The tedium of modern life can get exhausting sometimes. This is, of course, why games exist in the first place, but sometimes you just need a nice quest to take your mind off of things. Sometimes you need a clear goal through an enchanted mushroom forest surrounded by weird and funny creatures. Sometimes you want to solve your problems with a magic spell or a potion instead of hard work, and sometimes you want to find treasure at the end of a particularly difficult challenge. If the idea of a thrilling, but casual, medieval adventure sounds like something you’d enjoy, then Mask of Mists is the game for you.
Mask of Mists is a first person RPG adventure game where you play as a mercenary, hired to locate one of the archmages of the Academy. They’ve recently broken contact with their colleagues while investigating the mushroom covered “infected lands”. By exploring the surrounding caves, towns and dungeons, you’ll collect weapons and magical artifacts to push your way deeper into the infested wilds while solving puzzles and fighting creatures from the extra-dimensional abyss.
Mask of Mists is a mixed bag of gameplay mechanics, some of which it does very well while others it misses the mark on. Everything from Zelda-like puzzles to survival style crafting makes an appearance and they mostly work pretty well together. Rather than smashing a bunch of unrelated mechanics together into a confusing mess, 9 Eyes Games has created a single solid gameplay loop that combines each mechanic well. You must explore infected houses, dungeons, and forests in order to collect ingredients that you will use to brew potions or other magical artifacts. Then, using these potions and objects, you will solve puzzles and defeat enemies in order to move to the next area. The fact that each mechanic is integrated so well into each other’s mechanic means that no part of the game feels undeveloped or unimportant.
When it comes to solving puzzles, Mask of Mists does very little hand-holding. You’ll usually find some scroll or journal pointing you in the correct direction, like “find of key” or even a map of some as-of-yet undiscovered location. Then it’s pretty much up to you to figure out how the various pieces of the puzzle fit together. At one point, I was completely stuck until I noticed a small painting on the wall that looked suspiciously like the nearby block being thrown into the air. I then realized that the item I was looking for was floating above me and could be knocked out of the sky. It’s these in-world hints that could so easily be missed that make puzzle games so satisfying. Games like this really make me feel like I’m solving a mystery rather than just watching a mystery being solved.
Combat is where Mask of Mists starts to fall apart. The third person melee combat feels completely flat and there’s practically no satisfying indication that you’ve hit an enemy besides a lame sound effect. Likewise, enemy attacks are very subtle and difficult to discern. This can make it feel a bit unfair when being snuck up on from behind or even when just trying to dodge an attack. While there are a few interesting enemy types to encounter, combat always felt like a chore I had to complete before I was allowed to continue playing the game. Although dying wasn’t particularly punishing, it was frustrating to be forced back to the start of a dungeon because I was shot from behind on low health while searching a chest.
Mask of Mists features colorful and cartoonish graphics that fit the fantastical and surreal setting very well. Although relatively small, the world features a variety of unique environments and landscapes. The initial tutorial section takes you through a set of ancient ruins, but as you explore you’ll come across strange abandoned settlements, monuments teeming with magical energy, and deadly dungeons filled with glorious treasures. Each of these locations are handcrafted with care which makes exploration even more enjoyable and satisfying.
Mask of Mists is a unique medieval adventure which equally features exploration, combat, and puzzle mechanics. While it attempts to be a jack-of-all-trades, Mask of Mists only succeeds in some areas while failing in others. While combat is boring and frustrating, the different puzzles and quests are well designed and require the player to really examine their surroundings and other clues while making educated deductions. The environments are charming and mysterious and the world is practically begging to have its many secrets uncovered. Mask of Mists is an enjoyable and casual quest through a strange and magical land. What it lacks in tight combat it makes up for in well written quests and interesting puzzles to solve.