Saturday, September 16, 2023

A Field Guide to LBGs: Magic Streets

Lately my main location based games have been Pokémon Go and Jurassic World Alive. There is a post stewing about JAW.  However, I wanted to highlight another game I play every once in a while: Magic Streets.  I've never seen it covered by anyone else, and it hews closer to a PC MMOPRG than any other LBG  I have played.  

Magic Streets, the location based RPG!  At least the splash screen doesn't lie to you with a pretty painting, those ate definitely the graphics.

Magic Streets is a fantasy LBG inspired seemingly heavily by classic Runescape, with a dash of the old PS2 game Shadowhearts in terms of combat mechanics.   Magic Streets is a bit primitive in some ways.  For example, to me the graphics (as you can see) are whatever is the opposite of charming.  However, the game also has a lot of interesting features that I really like: timing mini-game based combat, good depth that isn't overwhelming, tons of loot to dig through, and a skill based character development system that lets you build out for whatever combat style you like. 

Overall I like it a lot better than Orna, which is the only fantasy RPG LBG that anyone ever seems to talk about.  The issue with Orna for me was that it got repetitive very quickly.  Magic streets doesn't have the same depth of classes as Orna, but I find the combat to be a lot more fun.  The combat and other features, like being able to gather crafting mats, has kept me engaged with Magic Streets for much longer than I ever was with Orna.

Here I am wandering around my neighborhood.  The bunny person near me (with his face turned away) is a pet that I think helps me  in a fight.  What trade-offs choosing to level one pet vs another represents I really have no idea.  As you can see the graphics are overall quite primitive.  I suspect it's a conscious style choice to mimic Runescape, which is a MMO that you used to be able to run in a browser even in the 2000s. The NPC in the back sells stuff.  The cave entrance leads to a dungeon where you can fight a series of increasingly stronger mobs for better loot.  The other icons represent mobs you can fight, or NPCs you can rescue (also by fighting mobs). What this screenshot doesn't show are any crafting material nodes, but in general they are quite abundant.  As nearly as I can tell, your ability to harvest mats is limited only by your inventory space and your ability to walk over to a node IRL.

What do you do?  The basic gameplay is to wander around killing monsters to take their loot and gain XP.  However in addition to that, you can train pets that fight along side you, harvest crafting materials, and craft either lots of different types of gear and consumables or create and upgrade buildings in your personal keep.  More on that below.

The character development system is skill based.  As you level up you get points to spend on the attributes of your choice.  There are also simple skill trees to unlock and level up combat abilities.  Note that these screenshots were all taken nearly a year ago, my current character is a bit further along than this.

The character development system is based on allocating points to skills. You have no class, instead you level up abilities that qualify you to use better gear. There are also simple skill trees where you can purchase and level up abilities.  For example, as I am writing this my guy can wear most medium and heavy armor I find,  and is pretty good with big two-handed weapons and missile weapons.  However, he is terrible with more mage-style stuff like magic wands and cloth armor.  The combat skills I have invested in mainly allow me to execute melee attacks that auto-crit for a lot of damage. I can only use one of these attacks two or three times before I have to rest and regenerate mana, but the attacks are pretty close to an "I win" button in a fight where I use one.

When you click on a mob, you get this info screen about it and you can decide whether to attack it.  One way in which it is very different from a real MMO is that mobs will never attack you, it's always your decision.

For me the combat is what really sets the game apart from Orna, the closest LBG competitor I am aware of.  In Orna, you attack pretty much like you would in an old Dragon Quest or Final Fantasy game.  You choose an ability from a menu, and that's about it.  In Magic Streets, the combat is still turn based. But there is also small element of skill, where timing your attack well determines how much damage you do. 

