I believe more than any other gaming platform out there that VR players come to the platform for a particular experience. Some people love interactive puzzle games and for that, VR has options in spades. Others want to be able to bring all those first-person shooters they have played for years and there are now tons of options for VR shooters as well. The least plentiful game type in the VR world though is the fantasy RPG. While there is Skyrim VR and Asgard’s wrath, those are pretty much the only two games in VR that qualify for that position. Luckily, we have another contender for a fantasy RPG of your choice in the form of The Wizards: Dark Times. The first game was a nice little RPG in itself, but it was a rather short experience and felt at times that it was more of a demo of what a larger, more fully realized VR fantasy RPG would look like. The Wizards: Dark Times is a step up from the original in every single way and is a pretty fun way to get a magical workout going in your headset.
You start out the Wizards: Dark Times in a somewhat lengthy tutorial that teaches you how everything works. While this is normally a bit of a pain to slog through, here it is definitely necessary as there is a bit more involved in the systems of the game than you might initially assume. See, in this game, magic isn’t simply activated by pressing a button, nope, that’s not what VR is all about. Here, you will be doing actual gestures with your hands in order to summon your powers. To create a fireball, you hold the trigger in one hand and twist your hand over to summon the flame. It’s a fun, but powerful feeling mechanic that lends real weight to what you are doing. To get your shield out, you hold the trigger and then draw your hand from your shoulder to the front of you in order to get it to activate. This can be a bit unwieldy at first, but the more that you play, the more these gestures becomes second nature. It really feels like you are becoming a Wizard as you master these different spells, so serious kudos for creating this sort of immersion. There are 11 spells in total to master, so there is a lot to keep in mind when it comes to your muscle memory here. The spells aren’t all just ranged attacks either as you can summon melee weapons to do battle with as well. Throughout the game, you will fight all different kinds of magical creatures and the enemy designs are pretty fantastic and help set the tone for this decidedly darker adventure than the first game.
What it Feels Like to Play
This is not a fully open-world experience, but rather a linear adventure that is broken up into levels. The levels all flow nicely into each other, letting you know you’re going deeper and deeper towards the source of the deadly plague moving throughout the land. The gameplay is broken up into fighting segments, climbing segments, and puzzle segments. The climbing is particularly noteworthy as there are some great mechanics here and you will have to work pretty hard to get to your destination. Graphically, the experience is just gorgeous and lets you see a glimpse into the future of what this genre could produce. It isn’t the longest experience, but it’s a fun one that asks something different of you than most games in the genre. As far as magic systems go in VR games, The Wizards: Dark Times has created what should be the golden standard going forward.
What will keep you Playing?
The adventure isn’t all that long, coming in at about 5 hours, but there is plenty of fun to be had here and experimenting with how the spells all interact with each other is incredible fun. You can choose from different difficulties as well, so this will definitely keep you busy for a bit. Combining your ice spells with your pulse spell will create an incredible shattering effect and there are several other combinations that fun to figure out on your own, so much of the allure of returning to the game relies on your enthusiasm in becoming a creative wizard. There is an arena as well now which has been added on and with this, you get a Blade and Sorcery type of situation where you can spawn endless enemies to use your magic abilities on and with multiple arenas available to play in and special abilities to unlock like exploding enemies, we could see this game becoming awfully popular going forward.
You will need a decent amount of space available to you as this game supports full room-scale, so projectiles and the like can be dodged physically as well as with the controller. For all the spell gestures, you need some space to spread your wingspan out, so a 5×5 space overall is the best thing to have available to you.
I recorded my 30-minute workout on a Fitbit and played on an Oculus Quest 2 Headset.
Calories burned: 104
Calories burned per minute: 3
Average Heart Rate: 83
Max Heart Rate: 115
Active Minutes: 30
The Wizards: Dark Times is a surprisingly intense experience. You are very much going to be active during this experience, and although a magic-based VR experience might not speak to that, here the twists are thrown into the magic system and all the climbing involved gets a sweat going as quickly as any title in VR. The visual experience is quite intense as well as you explore a gorgeously detailed VR world that is as breathtaking as it is creepy and the enemies will keep you on your toes at all times as the chaos unfolds around you.
Arms are everything for you in The Wizards: Dark Times. Whether you are going through your 11 different spells via hand gestures or firing your bow at your enemies, you will feel your arms get a great workout while playing through this magical tale. The best workout comes via the dual magic blades though and you can use these throughout your adventure whenever your enemies come close enough to hit. The bow is also a fantastic way to get a workout as well as you’ll be drawing and launching the arrows yourself and any veteran of VR archery knows how tiring that can get after a while and here it is the same deal. Another power that can be used to get some physical exercise is the shards attack, which has you spawn 3 shards on each hand and you can whip them at your enemies with a swipe of your hand.
