Wizard101's latest Test Realm update includes Mirage, Castle Magic, and more. As always, there have been plenty of praises and some mixed reactions. With Test Realms going live quicker and quicker, some bugs are missed, less feedback seems to be taken into account, and other issues have arisen. On the contrary, many features are released at a more polished stage than ever and the worlds seem to be getting better and better. Let's have an open and honest discussion of the update with members of the community.
"Mirage is interesting because it’s absolutely nothing like Polaris," Vanessa Mythdust (Mercenaries101, The Untold Spiral) noted. "Whereas Polaris was heavy on storytelling and minimal on mobs, Mirage has mobs galore. In fact, the mobs are arguably the hardest part about Mirage. Enemies regularly have shadow pips at their disposal, they can stack buffs, and they even cast enchanted spells. This is all a lot to take in for the casual players coming fresh out of Polaris." The health of mobs has been a hot topic and active point of discussion. On one hand, they aren't terribly difficult, and the target age range seems to be increasing as you progress through worlds in Wizard101. On the other, as I have noted, the health of mobs isn't in line with trends so far in Polaris and with Mirage bosses. Particularly, fighting 9,000-health creatures for the longer badges trying to unlock faction vendor items is like constant mini-Malistaire fights, except every enemy is Malistaire.
"In a lot of ways Mirage resembles PvP - you have to play very strategically," Vanessa added. "This is especially true with all of the cheating bosses. Going purely off memory, I think Mirage is only second to Khrysalis when it comes to cheating bosses. Granted, most of them are minor, but they can still be a headache for solo players." This was especially true for the Shaddowwock, who seemed not only to be bugged, but also a little bit too powerful.
How Difficult is Too Difficult?
Difficulty was one of the most widely-discussed and least-addressed topics in Mirage. "I feel the difficulty is right on the mark, and I would offer to help anyone through it that asks, but it doesn't feel right to me to lead them through all these kind of brutal areas towards a set of final bosses that drop nothing, seem randomly inserted into the storyline, and reuse cheats that have been around as long as 5 years ago," Angel Eyes shared.
Others disagreed. Autumn Duskpetal wrote, "To me the difficulty spike was too much from Polaris considering we get nothing to make up [for] what we gradually lose. And this mainly came from the minions, as other than Shadowwock, I found the difficulty of bosses in Mirage to be a nice change in pace from what we just came from (other than the bosses that had conflicting masteries, like Mother Ghoulture). But the minions were something else entirely. I used to like how minions wouldn't get their hands on any new spells until 1-2 worlds after we did but now every minion has the same spells that we do."
Alexander Lionheart said that Mirage presents opportunities for "challenge and patience. With the recent changes to Critical and Critical Block, I could not see myself blocking any attacks, even as an ice. You'll need a lot of patience as well as you won't be able to simply blade up and hit, you'll need to heal and such, something I didn't do before. All I did before was stack for 7 turns, then hit, but now I have to think when to cast blades while sustaining health." Famous for his soloing of bosses often shared on his YouTube channel, he took a shot at the final fight in Mirage and was successful. "Personally I think anything can be soloed," he said. "[Soloing] just requires a ton of patience, and strategy. I thought the final boss was impossible until I thought about changing up my playstyle, and figure out what to do with playtesting strategies."
"As a whole, I’d have to say that Mirage isn’t very solo or casual player friendly," Vanessa concluded. "There are always exceptions to the rule, but I think that the difficulty will definitely steer some of those players away. "
The strongest parts of Mirage were the environments and the story. "No other world challenges the quality of the story in Mirage, [in my opinion]. It's the best. Hands down," Cheeserawkz101 of Wizard101 Central said, also adding that Mirage is "longer than Polaris, but not as long as some of the previous worlds. It's the perfect length." Mr. Fred added that "Mirage is visually stunning and is filled with interesting stories and unique characters."