For example, for big two-handed swords when you attack a small circle inside a larger one starts growing.  If you time the attack so that the two circles overlap you do a ton of damage.  Hit the attack too soon and you will do very little damage.  Wait too long, and the attack will miss altogether.  Different weapons have slightly different mechanics to them, but they are all about a timing mini-game.  The closest analogue I am familiar with is the Shadow Hearts series of games on the PS2 from the late 1990s (a reference that I am sure at least no readers whatsoever will instantly get!). 

With this weapon type the circle slowly shrinks, and you try to tap it when the circle is as close as possible to the point in the middle.  Wait too long an the attack will miss.  Hit the circle closely, and you will do massive damage.  Different weapons have slightly different timing based mini-games to use them.  Special attacks, here greyed out because I decided to make a normal attack, use mana (the blue bar) and are guaranteed to do good damage, heal you, or whatever else.  I'm not far enough into the game to really know what the possibilities on offer consist of. 

What is the world like?  The world is filled primarily with random mobs and crafting material nodes, like many many PC MMOs.  Mobs drop a wide variety of gear, most of which you won't be able to use unless you have specialized in the skill it needs.  For example, I can wear a lot of heavy armor and very little cloth. You also have a keep that you can level up and build out however you like.  Mine has some merchants for buying and selling random loot, an alchemist that will give me a free mana potion once a day if I check in, and a camping area where I can rest.  Lots of other building types are available, but I have no idea what most of them might do.  You also have to gather a heck of a lot of wood, rocks, and other stuff to create any building.

When you attack mobs, very often you also rescue an NPC. These can be recruited for your keep in a system I barely understand.  You can also use all the crafting mats you gather to craft your own gear, but I get so much random gear as drops that I am a bit fuzzy on why you would ever bother with that. You will quickly murder all the monsters nearby if you don't go walking around.  You can't just sit in your living room and grind your brains out like Orna.

You can see the keeps of other players out on the landscape.  However, the game doesn't appear to be all that popular.  Only a few people in my entire neighborhood seemingly play.  

Loot is abundant, and comes in the standard array of MMO rarities from gray common gear to rare and powerful epic gear.  One of the main reason to level up skills is so that you can use different pieces of gear.  I spent a ton of points on missile weapons so I could use this shuriken, and it paid off.  I immediately became much stronger, able to quite easily take down mobs I was struggling with before.

Asynchronous interactions.  You can enter the keeps of other players and buy and sell stuff. There also appears to be some PvP system where you can attack someone's keep and try to loot it.  However I haven't attempted this.  The few keeps I could have attacked had high level guards that likely would have made short work of me.  My keep hasn't been attacked even once since I have been playing.  Whether this is because there is some flag I haven't set, because I'm too low level, or because my neighbors are polite I can't really say. 

How do you interact with other players? As nearly as I can tell this is quite limited. If there is a way to form parties or hook up and do a raid, or collaborate to clear a dungeon, I haven't figured it out yet. I assume there is some kind of guild system, but I haven't found it yet if there is.

In addition to dropped loot, wandering NPC merchants sell items.  There is also a blacksmith in my keep that has a bunch of random gear when I check in with him.  However I mainly use him to break the gear I don't want down into crafting mats.  It takes a lot of wood and rocks to upgrade an Inn, I'm not going to let the handle of an axe dropped by an ogre just go to waste!

Is it good exercise?  As I said above, you will exhaust everything within striking distance of you fairly quickly if you don't walk around.  However, I find that by the time I have cleared out my yard, or the parking lot of a doctor's office, or whatever, I am satisfied with my progress.  If I want more stuff to do where I am, generally I'll switch over to Pokémon Go instead of walking anywhere. 

I can imagine that if you really got into the crafting and building aspects, it would be to great advantage to walk around your neighborhood looking for crafting mats to harvest.  There doesn't appear to be any way to get stuff to respawn quickly, or any way to move to a new location short of actually walking there.  If I were more deeply invested in the game, it might be very good exercise indeed. 

This is the 5th post in a series on Location Based Games.  Here are the others:


Pokémon Go

Walking Dead Our World (sadly shuttered earlier this year)


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