There never seems to be a deficit of first-person shooters in today’s self-absorbed market. Despite never seeing their feet or the lovely boots they just spent all their coins on in the lobby, players ’round the world have a fascination with experiencing the horrors of war through their own two eyes (sorry one-eyed players, hit the road). While a large portion of this market is devoted to modern or future warfare (with games like Modern Warfare), there never seems to be enough fan service for the guys and gals of the fantasy world. Enter Purgatory: War of the Damned, a mage-based fantasy FPS that pits wizard against wizard in a bloody, fast-paced brawl.
Step Aside, Dante Alighieri, This is My Purgatorio
Purgatory takes place in the limbo between heaven and hell (and no I don’t mean that space behind the fridge), transporting players through lakes of lava, abandoned castles, and disease-ravaged towns. Each player commands the powers of a soul trapped in Purgatory and must compete in a series of different match modes to increase their power and do…something else. There really isn’t much of a story past just being in Purgatory, and the only motivation to succeed appears to center around slaying players to gain experience to unlock new spells to better slay players to gain more experience to unlock more spells. Beyond that, it’s anyone’s guess as to why I’m here, dressed as that one sod from Darksiders.
Things to do While in Limbo
Purgatory’s gameplay solely revolves around varying degrees of match-based combat, following the style of the Battlefield and Call of Duty franchises (go ahead, argue for the story mode). You can fight anywhere from one to sixteen of your friends – if you have that many – in one vs one or group free-for-alls, or you can team up with a buddy and take on other fighters in team-based brawls. Since the game still wears the title of Early-Access like a drooping wizard hat, the online servers are consistently barren, but the game allows you to sub in bots for real friends, so the show can always go on.
With different match types come different styles of maps, which honestly don’t feel all that balanced. If you’re brave or twitchy enough to play one vs. one, prepare to find you and your sparring partner tit to tit in a tiny arena little bigger than a washing-machine box. Of the two available maps for the lonely person’s match mode, one is surrounded by lava and the other is enclosed by stone walls close enough to play racquetball off of. The free-for-all maps, which allow you to host up to sixteen fighters, are far more spread out and visually appealing, offering climbable platforms, physical barriers, and an abundance of places to run and hide in case you stub your toe and need a break.
I Don’t Need Ammo, I Have My Hands
Purgatory’s fighting mechanics proved to be fairly interesting, if not a bit frustrating towards the end. At the start of my first battle, I chucked a ball of green flames at my opponent, only to find he had cast the same spell. Our curses met in midair and dissipated, leaving us both unscathed but ready to fire again. I absolutely loved it! Where the magical blasts in most games can travel through space and time all willy-nilly, Purgatory gives you the chance to shield yourself with any spell you cast, straight-up Harry Potter Style. It actually felt like what five year-old me imagined wizard battles to be like, and I was in heaven. That is, until my opponent blocked the next fifty spells I fired at him. No matter how much I strafed or jumped or tried to angle my shots, he always blew his magical load the same time I did, resulting in a harmless implosion between us.
The game also equips you with a melee weapon, but I only found this to be effective if the player wasn’t looking directly at me. Getting close enough to an enemy mage was about as hard as doing your taxes while blind, and I found myself spamming my default spell until I could pick up some heavier firepower. Spellbooks are strewn about the map, probably by some schizophrenic librarian, and each one gives you a new spell with a limited number of uses (so I guess I do need ammo after all). These spells range from lightning blasts and fireballs to flaming phoenixes and floating skull bombs, but most can be countered if the opposing wizard does anything less than spam the default attack.
Ye Olde Magical Shoppe
The wanton murder of other souls during each fast-paced battle royale earns players a certain amount of experience and soul fragments, which can be spent in the lobby to unlock new spells (some of which you find around the maps), shiny melee weapons, magical jewelry, and armor. Most of the items are level-locked, and the price of each spell or wearable trinket is fairly hefty, so unlocking everything in the shop will take more than thirty minutes to achieve.
The Little Limbo That Could
Though the level design and spacing seems questionable at times, Purgatory‘s maps are actually very pretty. There isn’t much to interact with as of yet, but the details of the broken down store fronts and crumbling castles were actually fairly impressive. Sure, the game began to clip like an epileptic barber when I had too many bots parading around, but everything else ran smoothly if I kept the party down to a minimum.
All in all, Purgatory: War of the Damned, is a damn good work in progress. The one vs. one maps need to gain some weight, and the ability to constantly block spells needs to be re-addressed, but what Ironsun Studios has so far is an extremely fun operation. Sprinting across the map wielding a massive scythe and unlimited magical power in first-person perspective is oddly freeing, and quite a nice change from trudging about with a pack of grenades and an AK-47. Keep an eye out for the day Purgatory breaks free of Early-Access, and don’t forget: it’s “levio-saaaaaa!”
You can check out my first thirty minutes of play above and a collection of screenshots below!