A breath of fresh air from developer Arrowhead Game Studios and publisher Paradox Interactive shows us a daft new take on the fantasy adventure game. The general idea behind this game is that you, and up to three others, can blast your way through 13 levels of a self-proclaimed generic fantasy world. Your robed magic maestro is armed to the brain with the knowledge of 8 different ‘elements’ which can be combined in numerous ways for amusing effects.
In this review I will ignore the amusing storyline, as well as the many, many references to other games, films and myths, which are all absolutely fantastic. The reason for this is that the discovery of it all make up part of the joy in this game, when you and your mates can say “Oh my God, dude! That’s <blank>!” Seriously, they’re awesome.
Instead, I’ll talk about the gameplay! There is a great variety of potential combinations you can make in this game. To give a few basic examples, if you use the Earth power multiple times in the same string you’ll create a bigger and bigger ball of rock to hurl at your foes. If you combine Arcane and Lightning you’ll create a death ray to blow up anything in its path. You can soak an enemy with water first and then fry them with Sith-like electricity from your staff.
However, it’s important to be wary of the opposites. As much as certain elements complement one another, others will react and blow up in your face – literally. Hilarity is part and parcel of the wonderful package that is Magicka. You can be playing in a team, with members who will all have a different approach. Perhaps you and a friend will be near a massive horde. One thinks, “Hey, that death ray would work nicely,” while the other “Looks like a shield will help keep them away while we prepare,” and before you know it you’ve got a death ray bouncing off the interior of a protective bubble, now a death trap, killing everyone inside. Even if you are on the same page with death ray, it could be one decides on a frosty blast and the other prefers the fiery version. Once you combine those two streams you’ll be witness to a giant explosion, seeing all your little wizards fly off the map to their doom. Tip: It’s actually possible to blow someone so far off they reach the next stage of the level!
The possibilities are all there, and believe me you’re going to make a dozen mistakes the second you set foot in the game, and end up in fits of laughter from the results! As you journey onwards you will discover new combinations to create actual spells, which can be used to both help and hinder others around you. One of the set combinations you receive from the start is the Revive spell. Fun fact: In multiplayer games you’ll be using this a hell of a lot. It’s probably one of my most used spells, given the frequency with which my friends and I are killed, sometimes by ourselves, sometimes by a hefty swing of a giant hammer making a splat on the ground. During a session with a friend, I witnessed one of the funniest deaths I’d seen thus far. Due to some kind of occurrence he was brightly aflame, and trying to put himself out, spewing water out of his front. However it didn’t work and he walked straight off of a cliff. Hearing his cries of “Nooooo!” were brilliant. I probably could have doused him with water, but it seemed funnier this way.
Aside from the Adventure mode there is a Challenge mode where you simply have to survive as long as possible and kill as much as possible, which is a nice addition to break up the monotony of playing the same story again and again. There are currently only two arenas to choose from, I believe, but it still makes for a good laugh.
In regard to the graphics, I’d have to admit that before playing the game I looked at it hesitantly as though it were a typical fantasy clone. Truly though, this game is anything but. The bright graphics help to support the cartoon-y sense of action in the game. Seeing the skeletal figures when people are fried with lightning is a fun touch.
The high tense dramatic soundtrack works against the extremely silly nature of the game, making it that much more fun and exciting and the Nordic gibberish language spoken by all the NPCs of the world brings a smile almost without fail, especially to Scandinavian players.
Unfortunately the game seemed to be rushed to release and current users are reportedly suffering from a number of bugs, ranging from white screens on menus (thus forcing a restart of the client) to general stuttering on even the most high-powered machines, with a typical dose of crashes thrown in. I too have experienced bugs a handful of times, but sometimes it’s possible to forgive a crash or two when you hear someone saying “I’ve crashed” through a barrage of their own laughter after a particularly devastating group-effort suicide. That said, publisher Paradox is working on improvements, and it has already provided patch notes letting everyone know that it know the problems, what ones have been fixed, and what features have been added. There are also a number of solutions to the current problems, as well as temporary solutions to the more aggravating issues such as disappearing save files. Yep you read correctly. Every now and then it might pay to backup your save file by following the similar instructions here. At least the Paradox representative uploaded a file with save points at the start of each new chapter!
For a quick glance at the corporate side of things, the game had sold over 30,000 units within it’s first day of release. This means the small Swedish team’s project, originally a student project, is already generating revenue. In an interview between Gamasutra and CEO Johan Pilestedt, the soaring sales were far more than they had ever anticipated. For the full Gamasutra interview just click here.
Overall I rate Magicka highly in terms of looks, sound and gameplay. Despite it’s various problems I maintain it was easily worth the money and can still recommend the game to anyone, but be warned it’s not a perfect construct yet! In a similar vein, the replay value could dwindle after some playthroughs and enough time blasting in the Challenge mode, but things haven’t even started to get boring for me yet. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to put on my wizard hat and cape.