Wizard with a Gun is a sandbox survival game developed by Galvanic Games and published by Devolver Digital, out now on Steam and launching October 18 on consoles. The game’s trailer sucked me in, but I was also keen to see what Galvanic had been up to since their previous title Some Distant Memory. I don’t usually judge a book by its cover, but with a name like Wizard with a Gun, I just had to dive right in. There are graphical elements from Some Distant Memory, and I am a sucker for an isometric game. The short 5-minute runs, which can be expected, meant I could hop in and hop out each night, craft some new bullets and try again the next night. It’s been a delight with a mix of genres and a satisfying gameplay loop, if only a little cumbersome in parts.
Starting with character customisation is simple but effective as you change the look of the faceless wizard. There’s hats, amulets, robes, gloves, boots, backpacks and masks, and you can also customise the colour of the eyes and their shape. You can make changes later once you arrive at the tower. Starting the game at a shipwreck and being a wizard without a gun at first, I could bash boxes and trees down to collect wood. Before long I met a character called Cryptomancer who explains there’s not much time left, and that we need to get into the tower to roll back time before chaos started wrecking things.
Progressing further we use space to dodge and come across a wizard with a book for a face that is firing projectiles at me. I started to dodge my way past it, but I realised his projectiles were blowing up stones and signposts around me, so I hung around for a bit longer, guiding his projectiles and picking up more resources. A great thing in games like this is to hold down ‘E’ and it swoops up all items nearby. More games need this simple mechanic! I found some apples that restored some of my health and then came across a fallen wizard. Cryptomancer explains I need arcana which can be obtained by fighting chaos. To do that though, I need to be a Wizard with a Gun!
This introduced me to the crafting tab where I could create my first wooden gun which every wizard knows how to make. Chaos monsters will drop arcana when they die, and I can twin-stick shoot with left mouse button while moving around. A couple of rifts open and chaos monsters spawned but were easily dispatched, dropping arcana in their wake. I repaired the doorway with arcana and then stepped through. Here I tethered my soul which connected a pathway forward and I picked up a book called The First Edition. We use this book to scan objects and learn more about them, allowing us to read more lore about the world and objects around us. We can upgrade it to scan more objects which provides us with recipes for crafting.
I next come across a building called the wheel which is a god machine and can roll back time, but we need to find gears to be able to use it. Other buildings can be scanned such as the arcana bank, arcane annihilator, research mechana and sewing mechana, as examples. Once I found enough gears, I went back to use the wheel, and this resets the Shatter world. Going through the doorway takes you on an expedition. You are warned that if you die in an expedition, you will drop everything you had in your backpack.
The first expedition in Wizard with a Gun introduces us to Hilda who has been doing the job before we came along. She showed me a loading bench which is where you can craft bullets and powders that have various elemental effects, however I needed to build one in the tower because once I leave here, the shatter will change and destroy everything there with no return. The basic bullet type we can craft is the destruction bullet which does direct damage. We can research more bullet types back in the tower using the research mechana that must be fixed using metal scraps and wood. The first tier of bullets is burning, freezing, poisoning and charming, and there are four research tiers for these. Weapons can hold two lots of ammo each, so you can use two different ammo types to enhance the magical effects and do more damage to monsters, especially as they get higher levels.
We also learn how to make the worldbuilder, a gun that allows us to build furniture in the tower, and a groundlayer, a gun that allows us to build floor tiles and cross gaps to places that were previously unreachable. Back at the tower, I used the ancient gear to rollback time on the wheel which gave me a 5-minute timer and a warning that chaos is breaking apart the world. Once I entered the next expedition, the timer started so I had to loot resources, kill chaos monsters, find more gears, and get back to the tower before the timer ran down. Thankfully killing a chaos rift adds 30 seconds back onto the clock, and later if you kill a larger chaos rift, it adds 3 minutes to the clock so you can extend your time out in the expedition to get more loot.
One gripe I have here is that we need to scan enemies to learn new things about them and how to defeat their kind, however it requires you to hold the first edition book and scan them, all while they’re attacking you. If you get hit, your scan resets, so it can be an irritating time trying to scan the first of each monster type you come across before you can kill it which is a little cumbersome. The speed at which we slowly knock down hitpoints out of trees, stones and structures means time gets away from me pretty quickly. Once the timer gets to 0, meteors start falling and chaos rifts open up much more often as the chaos monsters attempt to overwhelm you. It’s a good idea to build map knowledge and know the easiest path back to the doorway to return to the tower, because if you die then you lose everything and have wasted that run (aside from any scans/research you did).
While Wizard with a Gun can be played solo, games like this are always more fun with a mate and you can play the game in 2-player online co-op only. This means you can’t play local couch co-op nor have more than two in the game – sorry third wheelers! Co-op will increase the difficulty by facing greater numbers of chaos monsters. There’s a really cool thing that happens if one of you dies though. The other player becomes a ghost and can freely run around to try scare the monsters away from the other player. You’ll need to then find a resurrection altar so they can be resurrected and get back to the fight. No progression is saved for the person joining the host’s game, so their own game progress will be unaffected.
Overall, Wizard with a Gun has some great concepts and there’s a balance to be found between going on runs and returning to the tower to spend time researching and crafting new bullet types. The fact that’s it’s roguelite in nature and runs are only 5-minutes on average means you can do a couple of runs and feel like you achieved something. There’s steady progression as you scan/research new monsters and work on upgrading and fusing ammo types for the best damage output. A very creative idea for a game and has been executed well.
This review utilised keys provided by Devolver Digital and Wizard with a Gun is available now on Steam and October 18 for consoles.