Augmented Reality games got in the center of public attention with Pokemon GO, which took over the world by storm. Since then, developers competed in that new area of gaming, trying to find the ideal formula for augmented reality. Players have been pelted with dozens of various games in different genres, but soon the schtick began to fade when developers realized AR needs a very different type of game mechanics compared to usual mobile games.
Enter Ondrej Tokar, Denmark based game developer with a knack for the Harry Potter universe. After visiting England and seeing Harry Potter studios, Tokar got the idea to bring that magnificent world to reality. The best way to do that is to add fantastic elements to the real world and make an AR mobile game. By the way, this happened two years before the huge success of Pokemon Go. During the making of the game, Tokar and his team were walking a fine legal line. They were careful never to say Maguss was an official Harry Potter game, while still blatantly marketing the idea to Harry Potter fans. This wasn’t just a way to get more people excited about the game: Tokar wanted to get Warner Bros.’ attention, even if it came in the form of a cease-and-desist.
There are noticeable connections between the Harry Potter universe and Maguss. They both take place in a magical world that overlays the real one, magic sticks are very important tools, and you have four different houses which are appropriately color coded. But no, this is not Harry Potter GO. The biggest difference between Harry Potter games and Maguss are that the latter was funded by a Kickstarter campaign, which was very much successful, to add. I guess Harry Potter fans wanted a good game that won’t be a money grabbing scheme. Add to that the Maguss Wand, the device that serves as your, well, magic wand, the crucial item of every wizard. This lanky device helps you cast spells, brew potions, and fight monsters. It’s Bluetooth compatible, completely customizable, and lasts for 48 hours in one charge.
The full abbreviation for the Maguss’ genre affiliation would be ARMMORPG, or Augmented Reality Massively Multiplayer Role-Playing Game. This slightly stacked expression is easiest to explain as a game about wizardry in real life. In this game, you explore your neighborhood to collect ingredients and fight monsters. But that doesn’t mean you have to go out and walk 5 miles to catch ultra rare fairy duster or whatever item there is. You can play the game and build your skills quite comfortably from your home or around the block.
Speaking of skills, there are eight of them to level up. They are player level, Sorcery, Herbolore, Conjuration, Brewing, Incantations, Exploration, and Dark Arts. Those skills aren’t equally difficult to master, some are much more difficult, but it mostly depends on your playstyle. There are no inferior and superior skills since every one of them matters and has different perks. For example, Brewing might seem meaningless at the beginning, but during the higher level battles you’ll figure out that potions are crucial. The team listened to the player community and made Exploration, previously the slowest skill to level up, upgradeable by walking.
With different skills come different spells. These spells could be sorted into six main categories. Offensive spells are the most harmful, and are honed to bring pain and damage on those targeted. Defensive magic is all about maintaining safety by absorbing, negating, blocking, and redirecting harmful effects. Utility spells are commonly used by wizards and witches to aid them in everyday tasks, such as mixing potions, opening doors, and unlocking treasure chests. Summoning spells call forth loyal monster servants to aid a witch or wizard in battle. Summoned monsters are temporary and less powerful than tamed creatures. Beneficial effects and self-improving buffs fall within the ‘Charms’ category. These helpers can mend wounds, provide insight, and grant resilience against some of the most harmful magical effects. And finally, the Curses. The nastiest of spells fall within this category, those used to bring harm, paralyze, and even rob the opponent of their spellcasting ability, they are named like that for a good reason.
When fighting, the heat and slot system doesn’t allow players to just spam the same spell over and over, forcing the player to develop strategies and adapt them according to the opponent. As you level up and unlock more spells, strategy becomes more and more important, although it’s pretty significant at the beginning too. The spell Trick, which can be unlocked from the start, allows you to damage your opponent before he can heal, for example.
There’s a free to play element in the form of Magic Dust, which is a purchasable currency, but it doesn’t provide any advantage over free users, except looking prettier. As a matter of fact, if you decide to slay monsters, you’ll eventually be swimming in gold like Scrooge McDuck without having to spend a single dollar on the game.
The monster spawning algorithm is really well made, unlike the one in Pokemon Go, which spawned fewer monsters in rural areas. Maguss evenly distributes monsters across the entire world. You don’t have to worry if you live far from the city. The only places without monsters are those without a connection.
Maguss also has many features you’d expect from an MMORPG, such as grinding, which is always optional; you can buy good gear from the shop, but if you’re aiming for the top, you’ll have to grind mobs for the highest tiers and best gear. With this recent update, you can also choose to try and kill Champion monsters, but it’s advisable to tread very carefully into that territory since those monsters offer a real challenge. Expect to be completely obliterated by creatures half your level.
With so, so many new features planned (dungeons, fortresses, beasts, companions, co-op, Wandering Björn, runestones lore quests, advanced player progression, QoL, and more), this game is a very refreshing take on the wizardry world that’s not just trying to get players addicted and swindle them for money. This is a genuinely fun, well made, extraordinarily charming AR game. I guess in the future we’ll see a lot of people with mobile phones swinging wands in the middle of the street
+Wizardry game done right – Too similar to a certain franchise
+Technically well made – the Uneven balance of skills
+Monster distribution done right
+Developers actually listen to the community
+F2P elements are insignificant