I love Magicka the way a fat kid loves cake. I adore it completely, see my addiction with some guilt and know for a fact that it will inevitably get me killed. Of course, unlike diabetes, death in Magicka tends to happen with greater frequency and more hilarity. Best played with four people and easier completed with two, Arrowhead Studio’s action-adventure is the textbook definition of the phrase ‘Hell is Other People’.
I’m completely dead serious about this, by the way. The enemies that you find in Magicka won’t hold a candle next to your friends. Though well-designed and relatively challenging, the bosses won’t inadvertently kill you twenty times to Sunday while trying to resurrect you at the same time. However, we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
Released sometime early this year, Magicka is, basically, everything good and ridiculous about the fantasy genre turned onto its head, stirred together into a glorious, tongue-in-cheek adventure and lightly garnished with pop-culture for flavor. There are references to the Ghostbusters, a nod to Metal Gear Solid and even Princess Mononoke. Arrowhead Studio certainly did not hold any punches when they made Magicka but neither have they thrown any insults in the direction of their source material. It’s good natured ribbing all the way, the kind of jokes bantered between friends rather than enemies – something that very few other games ever get right.
The plot behind Magicka is about as generic-seeming as the wizards cast as the protagonists. There is a dangerous force that is awakening somewhere far away. You, of course, have the unenviable task of resolving this issue and must embark on an epic quest in order to accomplish this. But really, as far as I’m concerned, it’s just an excuse to rampage across the countryside, toast things and laugh at the absurd dialogue. While I badly want to share the things I’ve found in the game, I’m going to refrain from doing so; it’s a lot more fun to uncover them yourself. However, I will have to admit that the first time I heard a World of Warcraft reference, I ended up laughing so hard that I nearly spilled my coffee. That, of course, led me into dropping a boulder on the NPC responsible for that near-encounter with fatal hardware failure.
On the subject of death, let’s make one thing clear: there’s a million ways to be snuffed out in this game. Much of this can be contributed to the Magicka’s incredibly dynamic combat system. There are eight or so elements available to the enterprising wizard. At any given time, you can combine up to five of these in order to cast a spell. Can you see where I’m going with this? The possibilities, in a word, are endless. That troll lumbering towards you? You could kill it in so many ways – fire, lightning, a field of landmines, electrocution, a boulder to the head. Mind you, you could also get yourself horribly maimed the same way too. Magicka features “full friendly fire.” Everything and anything you do can and often will come back to bite you in the proverbial posterior.
Now, imagine this with another three players. It will often not be the fault of your friends. Enemies in Magicka come fast and furious. Like angry lemmings, they will continuously throw themselves at you, filling the screen with arrows and clubs and magic. Amidst the chaos, it becomes too easy to accidentally target the wrong person, miss a shot or do any number of things that can result in death. The problem is further compounded by the fact that magic in Magicka responds beautifully to the laws of physics. Certain elements dislike one another, often resulting in explosive consequences should any wizard be foolish enough to attempt a combination. Spells will also bounce off shields, water will conduct electricity and fire will thaw ice from under unsuspecting feet.
At times less a game and more a case of organized chaos, Magicka is also a surprisingly gorgeous little game. Though it breaks no new benchmarks in terms of its presentation, there’s very little not to like. From the particle effects right down to the gibberish utilized throughout the game, everything is remarkably well-done. The only flaw that can be found here is, perhaps, the voice acting as the voices occasionally do end up grating on the nerves after a prolonged period of time.
Magicka can be played both online and offline via Steam or local co-opt. The former can occasionally lag depending on the time of the day which makes me question the viability of international play. However, it looks like coverage here has been improving so things could be different now. Alongside the fantastic game play, there’s also the sheer amount of support the developers have been providing. Two DLCs have been released to date with more to come and according to what I’ve heard, it looks like Magicka will soon feature a PvP mode to satisfy the truly bloodthirsty. Personally, I think there’s no need for that given the amount of carnage every game of Magicka generates but to each their own.
As far as I’m concerned, there really is no reason you shouldn’t purchase Magicka. Unless you’re the type who demands exquisite discipline from their team mates, it’s going to be one of those games you pick up to play with friends again and again. The perfect antidote to the melodrama that seems to fill the genre, Magicka is my personal game of the year.