Many people made an aesthetic connection between Galvanic Games' Wizard with a Gun and Klei Entertainment's 2013 hit Don't Starve, but like many shorthand comparisons it left a lot out. Yes, there is a similar mix of heavily shadowed, 2D cartoon artistic design and a world on a 3D plane, but that doesn't capture the Bastion-esque apocalyptic tone or the bulletsmithing system that reminds me more of Oblvion's spell crafting than anything. There's a lot more to Wizard with a Gun than surface comparisons to other games, or even it's own terse name, might suggest.
The set up is this: the world has been all but consumed by a force of chaotic pink energy. In order to have anything to save, you'll need to turn back the clock with an ancient time machine. This gives you five minutes to go out and explore whats left before chaos arrives and destroys it all over again, forcing you to scamper back to your conveniently atemporal wizard's tower. Time running out isn't a hard game over state though, as long as you can survive against the unending waves of floor-destroying eyeballs you can stay and farm them for a useful Resource. Just watch out you don't lose your path back home.
Helpfully, you can keep turning back time as many times as you like, but to turn it back further to a time when there was more land remaining, you'll need to slot more gears into your machine. These gears increase the amount of land available to explore. The larger ones held by true bosses will unlock entirely new biomes with new resources.
So that's your core gameplay loop. Go out and gather resources to craft equipment, use the equipment to kill bosses for gears, then use gears to unlock new lands to gather resources from. It's a lean system and one that was clearly established early in the game's design, but there's enough progression and interesting mechanics with the guns that it never feels stale. Which is good because "shoot it with a gun" is your primary method of interacting with the world.
Other than your crafting gun, floorlaying gun, and your codex (essentially a gun that scans things), there are only a few types of guns to choose from, but you can carry up to 6 in your quickslots and more in your backpack should you choose. There are SMG's, shotguns, even a mortar later on, but while that doesn't sound like the greatest range it ends up being plenty when each gun can carry two sets of bullets. And in Wizard with a Gun, it's in the bullets that the real magic happens.
There's a huge range of different bullets with different effects spread across several schools of research, each being modified by the bullet's level, the gun firing it, and the powder it's infused with. Fire bullets predictably set things on fire, while ice bullets slow them and sometimes freeze enemies outright. Later you can get more esoteric effects like bullets that push or heal, while powders can add elemental trails, speed up or slow down your bullets, or even pause and then magnify physical effects on enemies like Breath of the Wild's stasis ability.
This shines in multiplayer, where one player can focus on dousing enemies in oil before another ignites them with fire bullets, or soak them with water before freezing or electrocuting them. It's still certainly do-able in solo play, but it's slightly trickier since you'll only be able to fire one type of bullet at a time, they'll share space in the magazine clip, and swapping to a new gun does take a hot second.
But one of the really interesting things, at least to me, was that these interactions weren't limited to combat, but also played into resource gathering and crafting. For example, shooting a tree with fire bullets will get you some always-useful charcoal as well as regular wood, but using poison on it will get you poisoned wood chunks that will come in handy later. But crafting the bullets to harvest materials will require materials themselves, so you've also got to consider which bullets crack open which resources most efficiently. Wizard with a Gun never gets so complicated that you'll need to break out the spreadsheets, you can always just brute force things with your regular bullets after all, but it's a nice little element of depth that can speed up your resource gathering. I found ice bullets to be useful against several early game resources, but finding the items to upgrade them was tricky until much later.
There are a few snags in this otherwise compelling cycle. Wizard with a Gun still suffers from the age old crafting game problem of where to put all the resources you're hauling back to base, and even letting crafting stations pull from adjacent chests won't prevent you from having to sort through all your tiny boxes of assorted bric-a-brac. Back on the combat side of things, your bullets are graded by level and won't affect objects or enemies with too high armour. It's a better alternative to bloated healthbars but it still feels annoyingly artificial, especially if you've invested in making your level 1 bullets more efficient, and now have to change them out for new ones.
But other than a few small quibbles, Wizard with a Gun is remarkably successful at creating a lean but compelling gameplay cycle, with a lot of experimentation to be done between all your options for bullets, guns and special effects. The presentation has a moody edge to it, without being too dark, while the mix of 2D and 3D never rarely becomes difficult to navigate like I feared it might. Even the story, while mostly an unobtrusive backdrop to the gameplay, still contains plenty of interesting little nuggets that help build up the broken world you are exploring. If you and a friend both like crafting and shooting, Wizard with a Gun is an immediate recommendation. But if you're solo, honestly that recommendation doesn't become any less glowing.
Wizard with a Gun is available now for PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X/S with a Nintendo Switch version planned for later release.
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