Mistborn Trilogy and Video Games

Mistborn Final Empire Cover

A few weeks ago I finished a great fantasy title by Brandon Sanderson called Mistborn: The Final Empire. I began writing a book review about it, even though it has no video game counterpart or even one in the works as far as I know, so it eventually turned into an editorial about how to make a game from book or film. Well, in the time since then I've finished the entire Mistborn trilogy and now I'm back to write a review on the whole series. Well, maybe not a real review, there are plenty of legitimate fantasy book sites that can do a lot better job than me at that, but more of an examination on how a series like Mistborn could be translated into an awesome video game.

I'll admit, the only reason I was even attracted to the series is because Brandon Sanderson is now finishing off the late Robert Jordan's epic, The Wheel of Time. While that fantasy shelf-warping series definitely started to fade as it resisted to wrap up, I'm still excited to see how it ends. And what better way to understand that than to read the books that the chosen author has already written? The Mistborn series seemed like a great place to start, so here's my review/plea-to-make-this-into-a-great-game.

Spoiler-free Synopsis

The series begins during a time of turmoil, the Lord Ruler has reigned over the land for a thousand years, setting up a cruel hierarchy of slaves and noblemen, all who play into his hands. One former skaa (the book's down trodden slaves), Kelsier, has brought together a crew of men and women with special abilities with the purpose of taking down the Lord Ruler's Final Empire. The books follow Vin, a teenage girl who is just discovering her innate special powers, and her involvement in Kelsier's insane plan. She's grown up learning that she can't trust anyone, but is suddenly thrust upon a group who trust each other with their lives.

What makes the Mistborn world amazing though is its magic. Some people are born with powers that are awakened when they swallow metals. Yes, metals, like iron, steel, and copper. By swallowing metals, the powers inside of them become available for use, and a normal person can suddenly wield the power of a titan or have the eyesight of an eagle. This power is called Allomancy. The catch is, while most people will not have any powers at all, almost everyone who can channel a metal can only use one. They are called Mistings, and depending on what metal they can use, can serve very specific purposes in private armies or while trying to overthrow a tyrannical government that has ruled for a millennium.

However, a very small minority can burn all the metals, and they are called mistborns. Kelsier and Vin are mistborns, and with the right set of metals in their stomach, can be almost invincible. Some of the most well-written sequences are the mistborns battling it out while using every single metal at their disposal. But it's more than just action, it's about Vin becoming a woman, becoming a friend, and becoming a mistborn. If you told me that a quarter of the chapters take place during ballroom dances, I'd be curious and a bit apprehensive, but its executed really well and keep wanting him to return to the keep great rooms. Vin is the centerpoint of all this, and there's a constant whirlwind around her.

The Series

The tone of each book is quite different as the series progresses. I loved the first one for its group comraderie, impossible planning, and riding the crazy train with Vin as she went from an introverted girl hiding in the shadows to a powerful mistborn with still much to learn. We take each tepid step with Vin as she learns what each metal does and how to fully take advantage of it. It's really quite incredible. The One Power from the Wheel of Time series is about the lust for power and letting it overcome you, but its weaves are nothing like the depth and intrigue Allomancy provides. There is so much for Vin and the reader to learn, and Sanderson is an expert at doling out the hits at just the right pace.

But as the series progresses with The Well of Ascension and The Hero of Ages, it definitely starts to become more about the world's politics. There's less swashbuckling, less laughter, and honestly, less excitement. The scope of focus explodes out wide and while it still makes for a great read, it's not the same. Though Sanderson does continue to deliver new flavors of magic which explain all the earlier mysteries, it doesn't quite fill the same role that Kelsier had for Vin. I guess I can't say too much more without spoiling, but definitely give the first book, The Final Empire a read. If you like the world that Brandon Sanderson developed, read on!

Mistborn Well Of Ascension Cover

Mistborn: The Game

In my original making a game from book or film editorial, I discussed the two popular routes developers and publishers take to create their video game: scene-by-scene, and new hero. I will discuss both options here as I think they would both be great adaptations of a rich world.


