It used to be that every so often while scrolling through Steam’s “New Releases” tab, I’d happen across a new game that piques my interest. Unfortunately, it has become so rare these days that I had all but given up on finding something unique. Just as I was ready to abandon all hope of finding something new, that niggling sense of hope latched on like a lost child, and tugged at my sleeve, begging me to go on. So, I did, for old time’s sake, I suppose. That’s when I stumbled across Magellania, a game that is quickly becoming one of my all-time favourites.
Magellania is a turn-based tactical role-playing game in which you take on the role of Lofty, the dark prince of Pluto, who’s a little more than peeved that no one attended his birthday party. So, as it is the only reasonable thing to do in a situation such as this, you go and invade all of the other planets to force their leaders to come to your party and eat (what is surely stale by the end of your conquesting) cake.
“The overall visual design is outstanding and well worth the entry price alone.”
The first thing to draw me to Magellania was its gorgeous art style; it is exceptional. It’s entirely unique while still feeling familiar, a combination difficult to achieve yet clearly on display here. It simultaneously evokes feelings of Alice In Wonderland and Persona while being its own individual style, one that is both light-hearted and darkly-charming in tone. I love the combination of clown-like imagery mixed with the playing-card aesthetic. It makes for some incredibly unusual character design.
And oh boy is there a lot of it! There’s a ton of units to choose from, each with its own individual look. From the Hisoka-wannabe Matchlock unit to the chilled-out hipster Slayer unit, there are so many ideas at play here, yet they all congeal to create a believable and fleshed out world. Each planet you explore is completely different too, and while they all share certain traits, they each have their own theme and style. Each planet also has its a colour variant of the standard design, and once you beat that planet, you’ll be able to recruit from their colour variant pool.
The overall visual design is outstanding and well worth the entry price alone. It’s complemented by a phenomenal soundtrack that, while not entirely memorable, makes each battle and exploration segment more impactful and enjoyable. It contributes to the overall game instead of stealing the show, which is preferable in a game of this nature. If it’s ever purchasable on its own, I will be the first to buy it!
“Badges attempt to switch up the gameplay and add a spot of replay value to the whole affair.”
Fortunately, Magellania has more going for it than its spectacular visuals. It has also got incredibly engrossing and engaging gameplay. The premise is simple; each side will take it in turns to move their units and attack one another. Some combat encounters will have specific rules attached to them, such as “beat the enemy in 5 turns”, and others will be more boss-oriented. There’s the usual rock-paper-scissors mechanic here, although it’s not as obvious as, say, Fire Emblemis. Instead, it’s all based on stats. For example, a unit with a lower Res stat, like the Knight unit, will be weaker against a magic-based unit. However, this doesn’t mean that your Knight unit will forever be susceptible to magic-based attacks.
In Magellania, some badges attempt to switch up the gameplay and add a spot of replay value to the affair. If you’re worried about your Knight being too susceptible to magic-based attacks, then you can equip badges to navigate around that issue. Some badges will give the unit a special ability, allowing a melee-focused unit to counter-attack a ranged unit.
Other badges focus specifically on stat-buffs, such as increasing your defence by 3, or your health by 5. This adds a little bit of replay value as badges are dropped randomly, and the store that sells them sells three on rotation, so you’ll never get the same sequence of badges each time. You can also equip multiple badges to each unit, so it allows for a decent amount of customisation of your soldiers. Your units aren’t the only ones that can use badges, in fact, the enemy uses them quite extensively the more you play. This not only switches up proceedings but ramps up the difficulty without just throwing more and more enemies at you.
“I loved every second of the story and felt endeared to all of the characters.”
Magellania knows how to keep its audience interested. For the most part, Magellania is broken up into three segments. There is the narrative, the battles, and then a brief bit of exploration that allows you to revisit battle locations and talk to NPCs there. While this could have gotten repetitive quite quickly for the same reasons All Walls Must Fall did, it’s fortunately saved by innovative game design.
New units and combat mechanics are slowly drip-fed to the player, meaning that battles never felt stale, and the narrative is always switching it up with new characters to interact with. As the locations change quite quickly, and as each has its own distinct visual style and occasionally music, it never feels dull to explore each planet. There’s a ton of other great gameplay mechanics within Magellania, such as the combo system that’s introduced a little way into the game, but I don’t feel like spoiling them all here.
Speaking of the narrative, I feel it’s fair to say it’s a little on the wacky side. That’s not to say Magellania’s narrative is bad, far from it, it’s just bonkers. The dialogue and interactions between characters are really well written and genuinely made me chuckle. Everything about the over-the-top narrative reminded me of anime like Beelzebub or cartoons like Steven Universe. Not so much in terms of content, but just in terms of having weird characters, worlds and story-arcs.
I loved every second of the story and felt endeared to all of the characters. Probably my favourite bit is set on Mars when Lofty encounters the Fatal Four. They all have ridiculous names such as Bones McDeath. So when Lofty encounters yet another member, he sarcastically asks if their name is “Shadow Doom Laser”, to which they respond “My… brother is named Shadow Doom Laser….” Made me chuckle.
“I know that Early Access is often synonymous with unfinished content, but I can assure you that this game has all its content in ship shape.”
There are very few issues with Magellania, so few in fact that it seems silly to comment on them, but alas, such is the nature of responsible games journalism. There’s only really one major issue with Magellania, and it’s that you can’t restart battles. If you’re losing horribly, your only course of action is to see the fight until the bitter end. This means you’re stuck watching your poor defenceless clowns getting massacred with very little recourse. If you want to exit out of the battle, your only option is to quit the whole game entirely, which while annoying, is really only inconvenient at most.
It is worth noting that this game is in Early Access. I know that Early Access is often synonymous with bugs, glitches, and unfinished content, but I can assure you that it has all its content in ship shape. It really means that if Studio Land, the developer behind Magellania, fancies changing this feature, they can do so under the guise of it being Early Access.
The only other issue worth noting was the lack of ability to pan the camera in battles using WASD. But, genuinely, this is the very worst offender that I can think of. Magellania is so well polished, refined in its ambition and mechanics, that it never feels unfinished, or broken. Sure, it has its quirks, but it’s not anything worth banging on about. I feel bad even outlining these minor faults, but I’d be doing a disservice to my profession if I didn’t.
Magellania is an incredible game made with a lot of passion. The art and character design is phenomenal and helps create a distinct universe that is a lot of fun to explore. Each world you visit is fleshed out both in terms of visual design and in terms of lore, and always has fun secrets to discover. The combat does a lot to make itself stand-out, and never feels repetitive thanks to the slow-yet-steady introduction of new mechanics and units across the game. To top off the whole experience, you have a funny, charming, and, heart-warming narrative that engaged me the entire time. I can't recommend Magellania enough, and I'm so glad I stumbled across it! This truly is a diamond in the rough.