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Rage of Mages

Rage of Mages
PC, 1998


Rage of Mages is a real-time strategy role playing game where you move characters around a map to complete the quest and return to town, rinse, repeat. Start with either a mage or warrior and assemble a small band of archers, mages and swordspersons, occasionally supplemented by mercenary horsemen, catapults and macewielders. From the town of Plagat you wander the island of Uimoir, a series of maps, each one corresponding to a quest for either money or more fabulous treasure. As you come closer to finally saving the land, increasingly powerful weapons and spells are at your disposal. Manage your adventurer/soldiers by clicking and arranging them to fight a range of foes in forests, mountains and deserts. Think small army tactics in a magical medieval setting.

If the single player grows tiresome, find a server from rageofmages.com and hook up for a multiplayer match. Your characters are saved online though - so don't expect to use your highly trained mage professionals to swiftly defeat your new virtual friends.


Rage of Mages is a study in role playing game cliches. There is a distant land facing a new threat from a demon foe from another world. Brave warriors and brilliant mages have lined up to fight it, but all have been beaten. You, a lowly foreigner, are cast into the midst of this conflict with only your wits and a sword or staff to make your way and save everyone.

Men are burly and caucasian unless they are mages, and then they have beards. Women are more slight and vaguely elfin. Tall towers hold robed wizards with dusty tomes that contain the secrets to the next level of buttkicking sorcery. Dragons command fearsome magic and scare whole villages packed with helpless idiots begging for your assistance.

What's surprising here is how well Rage of Mages holds these elements together. What could have been a dry rehersal of role playing convention is instead a quaint adventure you might find yourself coming back to, if only to see the little surprises.

shopping Rage of Mages really shines when you go shopping. In each episode of the mostly linear plotline you accumulate treasure. Afterwards, you visit the one store in the one town to sell 16 iron short swords and 23 leather boots to finally afford that fine meteoric mace +7 fire damage you've been eyeing. Equipping that glowing piece of rock armament is reward enough - your character portrait on the right side of the screen is immediately seen brandishing it amidst their other glorious raiment. While the bucklers and broadshields of your warriors are thoughtfully rendered, the mage attire sets a new high standard in role playing game fashion. Mages are permitted to wear a robe, cape, boots, gloves and a hat. The colour options include bright yellow, fuscia, deep blue, purple and lime green. How about a lime green cape and an orange robe set off by some yellow gloves and a turban with a pink brooch? I don't get to dress like this at home - this is true fantasy escapism! Rage of Mages is the first game where characters don't simply wear their gear - they get pimped up to go do battle!

Besides the few characters in town and the fashion show, there are some other homey touches, most notably the nearly hilarious voice dubs. "Yes?" the burly deep-voiced RPG bo-hunk asks when you click on him, "Understood." "Ready" says the mage in a steady, late-night-cable fantasy movie gravel, "it will be so." The other characters you control (mercenaries mostly) have similarly direct and archetypical catch phrases, but little else to say. The monsters do make funny noises; trolls grunt, bats squeak, rabid squirrels gnash and snarl.

battle time Other than these design flourishes, the gameplay and interface aren't particularly noteworthy. The meat of the game is a series of visits to self-contained mission maps. So you have to find the amulet of the ancient krusty turtle - you visit a mountain range surrounding a pond and meet a villager with a paunch from nearby who is terrified of turtles and offers to guide you around the map. You explore every pixel because in some pocket of map-darkened darkness there might lurk another bag of loot. As soon as you have found the appropriate trinket after saving and reloading to figure out how exactly best to attack the final colony of hulking mutant reptiles you are rewarded with a return trip to the town from which you started. Once in town there are three options: visit the bar and hire any of a range of warriors-for-hire or talk to someone about potential quests; visit the shop and buy and sell beautiful things; or visit the training grounds and further refine your team of whup-ass.

cool sword upgrade If I make it sound like a less-than-ideal interactive experience, well, it's because Rage of Mages simply hinges on the true goal of most role playing games: getting the cool crystal sword upgrade for a character who can relentlessly attack that troll from behind a wall and accumulate experience while avoiding being hit. There's little honour here, mostly solving quests to get better toys to see more pyrotechnics and all the while keeping loose track of the usual fantasy rambling "plot" about wizards and devils and amulets and good and evil.

Playing Rage of Mages makes you realize how unusual a role playing game like "Ultima VI" is - where characters actually have faces and names and you have a relatively free range of motion to establish relationships with them and learn and prosper according to your relationship management. The emphasis in the Allods, home of Rage of Mages, is on looking good and positioning a band of RPG based characters in a strategic real time resource and small unit troop allocation simulation against a repeating series of generally faceless foes.

And there are worse things to do with your time.

published in part on WildWeb Games

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