When making a game scene-by-scene from the book, the developers have the advantage of translating the chapters right into their own stages. While not every chapter from the Mistborn trilogy would make for an enjoyable experience, I believe that even the ballroom dance sections I mentioned earlier could be fun (and not in a Sid Meier's Pirates! dance-off either).

Since Vin learns all her new powers slowly, and because actually having metals in your stomach could limit what Allomancy is currently available, the game could naturally progress while keeping the learning curve sane. The opening level could be a simple tutorial with Vin following her brother around in the capital city, with the focus on introducing who the main factions are in Luthadel and what kind of threat they serve to Vin. There is no Allomancy, and it doesn't even explicity follow anything from the books, just more of a introduction to the world for those unfamiliar with the series. After the level, Vin wakes up, and we're in the present with Kelsier explaining to his crew how they're going to topple the Final Empire.

The game moves quickly to Vin's first training session with Kelsier at the midnight hour. Here the player is exposed to the main batch of metals, and can try them all out without any major risks, as Kelsier is there to rescue you if launch Vin off a building without tossing a coin down first. After that, the metals may once again be re-introduced slowly as to not overwhelm the player during real levels. One stage may focus on steel pushing and iron pulling, while another may just feature an all out pewter enhanced brawl. Sanderson's Allomancy is so deep it would allow for a lot of varied and fun gameplay if done correctly.

Zinc and brass are the emotional metals, allowing a Mistborn or Misting the power to inflame or sooth emotions of others. Along with tin, which enhances perception, these would be perfect for the ballroom dance sequences. While I wouldn't recommend featuring them every other level, three times during the game would probably be enough to keep them fresh. The purpose of these stages wouldn't be to dance, but for information gathering. In the Mistborn trilogy, they're far more important to the nobles as political posturing events than for getting their groove on in the moonlight. Using tin to listen in on conversations, and subtedly manipulating them with zinc and brass could be very fun. Something important about Allomancy is that most of the metals can be trickled out slowly or in huge, overpowering bursts, or anywhere in between. Imagine rioting emotions with the left trigger and then slamming on the right trigger to soothe your target over at just the right moment. This kind of manipulation is explored quite frequently in the books and I believe these would be the perfect levels to take advantage of it.

As the series progresses, Vin becomes less and less the main focal point. While this is necessary for the broad story Sanderson wants to tell, I'm not sure how the later books would translate into the game. Undoubtedly, most developers would want to make as many characters playable as necessary, and while this would make for a complete story, I'm afraid it would be executed poorly. Since Vin is so powerful and as a Mistborn, has access to all the metals, she would easily be the most fun to play. But most of the side characters are just Mistings, people with the ability to only burn one metal. The levels that starred the additional characters would generally be very specific: for example, when playing as Ham, you would know almost immediately that you're just going to be fighting hoardes of enemies with your enhanced pewter strength. This might be all right a few times, but not something I'd enjoy seeing level after level.

Some of the characters I do think would work, however, would be Marsh and Sazed. These men are unique in that they each employ a different power that is not Allomancy. Saying anything more would be saying too much, but each of them have their moments in the story and might be really fun as a one-off level here or there. Other than the three I mentioned though, and I think the game would end up just testing our patience.

While I complained that the last two books lost the charm of the first, I still think that particular sequences would make for some excellent gaming experiences. The imagery Sanderson describes in the final few chapters of the Well of Ascension would be a marvel to look at with the right artists on board.

Mistborn Hero Of Ages Cover

A New Hero

Can someone convince me that the Mistborn world would not make for a great MMORPG? I think it would be a tough argument, but it's also not completely obvious how it would all work, here's my theories.

Most MMO's are class-based, meaning that while grouping up, everyone plays a specific role, whether it's healer, tank, damage producer, or guy who causes a bunch of particle effects that slows everyone's machine down. Mistborn's Allomancy (and potentially its other brands of magic as well) fits decently into this existing class hierarchy, with a few exceptions. There's no classic healer class, which may automatically kick this out of the World of Warcraft clone category, but that may not be all bad though. Healing simply doesn't fit that well into Mistborn universe except for maybe Feruchemists.

