PC, Nintendo Switch, PS5, Xbox Series X
October 17, 2023
Wizard with a Gun is a cooperative sandbox survival game developed by Galvanic Games and published by Devolver Digital. Set in a magical world known as The Shatter, you play as a wizard cowboy known as a ‘gunslinger’. After learning that everything has been corrupted by chaotic magical energy, you’re tasked with restoring the balance of the universe.
One of the things that immediately stands out about Wizard with a Gun when you first boot up the game, is its gorgeous visuals and soundtrack. Drawn in a 2D style reminiscent of traditional French comic books, Wizard with a Gun’s visuals easily draw players in. Added to this, Wizard with a Gun’s dreamy guitar soundtrack also makes the world feel all the more immersive. The game’s main story further adds to the atmosphere: essentially playing as a wizard cowboy, you’ll meet two characters during the tutorial: the Cryptomancer, and another gunslinger named Hilda. After a brief conversation, you discover that, some two hundred years ago, a huge amount of corrupting energy was released upon the world, corrupting everything in its path. After the world’s collapse, the Cryptomancer tasked Hilda with restoring the balance of The Shatter. However, after a lifetime of trying to do so, she is now too old to take on the task, and the Cryptomancer passes Hilda’s role over to you.
Luckily, you have some help and resources at your disposal to complete this mammoth task. Firstly, Hilda guides to her old base: a wizard tower you can retreat to to do research, upgrade your weapons, and craft new spells. Secondly, Hilda constructed three special devices in the wizard tower known as ‘god machines’, that are quintessential to your mission: the first machine – known as ‘The Wheel’ — allows you to turn back time to mere moments before the chaotic corrupting energy was unleashed upon the world. The second one is called a ‘Soul Reaver’, and allows you to store your soul somewhere safe before travelling through time. The third machine, finally, is known as ‘The Doorway’, and allows you to literally travel back in time after using the wheel. By turning back time over and over, your goal is to, eventually, restore the balance of the universe. To turn back time far enough, however, The Wheel needs special gears to function. In order to obtain these, you’ll have to venture out into the past again and again and turn back time further and further.
Practically, this story and tutorial forms a great introduction to Wizard with a Gun’s core game mechanics: much like a title like Cult of the Lamb or Hades, Wizard with a Gun features short rounds of gameplay in a hostile world where you collect resources and battle different creatures, with time to improve your wizard tower base in between. The crucial difference between a game like Cult of the Lamb and Wizard with a Gun is that in Wizard with a Gun, the runs are timed, as they take place in the past. Because of this, the game’s interface comes with a timer at the top of your screen. Before starting a new run, you’ll have to turn back The Wheel of Time, before going through The Doorway to return to the past.
“…a fast-paced and enjoyable gameplay experience.”
Each run takes about five minutes and takes places on a procedurally generated map. While initially, the world looks relatively normal before the timer runs out, gameplay becomes significantly harder when the apocalypse hits; as such, you can generally use the initial ‘normal minutes’ on the timer to gather resources and look for gears, before using the final minutes to take on stronger enemies that spawn due to the increasing chaos and escape back to the tower through the doorway. Destroying ‘chaos enemies’ can be beneficial too, since killing them adds some extra seconds to your timer, giving you more time to escape. However, be warned: if you wait too long to return to the tower through the doorway, you’ll be crushed by the chaos eventually. This means you lose the game, as well as any items you’ve obtained during a run. As such, collecting valuable items and gears within the time limit is crucial.
Enemies carrying gears will have a golden gear symbol floating above their heads, making it easy to see what foes you should be focussing on during a run. As soon as you’ve collected all gears in a particular area, you’ll have the option to take on the boss of that area, too. Defeating them will give you the final gear to upgrade The Wheel, and, in turn, unlock a brand new biome.
In total, Wizard with a Gun features four different biomes, which all come with different visuals and environmental hazards, and unique enemies and resources. There’s a forest biome, an ice biome, and a swamp biome, to name a few. To help you understand what each enemy, resource, and weapon in each biome does, you can use a feature known as the ‘first edition’, a magical book that allows you to scan different creatures and resources during runs. Every time you scan something, an entry will be added to the first edition, which, practically is a useful glossary of all enemies, characters, and crafting machines you’ll encounter.
This glossary will come in handy too, since you’ll need to craft different weapons and potions to traverse different biomes successfully. While initially, the crafting system can feel complex – you’ll need to scan resources, collect them, build dedicated crafting machines at your base, and then create different items – the first edition is a handy way to keep track of everything dynamically rather than having a bloated tutorial at the beginning of the game. That said, at times the number of things to keep track of can feel overwhelming, particularly if you’re not scanning everything in order.
That said, when you finally do grasp what everything does, the sheer variety of weapons, bullets, enemies, resources, and crafting machines is impressive: weapons and ammunition come with different effects ranging from fire, to ice, to water, to electricity. Combining them in different ways creates diverse spells, making combat in certain biomes easier. While explosive fire damage lets you damage multiple targets in one area, for example, bolts of electricity allow you to hit several targets quickly, which is handy when trying to extract resources or take out large numbers of enemies. Refining resources for different recipes can be done with different crafting machines that you can build in your tower. Again, there’s a lot of variety when it comes to crafting machines, and each one is unique when it comes to processing different resources: a furnace allows you to melt resources for example, while poisons need to be prepared in a cauldron. When it comes to crafting recipes, weapons, and resources, the combinations are endless. This, coupled with Wizard with a Gun’s procedurally generated maps, different biomes, and variety of enemies, makes it a fast-paced and enjoyable gameplay experience.
The only thing that holds the game back at times, is that character movement and reloading speed can be on the slower side. While some players might enjoy having to be mindful of the timing when it comes to reloading and dodging, this pace may not be for everyone. However, it does get easier when you play with a friend, and can be more strategic about approaching certain enemies together.
- Beautiful visuals and great soundtrack
- Engaging crafting mechanics and basebuilding
- Lots of variety in crafting recipes
- Great replay value through procedurally generated maps
- Steep learning curve
- Slow character movement may not appeal to all players
All in all, Wizard with a Gun offers players a thrilling foray into a magical version of the Wild Wild West. While there’s a lot to wrap your head around initially and the game does come with a steep learning curve, once you understand all the different crafting system, it’s a sheer joy to play, no matter whether you’re playing solo or with a friend. The fact that the game features procedurally generated maps adds greatly to the replay value of the stylish and satisfying experience that is Wizard with a Gun.