Some players departed fully from the strengths of the world and focused the responsiveness to player feedback: "I've played very little of it because I am disappointed in the disingenuous communication we've received about controversial changes. It is impossible that KI didn't know that Reshuffle duplicated cards, it is unbelievable that they nerfed a robe a year after release and the only response to inquiry is a complete non-sequitir (the robe was always just a transposition error?!?) and no comment at all about the destruction of Storm. This update has neutered two schools and destroyed Low and Mid-Level PVP," Mags said, adding that "What I saw of Mirage is well-done. I want to finish it, to like it. I can't continue playing a game that doesn't seem to consider what its player base wants, needs and expresses. I want honest and regular communication from the developers. We've not gotten it. I see no justification for the direction the game is being taken."
Gear: Crafting, Drops, and More
One of the pieces of feedback that really surprised me with Mirage was crafted gear. There was quite a lot of talk about crafted gear. At one point, we might have had multiple different options within one level tier that was viable, whereas now we have fewer and fewer viable options ending in none at all other than sub-par weapons. Firewiz46 said, "I was really looking forward to Mirage going live and dual boxing it with my two accounts. I mean really, really, really looking forward to it. But I won't be participating. The continued absence of crafted 'good enough' gear means that I will just be leveling my remaining wizards to the end of Polaris (guessing it will take another 3 to 4 months at my pace) and then sit on the sidelines after that."
Gear was another hot topic. "This is the weak spot of Mirage," Cheeserawkz101 commented. "Although I haven't seen all of it, most of the gear dropped from Mirage, even from the final boss, isn't really any better than Polaris gear except for having pip conversion which really is not worth it. You lose 10%+ of Critical and Critical Block from level 110 to 120, but you don't get the gear to compensate. The lack of crafted gear (as with Polaris) is also disappointing."
The Nickopedia added, along the same lines, that "the new legendary weapons are VERY underwhelming and disappointing. They don't offer very good stats, they only offer a stitching option."
While Mirage received its share of criticisms, one of the things that was the most universally praised item in much of update history was Castle Magic. "Castle Magic is definitely one of the best features I've seen added in awhile - really looking forward to adding some Magic to my houses when it goes Live: I'm going to have lots of fun with the Grow spell. I do wish Crafting received more attention as I was hoping for some new, powerful crafted gear," Mr. Fred shared. The only comments other than praise on Castle Magic were additional suggestions for its potential, as in one comment from Hollywood: "I think it would have been nice if there was a way to make the housing magic changes permanent... as in they didn't revert back to normal when you leave your house." Paige Moonshade also praised Castle Magic and Alexander Lionheart did several tutorial videos.
Other Housing Updates
In the realm of new housing developments, the Arcanum Apartment was universally loved and faction vendors, while occasionally viewed as requiring a lot of grinding, had offerings much appreciated by players. "Faction vendors are new to Wizard101. You will need to work to be able to buy these apartments. They are so worth it! Not to mention the new Mirage NPC's you can work for. These all do cost gold so [they're] worth it. I suggest getting those badges as soon as you find them," Paige said.
New Divide Spells
Spells have been reviewed at length by multiple sources, including myself, over the past few weeks, but no changes took place over the course of the Test Realm or since its initial release. "I'm impressed with the spell animations (all except the Ice one), but I think the damage division feature could use some work," Mr. Fred noted. Cheeseawkz101 added, "The concept is great, and the animations are gorgeous, but they seem a little bit underpowered when targeting more than one enemy." This was a general feeling among players.
"Overall I haven't been this impressed with a Test Realm in ages," Mr. Fred concluded. Vanessa wrapped up by saying, "I do have to praise KingsIsle for the immersive story and cinematics. The world looks and feels great, I just wish it had more of a Polaris-type layout. One thing is for certain, I think Mirage is one of the most polarizing worlds to date. Hardcore players love it and casual players hate it. I’m somewhere in between, but I can see and understand why each side feels the way they do."
What do you think of the new update?
Thanks for reading and see you in the Spiral! Credits: Thanks to the multitude of people who offered their opinions. All opinions are shared with permission.