Magicka- Spell-based Shenanigans

Greetings once again. Today we’re talking about Magicka by Arrowhead Game Studios and Paradox Interactive, a game about one to four hapless wizards trying to save the world.

And killing many many many people in the process.

And killing many many many people in the process. And not all of them by accident.

The gameplay consists of fighting enemies or bosses and navigating dangerous environments, all to continue on to the next area. This is done with an impressively detailed spell-creating system. There are a whopping 8 (and 2 combined) elements, bound to QWER and ASDF. These can be combined in any order so long as opposing elements are not put in the same spell. Clicking with the mouse buttons then determines if the resulting magic targets enemies, yourself, your weapon, or the area around you. And before you ask, yes, it is entirely possible to do stupid things like set yourself on fire, or drop rocks on your head. Better yet, there is no limit to how much you can cast beyond “5 elements max” and “1 spell at a time”. If you’ve got the typing skills to fire off non-stop meteor showers and thunderstorms, go right ahead and have a blast doing it.

Everything reacts with each other in a consistent and intuitive fashion. If you try to channel electricity while soaking wet, you’ll electrocute yourself. So how do you fix this? Use fire on yourself to instantly dry off. Enemies spamming arcane beams at you? Use the shield element, which reflects arcane magicks. Monster about to eat you? Not if you’re immolating yourself.

The toughest and most interesting fights are those against fellow casters. These guys can do everything you can and then some, and it makes for some gripping moments as you try to blast through their defenses and wear them down before they heal or summon another monster to tank your spells. It can be a little frustrating to have your own strategies thrown back in your face, but I still enjoyed it.

It certainly helps that the graphical style is very good at showing important information (like a character soaked in water having shine spots) while being very pleasant to look at. The world is, frankly, pretty. The environments and enemies all look very good, and the sound-work is spot-on as well.

As for the fire... well, if you have any pyromaniac tendencies, you'll probably find out playing this.

As for the fire… well, if you have any pyromaniac tendencies, you’ll probably find out playing this.

Now, you’re going to jump into this game expecting to be all clever and coordinated, perfectly deciding spell combinations and using them on the fly. That is not true. Instead, you are going to flub a major spell at the worst possible moment, and most likely kill yourself and half your friends. Heck, you might even flub a minor spell and do that. But you know what? That’s okay. The game knows that will happen. Revives are easily cast by the surviving players, and even solo players can get away with the occasional death thanks to checkpoints and such. Just don’t accidentally kill your friends in the tutorial like I did. They’ll be waiting a while.

That said, the game still has a high skill ceiling. The more elements you hold onto without casting, the slower you walk, which is the last thing you need in a game that swarms you with enemies. It takes an oppressive amount of time to scroll through your learned spells, so I highly recommend memorizing your favorites.

Because you never know when you'll be in a situation like this.

Because you never know when you’ll be in a situation like this.

That’s another cool facet of the game. The game has some specifics spell combinations that have alternate effects when cast with the spacebar. Some are buffs, some are really impressive attacks, and one is the revive spell. There’s also a number of wizard robes available with certain trade-offs. My personal favorite is the Tron Robes set, which makes you impossible to heal normally, but Lightning attacks heal you instead. Then there’s weapons and staffs, which can be found in game. They include guns, if you want to be really mean to your enemies. Some of the above items and spells are sitting out in the open, but you’ll have to be clever to get to the rest. This is a game that rewards experimentation, so if you’re every having difficulty with your current robes, weapons, or spell combos, try something else.

The game plays with a number of RPG and story tropes in amusing ways. Your mentor, Vlad (who is not a vampire!), has an moment where he abruptly leaves the party. It’s a blatant maneuver to advance the story, but you won’t mind as the execution leaves a smile on your face. Heck, half the boss fights could even be avoided if your wizards would kindly stop being silent protagonists for a moment. All these little twists make an otherwise standard story quite enjoyable.

As with Terraria, you can either buy a single copy of Magicka for ~$10, or a 4 pack for $30. I highly recommend getting friends for back-up on this one, as Singleplayer can be a little frustrating due to limited revive chances and not having anyone to keep goblins off your back. And like some other co-op games, half the fun is accidentally (or not…) screwing over your teammates in pursuit of victory.

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