How Metroidvania is it? Low Fit. Mask of Mists is open, there's backtracking, and you need a couple of weapon upgrades to get through the game. It's not heavy with the ability gating though- instead it's more item gated. More Zelda-like.
Primary Challenge: Spatial-Reasoning Puzzles
Time to beat: ~5 hours
Review Info: The Steam review code for Mask of Mists was provided by the developer.
Buy Mask of Mists if you like…
- Spatial Reasoning Puzzles
- Exploring in First Person
- Zelda Style Dungeons
- Relaxing Games
▼ Review continues below ▼
In Mask of Mists the Archmage of the Acadamy has gone missing, and it’s up to you to wander the countryside looking for clues on how to find him. What follows is a pretty fun and relaxing little quest that plays a little like if you combined Myst and The Legend of Zelda. You will be picking up objects and crafting potions to solve puzzles, and you will be diving into gimmick–based dungeons to activate MacGuffins. “Basic” is the word I’m going to be working hard to avoid repeating too much in this review, but it’s also the word that best describes Mask of Mists. It’s a good game, and I think you’ll have a good time with it, but it lacks value beyond the two or three restful evenings you might derive from it.
Mask of Mists’ atmosphere is its best asset. It’s pleasant to just wander its landscape. Between its soft colors and traditional music, becoming immersed is fairly easy. There aren’t many NPCs to pollute the air with their voices, nor is there any sense of urgency pushing you along – at least after you’ve cleared any given room. If you’ve been looking for a game that might put you into a good mood right before going to bed, Mask of Mists is a great candidate.
One of the biggest criticisms against the Adventure Game genre actually works to Mask of Mists’ benefit because of its atmosphere. Adventure games usually have you collecting objects that effectively act as keys for other parts of the world, which generally means you’re spending more time searching for the object than you are logically solving a puzzle. We used to call this “find the pixel puzzles.” In Mask of Mists it might occasionally get a little frustrating if you can’t find that one burnt patch of grass or the exact location of a key, but for the most part exploring by itself is still quite rewarding. I didn’t mind traipsing through the same forest over and over because that forest was rather pretty to look at. Besides that though the game opens up fairly rapidly, almost to the point where the number of options can be overwhelming. While by the strictest definition of “Metroidvania” Mask of Mists might fall a little short for lack of ability gating, but if you simply like exploring and finding neat things, this game definitely delivers.
An interesting way Mask of Mists keeps its world open is by making some gates be based on potions rather than specific keys. This is sort of the same concept as the bombs in the original Zelda, except that the ingredients are strictly limited. As an example, one of the potions you can craft destroys rust, and you might be able to use that potion in multiple locations in order to progress. You’re eventually going to want to use all of the rust removal potions you can make but you may only have enough to choose one of a couple of options. Not pigeonholing the player into brute forcing a difficult puzzle gives them the opportunity to wander off and try something else the game has to offer before coming back with a clearer head. Puzzles include picture location scavenger hunts, finding simple passwords to input into some console, and both visual and word-based riddles. They never get too difficult, but they had just enough bite to them that I did find myself stumped on a few of them.
The Zelda-like dungeons follow a more basic spatial reasoning premise. Each one has a specific idea that it permutes throughout, such as moving platforms, or rooms that rapidly fill with gas. Every gimmick is repeated at least three times with each repetition becoming more complex than the previous. It’s a good formula which works really well, and it helps to keep each dungeon distinct even though they all use the same basic textures from an aesthetic standpoint. In addition to acquiring the dungeon’s required MacGuffin there is also a hidden mask in each that tests your observation skills more thoroughly.
Where Mask of Mists might be improved the most is with its combat. For someone who has played a lot of video games and is familiar with some of the more common design tropes, the combat is laughably easy. Enemies are slow and lumbering, and you are swift. Face the enemies head on, and you’ll be receiving a lot of damage, but none of the enemies can handle the all-powerful circle strafe. There’s a dodge button but you almost don’t need it as long as you can exploit the enemy AI. On the other hand, players who come into Mask of Mists without having mastered other action games may be in trouble. There seems to be a strict limit to all of the items in this game, so every potion and bullet you use puts you slightly closer to a dead-game where you’ve run out of supplies. There is no location that just heals you fully, so in a sense you have one really long health bar for the entire game and once that’s expended you’re basically out of luck. If you get that point you’re not likely going to be able to no-damage the final boss. Again, for most players this may not be a big deal, but I do have adventure game fan friends who aren’t too keen on dexterity challenges. Even the basic enemies in Mask of Mists put a slight burden on who I can recommend this game to, and they’re not interesting enough to please combat fans as a feature by themselves. I don’t want to overemphasize this criticism though. The enemies are not bad by any means and they do serve the purpose of cleansing your pallet after solving a puzzle. For most players their existence is probably a net positive – it just might be good to have a mode that turns them off or a fail safe in case you do use all your potions.
Other than the combat, the biggest problem Mask of Mists has to face is relevancy in a saturated market. A few slideshow images at the beginning and the end of the game isn’t going to get anyone pumped for adventure in the same way as Link waking up from a doomsday nightmare in Ocarina of Time did. Mask of Mists’ more muted and relaxing atmosphere may be its greatest asset, but it’s also not particularly memorable. I want its theming be stronger but it’s hard to put my finger on exactly what should be changed to get there. Inserting more urgency to resurrecting the Archmage – like maybe by giving your main character a terminally ill significant other that only the Archmage can cure – might detract from the appealing slower pacing that the game’s puzzles currently have. Perhaps the best means of making a game like Mask of Mists stand out would be to add more environmental storytelling and lore that the players would have to really dig at to unearth. Having an interesting mystery beneath the surface would get people really talking about the game. For what it actually has to offer I think the general response is going to be a mere “yeah it’s pretty good.”
Good solid game design makes for a good solid game, which the best and most positive way I can describe Mask of Mists. While the combat isn’t anything spectacular, it has a fun and relaxing world to explore with interesting puzzles to solve. It doesn’t have anything in it that feels overtly derivative, but at the same time it lacks the kind of flair needed to make it stand out. Besides not having the kind of masterpiece accreditation to give it a “must play” recommendation, its five hour length may also be off-putting to some. Personally though, I think the length is something that actually works in Mask of Mists’ favor. You don’t have to commit to an epic quest that will take you months to complete – possibly consuming your thoughts when you should be focusing on other things. There’s plenty of room in our lives for a game that you play once just to escape and relax, and for that purpose Mask of Mists fills the role very well.
As basic as it gets for a first person melee game. Circle strafing cheeses out enemies so that the dodge button barely matters. Fun but basic.
There is platforming, but it's not a heavy focus even if it could be included on Mask of Mist's list of challenges
While as you gain more access the the world it gets more overwhelming, simply immersing yourself in the game is the best part
Puzzles are overall pretty basic, but there are a couple of good head scratchers to be had.
''Basic'' applies to the story as well. It's simple and straight forward.
The aesthetic is appealing and helps make the game world feel relaxing to be in.
Fairly generic with some songs that you'll get tired of, but atmospheric enough to accomplish what it needs to
It wouldn't be the most interesting to solve puzzles twice, but you can do the last half of the dungeons in any order, thus routing a speedrun may be fun to do, even if the game lacks rewards for doing so.
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All Time: Very Positive
(89% of 65 Reviews)