The Art of Magic Review
The Art of Magic places the player in the role of Aurix, a young man who has just come of age and learned that he has magical powers. What should be a happy time isn't, though, as Aurix's land is in turmoil. Three magic orbs - chaos, law, and neutrality - have blessed the world with peace for many years. Tragically, the orb of neutrality has been mysteriously destroyed and the world is no longer in balance. As the game opens, the forces of chaos are poised to invade the lands of Aurix's people, and he must venture far from his village to protect his people and help restore balance to the world.
The campaign which follows the game's storyline is a series of over 30 missions which are primarily real-time battles versus other wizards or creatures, but include some stealth-like missions and others which are played to advance the plot. Each mission includes major and minor objectives - the major ones are required to complete the mission, but completing minor ones provides the player with additional points to spend to improve his/her character. This point spending occurs between missions and serves to provide the game with an RPG-like touch. However, there are just three stats on which to spend points, health, maximum mana, and the number of creatures that can be controlled, so it is a bit of a stretch to call The Art of Magic an RPG.
Before a mission opens, the player is taken to a spell selection screen where he/she must select the spells to be used during the mission. The number of spells available is determined by the number of talismans and magic items obtained during the campaign. Each talisman is aligned with chaos, law, or neutrality and the number of talismans determines the total number of spells the player can take into battle. A magic item is placed on a talisman to create a spell, the exact type of which is determined by the alignment of the talisman. At first spell selection is fairly simple, as the player will have few talismans and magic items, but as the campaign progress and more spells are available, spell selection becomes much more important. Completing a mission becomes a lot harder if you go into battle armed with the wrong mix of spells.
The combat missions in The Art of Magic often play out as duels between wizards. Placed around maps are places of power; occupying a place of power regenerates mana which is needed to cast spells. Your wizard does not need to occupy the place of power personally; any creature summoned by the wizard can also occupy them and generate mana for the wizard. Control multiple places of power and you increase your mana regeneration rate while denying mana to your opponent. It can easily be seen that to be successful, the player needs to generate a lot of creatures, control as many points of power as possible, and trap the enemy wizard when he or she is low on mana.
In addition to the campaign, the game can also be played in skirmish or multiplayer mode. The skirmish mode provides players with a good degree of customization, with number of wizards, map, available magical items, victory conditions, and more all configurable. The player then selects the spells he/she will take into combat and the battle begins. The multiplayer game is configured and played the same as skirmish games, except that the other wizards become player controlled. Play is hosted on GameSpy or can be played over the internet or a LAN.