Pewterarms would be the natural tank and could even deal quite a bit of damage with their enhanced strength. This class would be great for the players that just wanted to go out and bash things while taking a lot of hits. Since pewter is a relatively slow-burning metal, they could leave it on almost all the time while accumulating injuries and healing from them, but going off pewter would be very dangerous for them. Once their body isn't shielded from the protective powers pewter provides, they may experience devastating wounds or even death! I'm not sure how to balance this but it would be a great feature to always have this pewter death hanging over you, if you're recovering from a major battle, you'd better have enough of the metal left to survive!

The next obvious class are the coinshots, Mistings who can burn steel can throw coins and then blast them forward by pushing on the metal. They are often paired with pewterarms in the novels and typically result with a coin shot through someone's head! They would be a range attack class, but could also provide support to the group by pushing away any coins shot at their own crew, or even performing Allomancy shoves on people wearing metal armor.

With pewterarms and coinshots covered, that pretty much leaves atium burners as the final straight fighter. Atium allows the Allomancer to see a bit into the future and allows them to anticipate their adversary's moves. These Mistings would most likely not burn the expensive atium very often, and instead save it for major battles or even fights against Mistborn. This would be a rather limited role though, so the game would definitely need a balanced combat system that supported Allomancers who didn't have such obvious fighting capabilities.

This leads me to begin exploring some of the other metals, and inclusion of Feruchemy and Hemalurgy would almost definitely be necessary to cover more bases. Soothers and rioters could serve as emotional crowd control, and copper and bronze burners could hide their crew's powers from others or seek others out, respectively. Would this be any fun though... I'm honestly not sure.

Playing as a Feruchimist could be interesting: basically they store up powers into metal reserves so that they can unleash hell when the time is right. For example, a Keeper can store up strength in some pewter and when drawn upon, their muscles will literally grow to some serious proportions. The problem is, when storing up their powers, they will have to sacrifice the power they want to store up, so storing up strength would make them incredibly weak. A Feruchimist player could store up strength or speed while offline (and with their character in a safe place) and when they return, they'd have some brief minutes of power and agility.

Becoming a Hemalurgist is probably not something you could choose to do when creating a character, but instead would require the appropriate sacrifices to become one. The journey in becoming one though would make them incredibly powerful, only being rivaled by a Mistborn.

And speaking of Mistborn... haven't mentioned them at all. One of the major problems that plagued Star Wars Galaxies (even before the NGE) was that there was a huge timesink to become a Jedi. You had to max out four random skills, with each possibly taking weeks. After the New Game Enhancement, the Jedi became a starting class! Neither of these are ideal in my opinion, but not having any Mistborns at all seems like an incredible waste. My proposal would be to feature the Well of Ascension and the metal larasium, where the Well would be one of the final dungeons and one larasium bead might given out as a reward for conquering it. The key is "might" though, and the percentage may have to be based off the number of current active Mistborns on the server. Keeping the number of all-powerful Mistborns under 1% of the server population would probably be a well-balanced point.

Becoming a Mistborn would of course make you a valuable member of any crew, but it would also make you a target. Since a Mistborn would be able to burn every metal, they would generally carry a lot around with them, killing them would allow the victors to loot all their expensive metals. Being a Mistborn in the first place would probably be an expensive class to handle, the punishment of dying would have to hit the wallet pretty hard.

There's plenty more factors of a Mistborn MMO I could discuss, but I'll leave that for a later date.


The Mistborn series is a great set of books and has me even more hyped for the last three Wheel of Time books. Brandon Sanderson is an expert at world-building and creating deep, layered magical systems that will leave you guessing well into the third book (and even leave more questions at the end!). While it was hard for me to enjoy the second and third books as much as I loved the first, there's still plenty of great writing to be found. What really intrigued me though were the possibilities for this series to go beyond the paperback, I had video games in mind, but even while writing this, Sanderson tweeted that he was holding a movie contract in his hand. Now that's impressive, and definitely improves the possibility of seeing a video game either directly based on the books, or simply set in the world. I'm sure hoping for one, just to get another taste of that metal.

Mistborn Vin Christian McGrath Art
Art by Christian McGrath. Used with permission.