It’s not taxing but it’s not interesting either, and fighting the same two monsters over and over again in the middle of a dungeon in each room begins to get annoying.
The other shortcoming of the game is the ending, which would have benefited from being fleshed out further. The story as a whole is basic, and you learn very little of the character you’re playing, the archmage you’re seeking, or the world you’re inhabiting. Since the game is so short, you don’t need to be super invested, but after completing all the puzzles, combat scenarios, the final boss, and succeeding in your objective, the game ends abruptly and it feels a little disappointing.
Despite these problems, I would still readily recommend the game. It’s the perfect sort of experience for when you’ve got a few free hours and can’t decide what else to play. It’s short and sweet, and even though there are improvements to be made, it does what it sets out to do without overextending itself or making promises it can’t keep. Rather than being left feeling like you wasted your time, you’re left wanting more. If the game studio announced it was going to develop this title further, I would definitely be excited.
Not every game needs to be an all-consuming, hundred-hour-plus experience. It is often simply enough to craft a game that offers a few hours of fun puzzles, mushroom monsters, and dungeon diving in a delightful world that makes you excited to turn the next corner. It’s a game that feels like it was made with a lot of love for the genre and, considering the price, I think it’s more than worth picking this up and seeing if you can find the archmage for yourself.
- A beautiful world to explore
- Fun puzzles
- Can playthrough in an afternoon
- Repetitive combat
- Narrative needed to be fleshed out more