Mittelborg: City of Mages is an interesting game recently released on Steam early access. It bills itself as a rogue-like strategy game set in a dark fantasy world of mages and demons and features a branching story filled with difficult choices and dark consequences.
In reality Mittelborg is a game which is pretty early into it’s production, still in alpha version 1.0.0. While it has lofty claims of a rich narrative experience, it still has a long way to go before it proves that it has what it takes to live up to these promises.
Mittelborg starts out by explaining to you that it all takes place on a floating city. Each night the city is assailed by storms and other dangers. As the new leader of the city it is up to you to make the right choices which will keep your city alive and thriving. To do this you have to shore up your defences, and protect the world tree, the centre of your cities life.
During the day time you assign your mages to different parts of the city. Doing this provides bonuses to various effects like your resource production or your defences. You can also spend resources to upgrade your city or perform a variety of tasks.
The Night portion mainly focuses on random events that can occur, and we do mean random. Usually you either take damage to your defences, or have to choose how to react to special events. Occasionally you can be given a bonus, or some sort of free round with no special effects.
So Quick to Die
The ease with which you die in Mittelborg is the first sticking point. If you get unlucky you can get several harsh attacks on a single defence at once. When this happens you’re more than likely going to end up with a game over, meaning starting again.
There isn’t much you can do in these situations. Just hit the main menu running and start again. While perma-death is a defining trait of rogue-like games, having a random chance of dying every turn does not pair well with it.
Mittelborg would possibly have done better by having some way of mitigating risk. Either by having certain upgrades carry over to the next play through, or by informing players what risks they’re likely to be facing.
Not All Doom and Gloom
While Mittelborg is a bit basic and does have it’s problems, that doesn’t mean that it’s not fun. If you treat it casually it can actually be pretty engaging. If you get lucky and have a long run you can experience an involving story. The world feels interesting and alive and asks for more narrative.
All that the game is crying out for is a way to prolong the experience. Perhaps a storyline that continues as each town leader dies. Maybe some sort of way of preventing death in a pinch. Whatever the method, it’s clear that the game needs to extend itself to avoid becoming a vapid experience.
At least it has some decent visuals. The art style is reminiscent of Darkest Dungeon in some ways, although more colourful. It’s visuals don’t stop it being ultimately shallow, but they’re at least appealing to look at.
- Good looking game
- Has an interesting back story and setting
- A bit too shallow
- Very early access
- Easy to die randomly
Mittelborg is a game with lots of promise, but in it’s current form is ultimately too shallow to recommend too highly. With the hope of future updates the game might be worthy of your time, but for many people it certainly won’t be worth the risk of purchasing.