Learn how to spell, this time on a console.
Developer Pieces Interactive have taken over development of Paradox Interactive’s chaotic isometric spell-flinging game from Arrowhead Studios for this sequel, but haven’t made many changes to the formula other than this time bringing the game to the PS4 console alongside the PC. But can the console gaming crowds get to grips with the complex spell wielding system, and can console friendships survive the inevitable friendly fire?
Spellcasting in Magicka 2 is actually fairly straight forward. The player has access to eight different elements which can be combined in groups of five to create a spell, and then cast in four different ways. At its most basic, the player can select the fire element and then cast it in an aimed direction as a fireball, or select the life element and cast it on themselves to heal. However, things get far more complex than this.
The first complication comes from the console controls. Whilst on the PC, each element has a different key and once they are learned everything is good, on the PS4 four elements are assigned to the base face buttons, with the other four assigned to the same buttons after pressing L1. Then, of course, you have a variety of buttons for casting the spells either in a given direction, as an area effect, or on themselves. Each player also has a melee weapon which can be given magical properties by casting a spell upon them.
This in itself is not too bad, controls can be learned. But when combined with the speed at which the player has to react to threats, and the variety of different environmental factors that play their part, things get tricky very quickly. The number of different spells that the player can cast by combining the different elements and casting effects is quite astounding, but in the heat of battle, with water or flammable structures around which can be affected by the spells, or innocent bystanders who can be caught up in the mayhem, choices only add to the problems.
Players will quickly learn a few basic spells which can be used in a hurry, but most of the fun comes from making new combinations and seeing just how they play out, with death being a regular outcome. It is very easy to, for example, cast death on oneself instead of life when trying to heal, or cast lightning when standing in water and getting frazzled. There is an incredible amount of seeming randomness in the game, with accidental button presses or unknown combinations causing death as often as being overwhelmed by enemies, and more so when playing cooperatively with some friends.
So, yeah, the learning curve is pretty high and playing the game solo is perhaps not the best way to a frustration free gaming session. Things are made a little easier with a selection of powerful preset spells assigned to their own buttons. These spells can be cast the old-fashioned way by combining the correct elements if the player can remember them, but having them assigned for quick use really does take the strain off. However, using these spells in this way does apply a cool down timer, preventing the player from spamming the same spell. The player can also make use of their melee weapon, which can be changed through the game, but wizards are not known for their melee prowess and relying on a weapon without any spell-assistance will lead to a very short-lived adventure.
The adventure itself is not especially long anyway, coming in at around six hours depending on playing conditions. There is a fairly generic story about a “chosen one” and plenty of smirk-inducing humour packed into the game, which could be nice or irritating depending on your own sense of humour. However, Magicka 2 really comes alive when playing with friends.
Aside from making the game much easier when playing with some buddies, there is one simple mechanic that really allows the co-op game to shine – friendly fire. With all of the accidental spell casting and unplanned effects from both the spells and the environment, friendly fire means that fellow wizards will often fall foul of your spell casting. In fact, your friends are likely the most dangerous things in the game, especially if they are new to the Magicka games. Playing with friends and a less than serious attitude, Magicka 2 is a hilariously fun game filled with accidental fryings and freezings.
Magicka 2 is a game that was designed for co-op play, and playing with friends really is great fun. If you have a group of buddies who won’t be offended if you accidentally zap them with a death ray, then Magicka 2 will fuel some fun-filled nights. However, playing the game solo is difficult and frustrating. Grab it if you have forgiving friends.