Ultimagus has the look, feel and sound of an old arcade game you’d play as a kid in the early 80s for 25cents. And I am sure that back then it would have hit the spot in terms of difficulty and challenge. Being a 2D, pixel hack and slash shooter (I do not really see it as tower defense honestly), it does well in evoking the shooter arcade games of the time.
However, it’s 2017 and I was expecting more. I enjoy difficult and complicated games, I’ve sunken countless hours in Dwarf Fortress, I rarely start a game on anything below hard difficulty, and will keep trying until I can master the product! But the basic need to be fun! And I struggled to find the fun in Ultimagus.
You start off on a plain looking plain, with only one spell at your disposal, Fireball. Very little is explained to you, which is fine, you hit Q and shoot the oncoming skeletons – nothing horribly complicated. If they make it past you (into the village?) you lose health, if enough make it past, you lose the battle and are brought back to the main screen.
The controls are easy enough, keyboard only, QWE for your spell selection (though honestly the fact that the spell boxes are labeled 1, 2, 3 was confusing) and Enter to confirm selections. Moving is done with the arrow keys, and your character is extremely slow. Aiming the Fireballs is hard, and there is no forgiveness on that part if it’s a fraction over the skeleton sprite, you missed.
You have a reserve of energy per spell instead of the usual mana bar for all. Which means that if you spam your Fireball, after a while you cannot shoot for a few seconds while this spell’s energy regenerates. This on its own would be fine, but as you need to hit around 5 Fireballs to kill a single of the easiest skeleton, mixed with the aiming difficulty, the game becomes insanely difficult too quickly.
Theoretically you have other spells at your disposal, 20 or so from what I have seen in the game. But you need money to buy new spells, and money only comes if you manage to kill and succeed at your missions (if you fail a battle, you do get a few coins, but it’s quite the grind). I found the other spells not very useful. The earth wall needs does no damage and is there only to reroute the enemies, which could be tactical if there wasn’t a bug allowing the skeletons to squeeze past the wall and the edge of the map. For my third spell, I chose a summon knight which unfortunately seems too stupid to really stop any skeleton unless they are directly in front of them.
I wanted to like this little game, but the 8bit sound was ear grinding, there didn’t seem to have been any gameplay balancing, and after a few minutes it felt simply tedious to play with little to no rewards for the struggles.
4/10 – a neat idea which requires a lot more polishing. Making small games shouldn’t be an excuse to forgo basic fun!
Recommend: give the initial skeletons a lot less life, let your players succeed at a few maps before pumping up the difficult monsters, rethink some of the spells to make them more situational and helpful.