What is it? Top-down cooperative roguelite with gunslinging wizards.
Release date October 17, 2023
Expect to pay $25/£21
Developer Galvanic Games
Publisher Devolver Digital
Reviewed on Radeon RX 6600, Ryzen 7 5700G, 32GB DDR4 RAM
Link Official site
Wizard with a Gun is surprisingly moody, though I imagine any wizard would be when staring down odds as bad as these. You've got five minutes to twin-stick shoot your way through a procedurally generated parcel of the void in search of parts to fix a magic clock before the apocalypse begins. The first time I experienced that apocalypse was absolutely harrowing. Chaos's iridescent, corrosive essence began to eat away at the level under my feet while acidulous meteorites crashed down all around, eldritch tentacles and spawn doggedly harassing me as I fled back to my tower.
There are some toys that give you a fighting chance against the ever rising tides of entropy, though. You have a self-learning spellbook, The First Edition, that rewards you with crafting recipes for scanning enemies, and The Groundlayer, a machine pistol-looking thing that converts raw materials into tiles you can walk on.
Expeditions into the gaping maw of cosmic oblivion are considered successful when they end with the retrieval of stolen artifacts held by powerful minibosses that squat on the fringes of reality. It takes some high-end heat to bring down these bosses though, and I quickly found my bandolier of early-game spell bullets good for little more than harvesting resources to upgrade the forges, reloading benches, and research stations back at base.
While there's some obvious similarity to Don't Starve, Wizard with a Gun really feels like it's expanding on the groundwork laid by Enter the Gungeon. Even if I failed to grab the gears or didn't make it back with quite as many resources as I hoped, I never felt like my time was being wasted—a feeling that often pervades even the best of roguelites. Instead, I always felt like I was progressing towards a powerful new bullet combo or clothing upgrade, or just getting enough raw materials to make my wizard tower look a bit less like the mold-ridden basement suite I rented in college.
With only five minutes of safe time before the apocalypse, my expeditions were unstructured. If I got lucky and found a map pointing me in the direction of an artifact-clutching enemy within the first couple minutes, I'd usually leg it there and back without making much in the way of detours. If I couldn't find a map, I'd focus on resource-gathering, mob-farming, or just testing out new combos of spell bullets.
Once I got my head around Wizard with a Gun's structure, I quickly discarded the crummy pistol and peashooter carbine and went all-in on building around the SMG and blunderbuss. Mag-dumping lightning and poison bullets from the SMG and following up with double-barrelled blasts of fire and ice was my bread and butter combo for Wizard with a Gun's early game—you can load two complimentary spell bullet types into a single gun at the reloading bench—but I was impressed with how many options there were for builds that went beyond dealing direct damage. Charm bullets let you build a small army and Fear bullets let you rout one, and the Push bullets loaded into a shotgun are the perfect answer for high-level enemies with powerful AOE attacks.
I'm sure some busted meta combos will reveal themselves in the wake of Wizard with a Gun's launch, but going in blind and experimenting in its combat sandbox with weird weapon builds was where I found most of my enjoyment. While I didn't get the chance to try Wizard's co-op mode, I imagine that literally doubling the number of bullets with unique properties and characteristics elevates the sandbox even higher.
It's a shame then that, unlike Gungeon, Wizard with a Gun's combat feels unpolished. Enemies have only a few ways to attack: easy to dodge slow-moving projectiles aimed at where you were 10 seconds ago; a forward charge that's often too short to reach you but also has a weirdly large forward hitbox; and an awkwardly spaced AOE stomp that forces you to lean on a dodge that never feels up to the task at hand. Gunfights with small groups of enemies at your level often feel trivial, and battling against a miniboss all too often feels like a slog.
The inherent awkwardness incentivizes more meaningful engagement with spell bullet crafting, but I felt like I was left to paint over an overly simplistic combat system by slathering HP-bloated foes with status effects.
Yet despite my issues with its gunplay, Wizard with a Gun wound up getting its hooks in me, thanks to a tight game loop where you're always making incremental progress towards bigger, better, just flat-out cooler gear and spells. That managed to keep me persistently engaged where other procedural roguelites have failed.