Every so often a game comes along that offers a new concept which is so brilliant and so much fun that you just know other developers are looking on jealously, considering ways to adapt this concept into their own games. Magicka offers such a concept, but does the rest of the game measure up?
Developed by Arrowhead Game Studios and published by Paradox Interactive, Magicka has at it’s core a great idea. Around this great idea is a game that perhaps doesn’t compliment the idea to it’s full potential. Whilst this doesn’t stop Magicka from being a hell of a lot of fun, it does prevent the game from being great. So what’s it all about?
Magicka is a fantasy action game with a similar look to games such as Diablo. The player takes on the role of a hapless wizard within a comical fantasy world that constantly seems to be poking it’s tongue out at all manner of fantasy pop culture. The capital city is under attack and the Wizards Order have decided to send you on a quest to find out what’s going on and save the city. They even throw you a going away party, bless them.
During the players more or less linear journey to the end of the game, they will come across hordes of monsters to overcome. Although the journey is relatively linear, there are hidden areas to come across and new weapons to be found, none of which have a massive bearing on how the game plays out. So far, so average you may be thinking. But the real star of the show is the magic.
Players have control of eight different elements (fire, water, cold, arcane, earth, heal, lightning and shield). Up to five of these elements can be combined in all manner of ways and then unleashed upon the enemy, or upon the player themselves, with some incredible effects. The combinations are entirely up to the player and, as such, the effects are not always what the player expects. A certain amount of common sense is expected, such as the obvious combining shield and earth to create an earth shield. Not all of the elements work together and the player needs to be aware of this. But the real fun comes when the player starts creating more complex combinations to make volatile fiery meteors rain down from the sky, that actually heal their victims. The results can sometimes be totally unexpected, which all adds to the fun.
But the elements also react with the environments. Bring down rain on your enemies to ake them all wet, then blast them with lightning for a glorious chain reaction. Or cold to make them all freeze followed by a nice ice shattering missile. There are certainly plenty of options when it comes to dealing death in Magicka. But that death dealing is not always limited to enemies.
Although Magicka can be enjoyed in single player, the game really comes to life when played with up to three buddies for some serious co-op chaos. And chaos it will be, mostly because friendly fire is always turned on and the unpredictable nature of the spells that are cast will have the player more often than not causing damage to their friends, or even healing the enemies. This is to some degree compounded by the keyboard controls which assign a different element to each key, although control pads can be used. In the heat of battle it is very easy to accidentally choose the wrong element and cast a spell with an undesirable effect.
But this is what makes the game so much fun. it is not precise and a lot of the time things happen that you simply didn’t plan. That being said, the game is not without it’s teething problems. Since the launch, the game has been plagued with stability problems and connection issues. Whilst a lot of these have been fixed with patches, the game still seems to be experiencing problems. I have utter faith that Paradox Interactive will keep the patches coming until it is finally working correctly.
The other downside to the game is the repetitive nature. Once you get over the initial novelty of brewing up your own custom magic, things do get a little samey samey. Of course, this only really applies to playing single player. In co-op, you won’t have enough time to notice the lack of variety as you will be having too much fun.
It could perhaps be suggested that Magicka was released too early and shipped with far too many bugs. It could also be said that Magicka is an average fantasy action game that is saved only by the amazingly fun multiplayer and the involving magic system. But once in the thick of a co-op game with friends, magic spells flying all across the screen and all manner of strange things happening, Magicka is brilliant. The game has a chaos around it that allows novices to enjoy it just as much as professionals. Gamers looking for some chaotic co-op fun, that is perhaps a little different to the usual gaming fare, should certainly check this out. And watch your back, your friends don’t really know what they are doing either.
Magicka, from Paradox Interactive, is available on GamersGate for Â£7.99