This weekend, Paradox Interactive announced a free-to-play weekend on Steam for their insane action adventure classic Magicka. After placing a ridiculous oversized hat on my head and reaching for my copy of the Necronomicon, I’m finally prepared to tackle the crazed fantasy world of wizards and goblins, giving those who skipped it the first time round a chance to see what they’ve missed.
Known for their more serious Mount and Blade series, Paradox Interactive have finally taken a step into the ridiculous with their unique spin on magical combat. In Magicka you play the role of an un-named wizard tasked with the usual quest of saving the world from a generic evil.
Where many games reduce magic to a simple fireball or sparkling ranged attack, Magicka hands direct control of the elements to the player and steps back, presumably then putting its fingers in its ears. The consequences of your early experimentations are initially disastrous. Within minutes of starting a game, you will inevitably have set yourself on fire at least twice, electrocuted then soaked yourself with water, and on one occasion I even managed to delete myself entirely from the game.
Spellcasting in games is so often constrained by limiting factors like ‘mana’ or ‘power’, but in Magicka your spell casting abilities are limited only by your speed at typing out the required elements. Once learnt, powerful spell combinations flow rapidly from your fingers, causing goblins to explode in an insane typing test from hell.
Despite its cheery cartoon visuals, Magicka is a violent game at heart. The overpowered nature of the magical spells frequently result in exploding heads and scattered chunks of flesh littering the landscape. Fire spells ignite foes in a blazing conflagration, whilst energy spells blow enemies apart in a spectacular detonation of gore.
The campaign does suffer somewhat from a lack of mid-level saving, making it easy to lose progress from an ill-timed crash to desktop. Players with only a few minutes to kill would be better off spending time in the survival challenge mode, where your character is dropped into the midst of a never-ending stream of enemies reminiscent of Dawn of War’s Last Stand. Beset from all sides by a torrent of foes, I’ve been unable to last any more than a minute before eventually being overwhelmed, or more frequently blowing myself to pieces.
Where Magicka truly shines is in its co-op. With one player, the flow of magic is hilarious to observe, but in conjunction with one or more comrades it rapidly descends from the sublime to the truly ridiculous. Spells collide and interact with each-other in surprising yet logical ways. The result is a chaotic frenzy of sparkling lights and screams, often as much from your allies as your opponents. The ability for team-members to revive fallen comrades means friendly fire incidents are rarely serious, allowing players to enjoy the inherent comedy in ‘accidentally’ setting your friend ablaze with a misplaced cast.
It is unfortunate that the inherent joy experienced during multi-player sessions of Magicka is marred by frequent drop-outs, frozen players and a session browser that frequently fails to find games even when provided with a direct IP. Whilst progression has certainly been made in improving connections since Magicka’s original launch, I still found myself frustrated in two of the three online sessions I attempted.
Magicka stands out as an original and remarkable game. Its unique take on spell-casting and light-hearted humour stand out in a world obsessed with the dark and gritty. As a weekend purchase at a low price it’s easy enough to recommend, yet the many bugs and unstable multiplayer prevent Magicka from climbing from the merely very good into the truly excellent.
Verdict: On target
Platforms Available – PC
Platform Reviewed – PC
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