Wizard with a Gun is the sixth game from Galvanic Games and their first published by Devolver Digital. It’s an interesting game where extraction meets roguelike — a match made in heaven. You play as a Wizard — and get this — you also use a gun. To summarize the story, the world has been destroyed by metaphysical Chaos. Your job is to find gears to rewind time, use found Arcana to upgrade your arsenal, and eliminate five bosses to heal the world.
Wizard with a Gun is charming. It has a beautiful art style reminiscent of Don’t Starve and a nice soundtrack. It also smartly combines the extraction and roguelike genres. But that’s about where my praise ends. Despite good intentions, Wizard with a Gun ends up being a formative misfire that fails to be extraordinary but could inspire better games.
Wizard meet gun – The gameplay
Each run in Wizard with a Gun starts at your base. Here, you spend resources to refill your reserves and research new ammo types, which is where the “wizard” part of the game kicks in since there are poison bullets, ice bullets, lightning bullets, etc. When you are ready, you rewind the clock and jump into a procedurally generated world. You have five minutes to explore, collect resources and cogs, and fight enemies. At the end of five minutes, which can be elongated by completing Chaos challenges, Chaos reigns everywhere and you need to return to the portal… though, the Chaos isn’t challenging, so going past the five minutes is disappointingly not a big deal. The goal is to not die and return through a portal with more than you went in with.
The extraction roguelike genre that Wizard with a Gun creates makes sense, and I’m surprised this is one of the first big examples I’ve seen of it. Both genres inform each other really well. Extraction games, like Warzone DMZ and Escape From Tarkov, are basically roguelikes but with higher stakes and world timers whereas roguelikes, like Hades, incorporate a “die and return to base” system where you upgrade and get better gear for your next run. This combination is a really fascinating concept, but one I think Wizard with a Gun doesn’t quite nail.
I love the timer but find the consequences of going over to be too easy. That and the lack of convincing roguelike progressions (which we’ll get to) are what drag Wizard with a Gun down. The story is as generic as it gets and the NPCs are lifeless. Plus, as beautiful as everything is, the world biomes are too samey and aren’t as hauntingly enticing as they are in Don’t Starve, which makes wanting to do another run even less appetizing.
The gunplay itself is fine; you point and shoot. There’s variety in which ammo type you pair with which gun, which is fun, but the enemies you face are either way too easy or way too hard. Wizard with a Gun has some absolutely broken ammo types and insanely difficult enemies. I beat the first boss fairly easily before I beat some of the mini-bosses, which shows how unbalanced the game can be. However, the combat itself isn’t bad, but it isn’t addicting in any way. Honestly, if you’re tired of Diablo 4 and are looking for another mindless game to play while watching a show or listening to a podcast, Wizard with a Gun is a solid choice.
Lack of lunacy – The progression
While all games need this, progression hooks are central to successful roguelikes. If, as a player, you feel like you don’t have a strong enough incentive to do another run, then it’s not a great game. And since Wizard with a Gun’s combat is just adequate and the world isn’t too alluring, there desperately needs to be some other strong progression hook tied to gameplay to make playing Wizard with a Gun fun.
Wizard with a Gun tries two progression hooks: base building and build crafting. First, the base building isn’t good. There’s a good amount of unlocks as you scan enemies and environments, but there aren’t many orienting tools to help design your base in the way you want it. Everything faces one way and you have to live with that. Second, the build crafting is surprisingly shallow. Something I was really looking forward to in Wizard with a Gun was the creation of unique builds achieved through unique combinations of weapons, ammo types, and character skills and abilities. Instead, weapons lack variety, ammo types lack interesting fusions, and there are no character skills or abilities.
The last two pillars of progression Wizard with a Gun has to stand on aren’t very sturdy. I’ll admit that hunting for resources to unlock the next level of an ammo type you’re enjoying is fun, but the base building is weak and there’s no getting around that. It’s all a little too elementary and grating, and the way Wizard with a Gun does resource collection doesn’t help.
Shoot to loot – The resource collecting
After playing the tutorial and getting started, my coworker and I legitimately thought (and still partially think) that we were missing an axe and/or hammer to harvest wood and stone in Wizard with a Gun. To our knowledge, there isn’t a resource harvesting tool. The resources you need to collect to create more bullets, aka wood and stone, require bullets to harvest. You literally have to shoot to loot in this game and it feels counterintuitive.
Besides that, I find farming for resources pretty dull. If you want to get into base building, you’ll need to dedicate entire runs to harvesting wood and stone. The only cool thing is if you’re trying to level up your ammo and unlock new upgrades, you need to use that ammo to kill specific enemies to get the required resource. But do that 50 times, and you’ll get tired of it.
Unimpressive build variety, strange and tedious resource collecting, and the lack of meaningful and fun progression make Wizard with a Gun a disappointment. I’ll admit, at times I found myself feeling that “one more run” energy, but those moments are bookmarked between mindless monotony.
Since I’m a lover of indies, roguelikes, extractions, and Devolver Digital games, I wanted to like this game. But no matter how hard I try, ultimately, Wizard with a Gun has a really great concept and some great ideas, but it fumbles the execution.