Calling all wizards: It’s time to take up your wands and test your spell-slinging skills against each other in intense online matches in Wands Alliances. The new 3v3 multiplayer game from Cortopia Studios has a variety of classes and spells for you to choose from before you head out to battle within the streets of Victorian London. And it’s out today on Meta Quest 2 for $19.99 USD.
Wands Alliances is a spiritual successor to the 1-on-1 magic dueling game Wands (available on the Rift and Quest Platforms). The tactical nature of the original game hasn’t changed. You still move by teleporting to specific points on a map, and with many unlockable spells to choose from, you need to consider your battle kit (loadout) carefully as you can only take a handful of them with you online. But by shifting to a team-based style of play, Wands Alliances makes you think about how your loadouts and character class abilities will complement those of your teammates.
There’s so many possible strategies that Wands Alliances Creative Director Michael Nordström likes to describe the game as “first-person chess.” We spoke with Nordström about how Cortopia built on the foundation of the first game while also making Wands Alliances feel fresh and different.
What kind of lessons did Cortopia learn from making Wands? And how did that help inform the development of Wands Alliances?
Michael Nordström:Wands taught us loads—not only about balancing a tactically complex game, but foundational lessons about VR. You have to remember that when Wands was released, VR was still in its infancy. So with each new technology that arrived for VR (6DOF, controllers, controller tracking, etc.), we had to go back, re-examine our assumptions of what a VR game was, and modify it to fit this new paradigm shift. The great thing with Wands Alliances is that now we’ve been able to take all those lessons and experiences to build something from the ground up. A distinct example of this is the new shooting range in Wands Alliances. Based on the lessons we learned from Wands, we changed the spells to be represented by cards. This allowed us to give the player a nice physical interaction when building their battle kits, and we also attached the spell’s description to the card. If the player points the card to the shooting range, they can test it instantly.
We have a couple of dev diary posts scheduled to appear on our website for anyone interested in the inception of the original Wands and how Wands Alliances came to be.
Why is Wands Alliances more of a spiritual successor, rather than a direct sequel, to Wands?
MN: The short answer is that we don’t feel this is a direct sequel to Wands. The long answer is that when designing the game for a 3v3 experience, we realized some major mechanics would need changes or tweaks. The main difference came from the fact that players now have more than one enemy to focus on, which means you can flank or be flanked, surround or be surrounded, and so on. Certain design decisions that made Wands the high-octane experience it is today made Wands Alliances more frustrating. In order to get the 3v3 experience to the level where we knew it had to be, design changes were needed. What we’ve ended up with is a game that has the spirit of Wands with its fast-paced tactical magic casting, as well as adding an entirely new layer of cooperation and social experience.
How does Wands Alliances build and improve on the original game?
MN: Three things come to mind: spells, playspace, and traversal mechanics (teleportation). Early in development, we reflected on the fact that players love to find new ways to use spells—ways we can’t think of. Therefore we decided that we need to give players as much freedom as possible in this regard. One example of how we approached this: All spells are physical objects, which means you can shoot them out of the sky. Another great example is the spell Gravity Well, which attracts all physical objects within its radius towards the center. During our testing players have used this to shoot around walls, make sure projectiles hit their target, or defensively make themselves harder to hit. We can’t wait to see what crazy tactics players will come up with!
The second thing is playspace. We set out to make the action intense with high stakes in each movement. However, if you’re always worried about jumping into your TV set or cupboard, this intensity takes a back seat to caution. We worked very hard to make sure that our levels in Wands Alliances work with the staged playspace mode. The player should know where in their room they are at all times and be able to focus on being active and aggressive without worrying that they’re getting too close to crashing into something.
Finally, we have traversing or teleportation. We felt at our core that teleportation was important because it allows the player to traverse a level without having to worry about the Guardian. This can be highly frustrating if a fight breaks out and Guardian is working against you. However, we also felt this wasn’t enough. Teleportation shouldn’t merely be used as a band-aid for problems—it should be just as important to the gameplay as spells. This is where we introduced the tactical elements of being able to see where your enemies or allies are teleporting to and creating spells that can interrupt traversing. Once this was introduced, it immediately increased the level of tactical play. Tricking players into thinking you’re teleporting, casting spells to their destination before they arrive, and trapping enemies using blocking spells—these things truly elevate the game to being first-person chess.
Why was 3v3 the right choice for the team-based matches?
MN: It took a fair amount of testing, but we landed on 3v3 as a great balance for team-based matches. One of the major advantages is that the size allows for proper team tactics while also letting each player’s performance make a mark. Another benefit we’ve noticed was that with 3v3, players become more social with one another and it feels like it’s easier to communicate even with complete strangers.
Can you talk about what kind of modes will be out at launch?
MN: We’re launching with one main mode where you play in an attacking or defending team. There are two winning objectives: Either you plant the Omega device (“bomb”) as attacker and successfully defend it until the countdown ends, or as the defenders, prevent the attackers from planting the device. You can also win by obliterating all members of the opposing team. Available slots in matches are filled up by bots, and we also have custom games where you can set up matches in whichever constellation you like.
Each map seems to have its own lore and history. Do you plan on telling more about that story in the game?
MN: Oh, absolutely! The universe that has been built around Wands is so fascinating and filled with mystery that we really felt we needed to inject and explore more of this story in any new project existing in the universe. Of course, being a multiplayer title, the lore doesn’t take the forefront, which is why the levels are such a perfect way to passively display the story. As for how we’re going to be telling more of the story? There’s so much to tell! The characters, the factions, The Beyond! We won’t go into specifics here, but rest assured we want players to experience and learn everything we know. Whether that comes in updates, wiki posts, or YouTube videos, that remains to be seen.
What are your favorite classes and spells to use?
MN: Good question! It changes all the time. As soon as I discover a new way to combine spells or a new way to use a character’s passive ability, that character becomes my favorite to play. The same goes for spells. There have been several times where a spell I hardly ever used became my new favorite just because I suddenly thought of some unique way to use it. If you’re putting a wand to my head though, I’d have to say The Inventor class. He has access to a lot of spells that control the movement of enemies on a level, and his passive lowers the cooldown of his other spells when he uses them.
What has the reaction been like from playtesters?
MN: Very gratifying! We’ve been playtesting the title in various settings and groups of players over time. Especially now towards the end, the hooting and hollering—paired with intense ducking and dodging happening as the players’ skills progress—leaves many people feeling like they’ve had loads of fun and a good workout to boot!
How do you plan on updating Wands Alliances in the future?
MN: We really hope to be able to support the title for at least as many years as the original Wands. We’re not ready to speak about the update plan just yet, but our team is itching to add new features and content, so keep your eyes peeled. Balancing the game is something we’re also very committed to and which will be needed over time as we get more feedback from our community. Continuing to develop the game together with the community is going to be very exciting. As game developers, we always envision things and how they’re supposed to work, but it’s not until you release the game that players tell you how they’re really playing it.
Any tips for players before they jump online?
MN: Sure thing! Here’s a bunch to get players started. Can’t be too careful out there.
Team up with your friends and master the art of magical combat together in Wands Alliances, out now on Quest 2.