Playing with Magic in Video Games

Any time a video game lets me play with magic, I take it. When given character class options, I almost always go with mage… or the sci-fi equivalent.

Even when I opt for archery in games like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, I often try to include magic in the mix. I once built a two-handed warrior who wielded a badass battle axe part-time — the rest of the time, she put away her weapon in favor of pure magic. Another time, I went with a spellsword type. As an archer, I enchant my bows. I play with potions. I create and lay traps. I pretend I have biotic powers in Mass Effect so I can lift enemies into the air to shoot them while they’re most vulnerable.

Mass Effect’s Adept skills are a perfect example of scientific “magic” in a sci-fi world.

Magic is often that otherworldly element in a video game that lets you do the impossible. It helps transport you out of this life and immerse you somewhere else for awhile. It’s what I love about my fantasy. And even in science fiction, the futuristic science is often a guise for magic.

I’ve been playing Dragon Age: Inquisition lately and restarted as a mage. The archery route I initially took just wasn’t doing it for me this time. The attacks felt a little repetitive… but as a mage equipped with a magic staff, I’m able to do everything from heal my companions to shoot lightning from enemy to enemy.

Dragon Age lets you level up your mage in several schools. The options here are Spirit (healing abilities), Storm (thunder and lightning), Winter (freezing powers), and Inferno (fire). You can mix and match as you please — there’s no being locked into a single school.

Magic is great as both offense and defense when you have a party fighting together.

These magic categories are pretty common in video game powers. Sometimes there’s a dark or light magic, but usually the types of spells you can cast involve lightning, ice, or fire. Healing is often a supporting ability, too.

Another common type of magic is death magic. Necromancy can animate corpses to fight alongside you, or simply cause enemies to tremble in fear of death in an unnatural way. In Dragon Age, blood magic gives its users extra power when they sacrifice people to wield it.

What I like about Dragon Age is that you can take a party of fighters with you. This lets me level up my mage in support abilities, such as healing and crowd control. For instance, chaining lightning to shock opponents is really satisfying. The fun thing about crowd control is that you can hit multiple targets with a single spell — it may not kill or even injure them, but being able to stun an opponent can give your party precious time to swoop in with more powerful attacks without risking their own lives. (This can even let you take on enemies that are much stronger than your party, if you’re very careful.)

108 I froze ze dragon hehe
You can even freeze a dragon, guys.

For offensive abilities, I tend towards winter spells. There’s something really rewarding about ensconcing a target in ice, then commanding a party member to shatter them into a million little pieces. Ice spells often immobilize enemies for brief periods of time, since they’re literally frozen in place. It makes this type of magic great for party play, when you can take advantage of the extra time to set up additional attacks with other weapons.

A good strategy for me usually involves entering the battle first, using a crowd control spell to disarm opponents in some way, and then providing support with healing and boosting spells to the rest of my party while they engage the enemy. Whenever an ice spell recharges, I freeze targets. I keep the crowd control going as long as possible until my team takes down every enemy in sight.

Are you into magic in video games? If you play as a mage, what’s your preferred school or style of magic?

— Ashley


7 thoughts on “Playing with Magic in Video Games”

  1. Great post! I tend to steer clear of mages because I’m a pretty messy fighter in games, and mages require some precision in battle. Plus, I enjoy decking my characters out in the craziest armor possible, and usually you don’t get crazy, big armor for mages. That said, in Fable 2, I had a thoroughly good time as a mage in my second playthrough. (My initial warrior was fun, but his moves were repetitive.) Thinking about that, and considering what you say here, reminds me that I should try playing as a mage more often.

    I like that you give Mass Effect a nod because I l-o-v-e-d the Vanguard class. It gave you the perks of being a soldier along with the power of an adept. Just perfect!

    1. Yeah, I could see the attraction of big armor! I used to play rogues a lot and thought their light armor was often the coolest… robes are not my favorite either. I haven’t played as a mage in Fable before though! I’ll have to try that sometime…

      I have a friend who also loves the Vanguard class in Mass Effect! I haven’t played that class too much yet. My favorite class is Sentinel for its mix of biotic and tech powers… it’s like double “magic” in a way!

  2. I also tend to gravitate towards magic or magic-analogues in games. Mage in Dragon Age, adept in Mass Effect, warlock in WoW, and so forth. Actually, I’m a bit greedy — given the choice, I like a little bit of everything. Melee, ranged, and magic all at once. Given the freedom to create any kind of character I want, I usually go for some kind of battle-mage. For example, my beloved blade/blood build in The Secret World.

    But I’ll always try to include some magic if I can. For me, there are two main appeals of magic.

    One is that it’s a power fantasy. Without going into my personal life too much, I tend to feel very powerless, and magic to me represents the ability to change the world around you for the better. It’s also a power that comes from the mind, which appeals to me as an intellectual person.

    The other is very simple: magic is pretty. The colours!

    1. I agree about being a little greedy. I like doing everything too, which is why Sentinel is my favorite Mass Effect build, for instance! I also created an Arcane Warrior in Dragon Age Origins once, which was really fun.

      Good reasons for choosing magic there… :) I can definitely see the power fantasy coming into play, I think it’s part of why I love fantasy in general… that people can do such extraordinary things that might not be possible in real life. I love a good heroic story and playing the hero in games, too. (Not that I always use my powers for good in games!)

  3. I really do like the mage class, especially in the Dragon Age games. I often find the different staffs you collect over the course of the game seems much cooler as you play along. Definitely love the ice powers more than any other powers you’re given in Inquisition! Maybe we’re attracted to the element of water in general? ;)

  4. It’s weird because I thought I would enjoy playing as a mage character, but more often than not, I find myself gravitating towards fighter classes (especially in action-RPGs). Turns out I usually prefer to jump into the fray and tank enemy attacks over dodging them, which was the strategy that more or less got me through Dark Souls. That said, I totally get the appeal of playing as a magic user; by the end of the game, they’re usually absurdly powerful, aren’t they?

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