May 25, 2017 Last Updated 3:32 PM, May 24, 2017

Mirage: Arcane Warfare Beta Preview

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There was a brief time that Chivalry: Medieval Warfare was my go-to multiplayer game. It was such a blast to hop in a server with my friends and spam the battle cry button for an entire match, while occasionally scoring a decapitation or a long-range kill with the bow. Of course, there were moments of frustration when the servers were having a tough time, or when I just couldn’t seem to time any of my swings correctly. But, at the time, I hadn’t played anything like Chivalry, a first person melee combat game that dropped you right in the middle of a Braveheart-like battlefield and let you hack your way through a difficult learning curve.

Magic carpets, teleportation, and fireballs

Now that Torn Banner Studios is going for a more mystical approach to their follow-up first person slasher, I’m anxious to see how these melee combat mechanics that felt so fluid would hold up in a setting that contains magic carpets, teleportation, and fireballs. I know there are some fans of Chivalry that weren’t happy to find out that this was the direction of their new game, often saying that Torn Banner should be refining and expanding upon their established IP, rather than branching off into something new.

Developers have assured fans that they will return to the Chivalry franchise at some point, but Mirage: Arcane Warfare is their focus at this time. The beta is now available to anyone that preorders the game on Steam, giving players their first taste of the new, more spell-casty IP.

At this point in the beta, there are three maps to play on, with a few different game modes that can be played on each one. There’s not a lot new going on here as far as game types go; you’ve got your run-of-the-mill payload, capture point, and deathmatch. Anyone that’s played Chivalry will be familiar with the basics of the melee combat system, but they’ll have to adjust to their new abilities that can be used on the Q, E, and F keys.

A bit of flexibility

Your abilities are decided by your chosen class, of which there are six (currently), and in each of the three ability slots at your disposal, there are two abilities from which you may choose; this gives each class a bit of flexibility. If you love playing the Tinker for her disengage ability, but don’t feel like you’re landing her hooks, you can keep using the Tinker, but make a minor adjustment in her abilities to see what’s more affective. It’s a good way to keep classes flexible, yet focused enough to keep the title more manageable, from a balance standpoint.

In comparison to Chivalry, the game feels much more chaotic. Chivalry lets players choose small variations of their weapons depending on the class being used, but outside of the Man-at-Arms’ dash ability — and the obvious exception of the Archer’s ranged attacks — every player has mostly the same tools at their disposal. Melee combat is about timing and anticipation. Once you’ve played more than a few hours, you’ll start feigning strikes to draw out a premature parry from your opponent or ducking horizontal swings on reflex. It wasn’t easy, but there was a well-paced little dance to the combat system that can feel very rewarding when you pull off the right moves.

Some of that fluidity in combat hasn’t made it into the beta build of Mirage quite yet. Character animations and overall player movement can feel stiff and unnatural at times. Some of this, I assume, is due to the current lack of polish that one can expect from a game in its beginning stages of launching a beta. Some of the awkward spots in combat may also be coming from the frame drops I was occasionally experiencing, another (hopefully) temporary issue at this point in the game’s optimization.

There’s plenty of room for improvement in the general flow of combat, but the frantic nature of the game was exciting, to say the least. The opportunities you get to join a larger fight and take the objective is extra satisfying when you’re able to completely dismember your enemies. If you’re guarding the objective, the level designs often allow an attacking team approach from many different angles, so you’re always watching your back in, and out, of combat. And the one-on-one showdowns you’ll end up in can make or break your opinion of how well you played that match.

It’s tense, it’s wild, it’s fun. Mirage might not, however, be as consistently satisfying as all these references to dismemberment would imply.

When you run up to enemies in Chivalry, you know exactly what they can do, it’s just a matter of how well they use those skills. Mirage provides much more to think about and react to. And, although I enjoyed most of my time with Mirage, I don’t know if that’s going to be something the hardcore Chivalry fans will appreciate.

With only a few classes available in the beta, I wonder what else we might see in future updates, as far as playable characters. All the basic class archetypes are covered in Mirage: Arcane Warfare: the Entropist functions as a healer; the Alchemancer is a magic user that is most often used in his ranged build; the Vigilist is a CC expert that can push you down and block everything you throw at her. We’ll see how much variety gets added in class selection, but they’ll have to be careful what they add to a game that already feels overwhelming when things get crowded.

This new amount of ridiculousness in Mirage: Arcane Warfare may draw in the people that want something a little flashier than Chivalry’s drab color pallet and precise combat. With the rush of class-based multiplayer games over the last couple years, Mirage: Arcane Warfare is certainly following a trend. Other than Ubisoft’s For Honor, which is alike strictly in the sense that they can both be called multiplayer-focused melee combat games, the market doesn’t have much out there that bears resemblance to Mirage.

This Mirage could actually be real.

The Verdict

If you thought Chivalry’s combat was too tedious or frustrating, Mirage is definitely worth keeping an eye on and checking out when it has an inevitable ‘free’ weekend on Steam. Torn Banner Studios has set the bar high for me, and for any fan of their previous release. Whether or not the new layer of complexity actually adds to the experience is yet to be seen, but after playing through the content currently available, I can say it’s a rewarding and admirable effort that deserves the attention and recognition it receives.

Adam Wheeler

Adam Wheeler loves his computer, his cat, and his work-from-home lifestyle. When he feels the motivation to put on pants, he tells jokes on stage. With no real distractions in his life (friends, relationships, a reason to go outdoors, etc.), he is able to provide in-depth analysis of games and the culture that surrounds them. Adam almost never has anything better to do.

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