Step into the arena, sword at the ready, rotation perfect, countless hours collecting gear, countless rage fits over gankings and past failures.
None of that matters anymore, it is finally time to win. All of those long nights spent researching and grinding all leading to this. The warrior walks into the arena under the all too realistic sun, charges forward with out a single doubt, only to be frozen in place and fired upon by the magic user on the opposite side of the field, who just sits back and spams one button knowing any chance of getting close to them is all but impossible.
It seems a strong trend in fantasy video games and universes. As soon as the element of magic is introduced into the mix, the entire dynamic and tone shifts. Suddenly all the problems and quarrels of the world are solved with a group of hooded individuals, chanting while holding hands.
Magic has become a staple in any strong fantasy franchise or stand alone. A requirement that is expected by fans and critics alike. It has a Deus ex machina feel to it, with anything unknown or unexplained being attributed to it. A theme alive even in the “real” plane of existence. “A magician never reveals his secrets,” the illusionist would proudly say, receiving only nods and shrugs in response, no one dare question further.
Magic has a simultaneous natural/unnatural feel to it. It flows from millions of different sources and is an answer to every problem. What does this mean in terms of video game worlds and combat?
Magic in a video game can make a small universe seem grand and exciting. It has a mysterious enough nature to it, that it can intrigue most curious minds, and a dangerous affinity, making it a deadly and reckoning force in battle.
Of course magic has a tendency to make certain aspects of combat unbalanced, and aspects of the plot unrealistic. Take for example Archeage by Trion, Elder scrolls online, or the grandfather of “magic as a convenient plot device,” World of Warcraft. With magic heavy classes (wow having only three non magic classes,) and it being a central part of the lore, Most players tend to lean towards a combination of magic/non magic combat styles or pure casting.
Many could argue the imbalance is due to the combat system or current patch of a game, and they wouldn’t be wrong. It may seem unfair that when set within the plot or lore of a game, a magic user will almost always triumph over a non caster, but keep in mind that pvp and pve are entirely different. With some classes being designed more for one or the other. So maybe the problem doesn’t lie with magic, but instead with the game it’s self. After all, when put into perspective, magic is nothing more than algorithms and numbers just like any other class, and a truly balanced and fair game would have all classes equal in terms of damage and crowed control. Maybe this is why games like Tera and Vindictus are so well received. Magic and its elements are very present in these “action MMORPG” games, yet from a combat point of view they seem more balanced, and easier to counter no matter what class you choose.
Magic may be a cure all element, a force of unmatched possibilities, or even a “get out of jail free card” plot device, but no matter the position it lands in, or the roll it plays, It seems unlikely it will be leaving the fantasy genre anytime soon, If ever. With hundreds of games and novels sprouting up everyday. Magic is here to stay.