Looking for a fun PC game to play with friends? How about Magicka? Magicka, which was developed by Arrowhead Game Studios and published by Swedish-based Paradox Interactive, the same people who published Mount and Blade and King Arthur: The Role-playing Wargame, was released on January 25th, 2011 on Steam. Magicka became an instant, albeit buggy, hit selling 30,000 copies in its first day. However, the excessive amount of bugs severely hampered the enjoyability of the game. To date, there have been twelve patches. The eleventh patch even included a DLC pack called “Mea Culpa,” which means “my mistake” in Latin. Thanks to these patches, the game can now be played in all its glory, which is why I am finally writing a review on it.
First up is the presentation. Magicka draws heavily from Norse Mythology; the characters even speak Swedish–actually more like a combination of Swedish, English, and gibberish. However, this adds to the overall charm of the game. Adding to this, there are hundreds of references to shows, movies, games, music, and memes. Even the achievements reference such things. In a nuthshell: this is every nerd’s dream game. Some references include “only goblin rangers are so precise” (a clear reference to “only Imperial Stormtroopers are so precise”) and the achievement “KHAAAAAAAAN!” (a clear Star Trek reference). A full list of the references can be found here. Finally, the menus are presented in a storybook fashion, which are very easy to navigate.
Second up is the controls. The camera is set in a top-down variant. You control your character (a colorful magician) by clicking with the mouse and can cast one of eight spells with the Q, W, E, R, A, S, D, and F keys. You can also attack with your melee weapon by holding SHIFT + left click. The eight spells are Water (Q), Life (W), Shield (E), Cold (R), Lightning (A), Arcane (S), Earth (D), and Fire (F). There are two “advanced” elements: Ice, which is created by combining Water and Cold, and Steam, which is created by combining Water and Fire. All these spells can combined in different ways which produce unique effects. For example, combining Arcane and Fire creates a fire beam; combining Shield and Earth creates a shield made of rocks. There are many combinations that you can experiment with. A detailed explanation of the spells and the mechanics can be found here. There are also more powerful “unique” spells, which must be found in game before using. Some “unique” spells include Revive (combine Life then Lightning), which revives fallen comrades, and Meteor Shower (combine Fire, Earth, Steam, Earth, and Fire in that order), which summons a–big surprise–meteor shower. A detailed list of the rest of the “unique” spells can be found here. I will nitpick one thing about the control scheme; moving by clicking was annoying on occasions. Clicking is not as accurate as using the arrow keys in my opinion. And finally, a quick note about beams (Arcane + any element): when playing with friends, NEVER cross beams of different elements. You’ve been warned…
Third on the menu is gameplay. Magicka is an action RPG; up to four people can party together and play. While there is a single player Adventure mode, I lost interest quickly. The most appealing part of Magicka is gathering together with three friends and letting chaos reign. Here’s a quick demonstration:
As you can see, there is griefing aplenty. There are two game modes for multiplayer: Challenge and Adventure. Challenge mode is similar to Escalation in Transformers War for Cybertron, Horde in Gears of War, and Firefight in Halo. Your goal is to survive waves of enemies (in this case twenty) to complete the match. Adventure mode co-op as demonstrated by the video above can be very amusing.
Even though Magicka is classified as an action RPG, there are few RPG elements to be found besides the various weapons that can picked up and used, each with different effects. There are no quests; one of Magicka’s achievements even mocks the RPG genre. After talking to one of the first NPC’s encountered in the game and “accepting” the quest, you will be rewarded with the “RPG much?” achievement. Magicka’s humor strikes again.
Lastly, come the graphics and sound. Magicka has a simple cartoony look. It doesn’t require a lot of hardware to run smoothly; however, there are a few glitches and frame rate issues. These problems are especially prevalent in online play, even with the various patches. The soundtrack has a medieval feel to it, seeing as the game draws upon Norse mythology. It’s nothing special, but it’s not terrible either.
And here’s an extra piece of news. Recently at the Game Developer’s Conference, Paradox Interactive announced an expansion called Magicka: Vietnam. If you’ve been playing Magicka and love it as much as I do, this is great news. Although I have to say, that banner looks awfully familiar…