Lost Magic Reader Review
This game is bloody frustrating! but only because it could have been so good!
Without the time limits on the battles/missions, this game would very easily have been an 8/10 (maybe even 8.5/10) game for me and I would have recommended it to anyone who liked the idea of an RTS/RPG/Monster-capturing hybrid game.
With the time limits on missions, this game is a 6/10 - maybe even a 5/10 depending how hard the later missions are going to get.
The underlying gameplay mechanics of capturing new monsters and using them in battles is very good, and the magic system and overall game is utterly compelling. One gripe IGN seemed to have was that your Mana (magic power) bar fills up kind of slowly but that's fine for me as it makes you use your magic strategically - which is kinda the point of the game, otherwise you'd easily win by spamming magic everywhere.
Also, the missions are quite tough - I got killed quite a few times but mostly that was my fault for not protecting my main character enough. Most missions I fail once or twice but that isn't a big deal for me - I like a strategic challenge.
However! Whichever games designer had the bright idea of putting time limits on the battle/missions is an idiot - it completely ruins the game for me!
I can understand why they did it - if there was no time limit you could just sit back after each little fight and regen then heal all your units... which could make it a bit too easy. However, I am generally a cautious games player - slow and steady wins the race for me, especially with strategy games. If I want to take my time to ensure victory I should be able to do so. The time limits are not made part of the storyline (as in Advance Wars or Fire Emblem - e.g. "survive for 20 turns until reinforcements arrive" etc.) - they are totally arbitrary and on many missions set a punishing pace. Failing a mission over and over again because you keep running out of time is bullshit - it forces you to play a mission in a specific way that the level designer dictates as that's the only way you can do it fast enough - which strips it of a large strategic challenge.
The reasons it frustrates me so much are: 1) Because I keep failing missions and it doesn't feel like it's through strategic error on my behalf 2) The times don't seem to have been set particularly realistically - some levels are stupidly fast especially as there are bonus chest and crystals to capture that effectively you have to ignore if you want to finish the level in time. There's no easy difficulty setting that allows you more time for the missions, otherwise I'd be playing it on that :-( If the time limits were generous I wouldn't mind, but I keep failing missions because I'm running out of time. 3) Timed missions punishes "poor/slow" players far too harshly, whereas there are plenty of other ways to apply time pressure WITHOUT forcing you to replay missions over and over again. e.g. they could do Advance Wars style mission rankings after each battle - where fast/efficient players get rewarded instead of poor/slow players being punished. 4) Strategy games are generally "slower" games than FPSs, platform games, shmups etc. - having a time limit means you don't have time to think/plan strategically on the fly, you have to find out the optimal way to do a mission by repeated trial and error and failing and restarting againa and again... :-(
Goddamnit - the problem is the underlying gameplay is fantastic! Stuff like levelling up your little monsters is great. Also, capturing mana crystals etc. during battle and the bonus chests are there to reward the completionist players, but the time limits seem to completely preclude being able to capture all the crystals and get all the bonus chests on certain levels.
I'm still playing through this as, apart from the time limits, it is good fun - but the stupid stupid time limits very much ruin the game and if it gets any more frustrating I think I'll end up taking it back.
Personally, I wouldn't recommend this game due to the frustrations I've described above. However, if you think you won't mind having to play a strategy game "fast", or you think I'm just crap at the game and you'd be a lot better at it ;-), then you may really really like it - like I said, the underlying gameplay has some fantastic hybrid ideas taken from RTS, RPG and monster-capturing games... it's just really frustrating for me :-(
5 / 10