Given that Torn Banner Studios released the popular skill based multiplayer game, Chivalry: Medieval Warfare, it’s understandable that Mirage: Arcane Warfare has essentially been dubbed “Chivalry with magic” (we’re as guilty of that as any other outlet) in the press. The idea sounds similar. Players choose from one of six classes and fight against another team in objective based modes or a deathmatch, but thanks to the way characters play, and the addition of much more in the way of ranged combat abilities, Mirage easily stands on its own feet as an experience quite different to Chivalry.
The six classes each have access to six class specific abilities, three of which can be equipped at any time, as well as some universal skills, such as a basic attack, dodge, parry and counter. Combat feels fantastic, but the approach a player has to take to be successful makes the game feel very different from similar class based multiplayer games with a predominantly melee focus. The class specific abilities are powerful and can cause devastation when they hit, but thanks to both cooldowns and the fact that most moves can be fairly easily countered, combat becomes a matter of misdirection and timing rather than straight up skill versus skill savagery. Working with other players is all but a must. The Vigilist, wielder of a spear and shield, is a great class to get an enemy’s attention and knock them around the environment, opening them up to swift attacks from the deadly but vulnerable Vypress assassin. Alchemancers are capable of dishing out huge amounts of magic damage but due to slow cooldowns and the ease with which their attacks can be avoided or countered means that they should rely on other players to distract or hamper enemies. The Tinker can create traps, locking enemies in place for the Alchemancer to obliterate.
Each of the classes feels sufficiently different and powerful that you rarely, if ever feel constrained by your choice. There is a rough breakdown between DPS and support classes, with the Entropist, Vigilist and Tinker roughly falling under the support banner and the Vypress, Alchemancer and Taurent falling under DPS, but none are dedicated to the point of being focussed on one specific thing. The Entropist has support magic and a healing ability but can fly on his magic carpet giving him huge mobility for offense. Mobility is a key factor for all of the classes and that is one of the factors that makes combat so much fun. Each class has a unique way they can traverse the maps quickly, from the aforementioned magic carpet (the slowest but most stable form of movement making it double as a combat platform), to teleportation, grappling and jumping. With each class being able to approach battles from a variety of angles, players have to try to be as aware as possible of their environment and all possible angles of approach. Given that friendly fire can be as deadly as enemy fire, you have to know where your friends are coming from as well.
Character design is excellent, meshing well into the Arabian Nights style of the levels but also offering easily identifiable and unique silhouettes for each of the classes, letting players quickly know the general capabilities of opponents easily. Characters and environments are bright and lovely looking and could easily exist within a Pixar or DreamWorks film if it wasn’t for the violence and gore. Blood splashes with each hit, and melee kills will often result in some sort of horrible mutilation, with ragdolling bodies missing limbs, heads or being bisected, the white stump of a spine visible poking from both the top and bottom halves of the body. The level of gore may seem at odds with the otherwise charming design and deliberately anachronistic and silly dialogue, but it works in a grimly funny way. The only time the amount of blood becomes distracting is when a purple teammate appears to be on the red team due to the amount of blood on the character model.
The biggest problem with Mirage isn’t a problem with the game itself but rather the lack of players (at least at the time of writing). Finding a game is proving to be difficult to say the least, and when one does come up it’s rarely anything other than a team deathmatch. There’s nothing wrong with a deathmatch, but the objective modes much better capture the spirit of the game, as players strive to make the most of bottlenecks and distractions to hack or blow their opponents to pieces. Mirage: Arcane Warfare is every bit as good as Chivalry and in many respects tops it. It’s a wonderful, lighthearted but visceral murderfest.
Hopefully the community will grow. This is a skill based multiplayer game that deserves a player base.