Wizards learned how to use the mana found in all living things to their advantage. Competition for this mana led to bitter rivalry and a turn towards the black arts. A cataclysmic event changed the face of the world and a wizard's apprentice is charged with restoring order.
There are 3 objectives:
- Build and defend a castle
- Collect all available mana
- Destroy all creatures and wizards
A level is complete when the target for mana collection is reached.
The castle is essential, acting as a respawn point and a store for collected mana. Without a castle, the player must restart the level if they die. Castles can be upgraded from a single building (level 1) to a 4 x 4 outer wall structure (level 7), with 1 to 3 balloons collecting mana. The player is invulnerable while inside the castle boundaries as it absorbs any damage. An ongoing attack or a large amount of damage will force the castle to downsize to a previous level, spilling excess mana into the surrounding area.
Mana acts as a source of power for all spells. This spell power regenerates over time, and a preset amount of mana is required before the more powerful spells can be used. A wizard can change the state of mana balls using the possess spell. Neutral mana balls are orange; otherwise adopting the colour of the wizard that possessed them. Mana can be found in clusters around the level and appears when creatures are killed. If a wizard dies, another wizard can possess their corpse and in turn any of their uncollected mana.
Early levels are populated with weaker creatures like giant bees, worms and birds. Crabs, griffins and kraken feature in later levels, using fireballs, meteors and lightning. Creatures will attack the player, other wizards and castles. The most powerful creature is the Wyvern, fast and deadly, immune to the Rebound spell and armed with Rapid Fireball.
New spells are collected on the earlier levels as urns. If a wizard is killed carrying one of the new spells, this will be dropped as an urn with their corpse for other wizards to collect.
- Fireball - the basic attack spell
- Possess - converts mana from a neutral state or steals it from another wizard. Also used to possess civilian buildings for a mana bonus.
- Accelerate (forwards) - a temporary speed boost
- Castle - creates or upgrades the player's base on the level, can be used on land or water
- Heal - restores health until the player's mana is depleted
- Rebound - deflects fireballs and meteors back at the creature or wizard that fired them. Mana will not regenerate while rebound is active.
- Shield - reduces damage caused by wizard spells to 25%
- Invisible - creatures and wizards are oblivious to your presence. Invisibility is broken when the player casts a spell.
- Earthquake - digs a channel through the terrain
- Meteor - an area-of-effect weapon, devastating when fired rapidly at wizards and their castles
- Crater - weaker than Earthquake, creates a small crater
- Volcano - creates a volcano, useful for destroying enemy castles due to the ongoing eruptions
- Lightning - fires lightning bolts which lock onto a target
- Lightning storm - another area-of-effect weapon
- Skeleton army - raises an army of undead archers that will attack castles, balloons and wizards
- Mana magnet - consolidates mana balls in a radius into one larger ball, hastening mana collection and defence of uncollected mana
- Steal mana - regenerate your spell power by stealing it from another wizard
- Beyond sight - displays the location of other wizards on the map
- Duel - locks wizards together so neither can escape until one uses Accelerate or dies
- Teleport - warps the player back to their castle. Casting again returns the player to the previous location.
- Wall of fire - creates a wall of fire
- Accelerate (reverse) - a temporary speed boost
- Global Death - a smart bomb. A bell will sound, followed by a purple flash. Creatures and wizards in range die instantly.
- Rapid fireball - fires a rapid stream of fireballs at the expense of a heavy mana drain
- The final level of the PC version was bugged, making it impossible to collect all of the mana and trigger the victory condition. Electronic Arts would supply a fixed version of the level on floppy disk.
- The PC version ran under DOS/4GW. Firing a rapid succession of volcanoes would often lead to a general protection fault, crashing back to DOS.
- In an interview with Giant Bomb, Peter Molyneux said that the core idea of the game, which is flying around on a magical carpet, is "the stupidest thing ever", and that he wishes that Bullfrog had made a corridor-shooter, which he asserts would've been much more successful.