Review: The Mageseeker: A League of Legends Story

Posted 23 April 2023 by Eric Van Allen
The Mageseeker

You would never break the chain

The League of Legends universe is pretty big at this point, as the MOBA has spun out into series, collaborations, and even other genres. The Mageseeker is the latest of these efforts to create a compelling story within the world of Runeterra, creating a new flavor of League storytelling with an action RPG coating. And, for the most part, it works.

Developer Digital Sun, known for their own previous action RPG Moonlighter, definitely makes its mark on the League timeline. A focus on Sylas, the once-chained mage now caught between his potential as a revolutionary and his selfish desire for revenge, lends itself well to both a different kind of story and an interesting take on combat. 

Even when it stutters and stumbles, The Mageseeker: A League of Legends Story is an intriguing new lens on Runeterra, especially for those who don’t want to hop right into champion select.

The Mageseeker: A League of Legends Story (PC, PS4, PS5 [reviewed], Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Switch)
Developer: Digital Sun
Publisher: Riot Forge
Release: April 18, 2023
MSRP: $29.99

Sylas, the protagonist of The Mageseeker, is an interesting case. Demacia, the pristine fantasy kingdom focal point of the story, has been hunting, jailing, and slaying those with magical powers for some time. As someone who can sense magic, Sylas is initially a valuable asset to the Mageseekers. 

But after he learns to channel magic in a change of heart, he’s jailed until the start of The Mageseeker’s narrative. He escapes prison, exposing his friend and high society member Lux’s hidden magical abilities in the process, and sets off on a quest for vengeance, with the help of a growing mage rebellion.

Though Sylas isn’t exactly my favorite League of Legends champion, I found his story in The Mageseeker interesting. There are some stumbles, mostly in a number of missions that feel like shuffling goals further away at the last second. Some of the dramatic twists also didn’t hit as hard as I think the story wanted them to.

Screenshot by Destructoid

Sylas’s growing band of rebels presents one of the narrative’s main conflicts: Sylas is more than willing to martyr himself for petty vengeance, but his friends, notably the rebel leader Leilani, value societal change more than just murdering Mageseekers. It works for the game’s relatively shorter runtime, though it sometimes felt like conversations were retreading philosophical ground a few times over.

What it does mean is that League newcomers, or even those who’ve never played a match on Summoner’s Rift, can still easily hop in here. Most characters receive a fair amount of exposition, so even if you don’t know why Garen and Sylas might scrap with each other, Digital Sun’s made it easy to follow. For the League knowers, there are plenty of interesting cameos; Garen, Lux, and Jarvan IV are obvious ones. Morgana and Shyvana are particular highlights, and a few other surprise cameos were welcome additions.

Those cameos weave especially well into the heart of The Mageseeker: its magic-stealing combat. Sylas is a wizard who got extremely buff in jail—it’s been a good year for that particular brand of dude—and still carries his petricite chains with him, which he can whip around for damage, traversal, or to rip out some magic for his own use.

Screenshot by Destructoid

So when battle strikes, Sylas has options: bust heads with his fists and chains, or cast magic that he either has or has stolen. It’s a delicate dance that feels like it’s meant to be a balancing act. Stolen spells are one-time use, and cost no mana; Sylas can also hold up to four spells he can use any number of times, provided he’s garnered enough mana through punching.

The spells are all pretty entertaining to use, even if the basic ones become a bit obsolete by the campaign’s finale. An elemental system of corresponding weaknesses is straightforward and sometimes ignorable, but adds a bit of strategy and reward for thoughtful spell use. And combat feels like a rush when it clicks into place. There’s a lot of dashing and positioning, avoiding big red circles on the ground while trying to prioritize targets.

Where I hit some friction was the controls. And to be clear, it’s not all bad; sometimes, tension from controls can elicit interesting, compelling feelings. That’s where I found myself with the opposing punching and casting systems. The face buttons manage dashing, potions, and your light and heavy attacks; Sylas’ chains and magic, meanwhile, are on the triggers and D-pad. But to aim your chains—for spell usage or just zipping around—you have to use the right thumbstick.

Those moments of having to think about whether I was safe to aim and steal something, or if dodging around or hitting foes was more important, made The Mageseeker’s combat feel a little more intentional than just dash-attacking around an arena. At its best, The Mageseeker combines fast action combat with strategic thinking, as you make quick reads of the elemental types on the field and turn them back on foes to wipe them out before they overwhelm you.

Screenshot by Destructoid

I did, however, hit some actual friction with all that motion. Sylas can be hard to track when the action gets going and spells start flying. It wasn’t uncommon to get hitched on some level geometry and not realize it. And some of the chain-specific prompts didn’t feel great to execute amid a horde of enemies on a controller, leading to unintended moves or zipping right into spells instead of toppling a turret.

Other general glitches popped up, too. Enemies sometimes froze for me, or would be inexplicably non-interactable. User interface would disappear. Nothing game-breaking happened for me, but noticeable hitches happened often enough. Hopefully there’s some post-launch support.

The Mageseeker also hits some snags the further in it goes. The base building aspects are interesting enough, though mostly centered on passive upgrades for Sylas or acquiring the reusable versions of spells you’ve stolen from enemies. I wish bonus moves hadn’t been tied to which mages you brought with you on a mission, as Sylas’ light-heavy combos start to feel stale, even within the roughly 12-to-15 hour runtime.

Even the story starts to turn over familiar ideas after a while. And though the optional dungeons provide an interesting twist, with some using a roguelite-style pick-em setup that gives you enhanced versions of normal spells, I found myself wishing I could apply some of those to my actual magic. The Mageseeker has a lot of combat arenas, and while thoughtful stealing and use of magic works well, it felt odd having a really interesting system for upgradeable spells, with risks and rewards, being limited to just one line of side quests.

Screenshot by Destructoid

Boss battles are a big highlight of The Mageseeker, where its League cameos can pay off in stunning battles. While some of the lesser bosses aren’t as strong, like a particular fight against a giant head that gets repeated a few times, those with League champions are the main event. The champions have their full move sets, and the way they’ve been adapted into attacks, and then into ultimates that Sylas can deploy later on, is a high point here.

The Mageseeker: A League of Legends Story is ultimately an enjoyable experience in spite of any stumbles, though. Even when I would’ve liked it to expand more on ideas and fine-tune a bit, the highs of its narrative do work, and Digital Sun’s talent for both combat and art shine in this game.

Sylas’ story is a good way to experience something different in the world of Runeterra, whether that’s fresh air for the MOBA fans or a more appealing genre for those new to League. The Mageseeker meets the bar for spin-offs, expanding well and adding more to the world while putting a unique spin that Digital Sun can call its own. This burly mage adventure is definitely worth looking into if you’d prefer a League game with more action, story, and gorgeous art.

7.5

Good

Solid and definitely has an audience. There could be some hard-to-ignore faults, but the experience is fun.

About The Author
Eric Van Allen
Senior News Reporter - While Eric's been writing about games since 2014, he's been playing them for a lot longer. Usually found grinding RPG battles, digging into an indie gem, or hanging out around the Limsa Aethryte.
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