Your legs aren’t too involved with The Wizards: Dark Times, but there are a few moves you can do to get them involved. Many of the enemies in the game love to launch projectiles at you as their primary form of attack and while you can dodge in-game moving side to side, I found the best method was actually dodging and ducking in real life and this works surprisingly well and turns you from a rather stationary Wizard into a mobile force of nature that is not easily beaten. Of course, you can also forgo this method and play sitting down instead, but then you won’t be getting anything out of it leg workout-wise.
You are going to need your balance in this one and it’s a bit of a surprise that The Wizards: Dark Times decided to throw in countless climbing segments, adding some serious verticality to the proceedings that you might not expect out of a fantasy game of this kind. Because of that, you need to keep your center of gravity as reaching for the next grabbable notch in a wall can easily leave you off balance so you should make sure you don’t lose your place in the room while in the climbing segments. Core-wise, you will get some work from the climbing segments for sure, but the majority of it will come from activating your spells that have you stretching your arms from the middle of your body then outward. These spells usually require quick gestures too and after a while, that can be quite tiring.
Time Perception- 9/10
The Wizards: Dark Times is an amazing visual experience that will suck you into its whimsical game world and quickly dig its claws into you with an addictive magic system and a fun enough gameplay to keep you enthralled for a good amount of time. Because of the relatively low intensity of the game fitness-wise, you will be able to play for hours on end with little difficulty. While you are in the game, everything from the music to the intrigue of what enemies might be around the corner will keep you playing for a while.
There are a bunch of different difficulty modes to choose from that can inspire multiple playthroughs, but the real replayability here comes from the Arena as well as the upcoming multiplayer add-on. With the arena, you have an infinite sandbox to play around in and with all the spells unlocked from the start, you can go wild against tons of enemies which will actually work up far more of a sweat than the actual game might produce.
Fitness Scalability- 8/10
You can scale your workout in-game in one major way and that is through different styles of gameplay. In The Wizards: Dark Times, you can either be a ranged attacker, lobbing fireballs at your enemies, or you can be up close and personal, smashing your enemies with ice blades or jabbing them with magical claws. I found the most tiring of the powers came from the ice bow, which you have to notch and fire manually each time, but the fireball throwing also got my arms involved quite a bit and you can easily tire yourself out throwing fireballs like a magical baseball pitcher.
Dizziness/ Lack of Nausea- 9/10
The Wizards: Dark Times is an amazing visual experience that comfortably puts you in the shoes of an all-powerful wizard and despite the occasional bombardment of visual effects in combat, I never felt too overwhelmed or dizzy during the game’s most intense moments. Where things might get a bit dizzying is with the vertical segments and whether you are climbing a wall or scaling the ropes in your home base, the feeling of being high above the ground with just your grip to hang onto can be a tough experience to get used to, so those who are afraid of heights might find themselves struggling a bit at times during the game.
Social Competition- 7/10
This is a tough category because for one, well, multiplayer does not exist at the moment, BUT there is a big update planned for the end of 2021, and considering the lack of options in the VR gaming landscape when it comes to multiplayer games with magic involved, this could be an incredible addition to what already is a very fun experience. Even if it’s as simple as a co-op mode, going through the story with a friend sounds like a ton of fun, and combining your magic arsenals should be an amazing thing to witness.
VR Fit Score- 7.5/10
Game Score- 8/10
The Wizards: Dark Times is an amazingly original experience that combines your physical efforts with some visual splendor to create a VR experience you won’t soon forget. The enemies are wonderfully weird and creative and the world you get to explore is one of the most detailed and whimsically realized places I’ve seen in VR. All other games using magic as a base idea for their gameplay will be stealing from The Wizards: Dark Times for the foreseeable future, it is an absolute game-changer.
It’s a relatively short experience, so if you are looking for something that will fill your desire for a true Fantasy RPG that will engulf you for hours and hours, that isn’t the kind of experience you’ll be getting here. The story is also pretty light, so if you were hoping for an engaging tale that will grip you from moment to moment, that won’t be the case here either. The spells are pretty limited as well and it would have been nice to see a larger arsenal for a full VR experience. Oddly enough, the sound quality of many of the spells is extremely quiet and in no way matches the crazy amount of power you are displaying on the screen.
The Wizards: Dark Times is available on Steam, The Oculus Store, and The Oculus Quest Store for $24.99 and playable on the Oculus Rift, Oculus Quest, HTV Vive, Valve Index, and Windows Mixed Reality Headsets.