Mirage: Arcane Warfare's playerbase is already dead, but it deserves better

Have you ever played Chivalry: Medieval Warfare? The game by Torn Banner Studios released in October of 2012 and has over 38,000 reviews with an overall “Very Positive” designation. Chances are that if you’re an avid PC gamer then you’ve probably caught wind of the game once or twice over the years, maybe in a Steam Sale, maybe in a free play weekend, or maybe just word of mouth. The premise is an arcade-style medieval combat simulator with tons of gore and intricate swordplay. Imagine For Honor but in first-person, with slower-paced, more visceral fights.

Now, have you ever played the developer’s second game, Mirage: Arcane Warfare? Have you ever even heard of it? Probably not. The game was released in May of this year, and it seems to have landed on Steam with little more than a thud – and that’s a shame.

Evolution of Warfare

You can tell immediately from the game’s subtitle (Arcane Warfare) that it’s a spiritual successor to Medieval Warfare. Fans of the studio’s first game will immediately recognize certain aspects in Mirage, as it has a very distinct stamp that makes it unique compared to its competitors but familiar when compared to its predecessor.

For starters, the game employs a very similar combat style. Using the mouse, you’ll aim your view and issue out horizontal, vertical, and stabbing attacks by left clicking, scrolling down, and scrolling up, respectively. As you swing your attacks you need to aim where they’ll hit in order to target body parts and avoid your opponent’s guard. You can feint midway through attacks as well. Using the right mouse button to block is essential, as all attacks in the game can be blocked this way and even reflected with the right timing. All of this makes up the core of the combat and it’s mostly unchanged from Chivalry.

However, Mirage liberally adds on more layers to the formula. For starters, there are six classes now instead of just four, and all of the classes have a mixture of melee and ranged attacks to pick from. Instead of choosing which type of weapon you’ll use, you instead get to pick one of two different skills for each of your slots. This adds up to a wide range of diverse builds that offer incredibly variety.

Learning to Fight Again

If you’ve ever played a class-based arena fighter/shooter/brawler in recent years then you’ll likely come into the experience with certain expectations that may not be applicable to this game. For starters, gameplay is much slower than you may be used to.

All attacks are clearly telegraphed before they’re launched, each class has its own quirks and weaknesses, and most of the maps are small enough that you’ll spend more time within arm’s reach of enemies than you will across the map. Since friendly fire is always on as well that means being very cognizant of where each of your attacks is going to land at all times.

Some characters, like the Taurant, focus mostly on melee attacks and do massive damage with their two-handed weapons at close range, but can be at a disadvantage against an adept ranged character. Then you’ve got the dodgy and mobile Vypress, who wields dual hook swords, can leap across levels, and make quick escapes. One of my favorite characters, the Entropist, can shoot a steady stream of liquid and even hover on a magic carpet while firing at enemies. The gamble here is that all ranged attacks can be blocked just like the melee attacks and, if timed correctly, can actually be reflected back at the sender.

Where Are All The Players?

If you’ve gotten this far then you might be interested in Mirage and its handful of quirks. It’s unlike any other game I’ve played, distinct even from its sister-game, Chivalry. So where are all of the players? Honestly, I have no idea.

According to Steam Charts, the most people that have ever been online playing Mirage at one time is just under 900. At the time of this writing, there are exactly a dozen people playing the game. As in,12 people. Not 12,000 or 1,200, but literally 12. That’s it.

Compare that to Chivalry, which has a max concurrent peak of over 25,000 players and currently (as I am writing this) over 800. Granted, Chivalry has been out for five years, has a dedicated following, and all of the fan-fueled support that comes with it. But Mirage is from the same developer. Why didn’t their newest game earn more love from the fans they’ve cultivated for half of a decade?

One contributing factor has to be the horrible ping. As someone that lives on the West Coast and is playing on a wired connection with very good high-speed internet, my ping should never be as high as it is when searching for a server in Mirage. It’s baffling.

Hoping For a Future

Early reviews for Mirage are mixed, but most of that is due to the lack of players, which leads to people getting frustrated and leaving negative reviews, which leads to fewer people buying the game, etc. It’s a vicious cycle that’s sad to see, because the game has a lot of great ideas and exciting gameplay hidden beneath the shadows of empty servers.

I’ll keep checking on servers every few days and squeezing in game time when I can, but until more people take a chance on Mirage it’ll continue to feel like it died before it was ever given an opportunity to shine.