Magicka Review (PC)

Poor Magicka. We've been following this game for some time here at Strategy Informer. It was simple, it was charming and it was all kinds of fun. It's a great little group game with a surprisingly robust story and the perfect personification of how well indie studios with backing can do. Imagine our surprise then, when as we came to play through the review code, things weren't going quite according to plan.

Each enemy requires specific tactics to beat
We're going to deal with the issue of launch now, just to get it out of the way. Whilst it's disappointing that we had to delay this review so that the game would be in better condition, the fact that Arrowhead have been patching non-stop, the fact that Paradox has been so open with us... generally, we feel there's very few excuses in this day and age to release a game that needs so much work after launch, but we're making an exception in Magicka. To be honest, there wasn't any indication that there were issues with the game at any point during the preview stage, and we'd like to believe that they were just as surprised by the volume of launch issues as we are. Either way guys, we forgive you - just don't do it again.

Magicka is wonderfully simple in both premise and execution. Basically four guys and some mojo, you as the player must fight to help save the land from monsters and rogue wizards alike, using an innovative spell system that allows you to combine any of the eight elements present in the game. The story is light-hearted and filled with subtle Swedish humour, as well so many pop-culture references we're surprised they haven't sued already. The campaign though is merely a back-drop, and surprisingly solid considering it needn't be there at all. All that really matters is the action and 'lolz' that this game can generate.

The spell system at the heart of this game is quite innovative and most elements mix together in different ways for varied results. The eight elements are: Water, Healing, Shield, Ice, Lightning, Arcane, Earth and Fire. Certain elements cancel each other out, such as Arcane and healing, earth and lighting etc... and some elements, like fire and water, combine to create steam, which has its own uses. You have five 'slots' with which to queue up elements and fire off a spell, and the order and elements used will determine how that spell is used. Despite this however, there is a pattern to things. No matter what order in the queue it is, add earth and you'll always fire a projectile, for example, no matter what else is in the queue. Adding Shield will always create a shield themed on whatever other elements you have, and adding healing will always partly heal your enemies.
The environments in Magicka are varied and unique
On top of this is the concept of Magicks. These are specific spells that require a specific combination of elements, and are activated using the space-bar. They take time to set-up, and whilst you're actually casting a Magick, you're vulnerable to attack, so you have to play it just right or save it for co-op mode where someone can cover you. These Magicks can range from anything to reviving an ally, to laying down some grease, to summoning a meteor shower. As an aside, you can also attack using the melee weapon you carry around with you. Swords, hammers, spears, as well as different types of magical staffs will be found during your adventure, so there's some token customization options there.

The game itself comes with several modes - Adventure, which is the single-player campaign but can also be done co-operatively. Challenges mode which is like a horde mode, and again is either single-player or co-operative, and then online play where you can choose to team up with any three others over the internet in either Challenge or Adventure mode. If we're being honest, the balance is slightly more towards co-op play than we would like... although that could just be us not being very good at the game. It can be a bit of a slog to go through the single player game one your own, and you may often find yourself getting stuck at particular points. For those who get easily frustrated at repetition, this could pose a problem.

There's nothing wrong though for having one portion that really out-shines the rest of the game, and the co-operative elements is Magicka's strong point. Whether you're playing online, or locally - which is only really possible by having one person on the keyboard and mouse, and everyone else using USB or Wireless controllers. So far we've only seen 360 controllers used, however we're sure a properly set-up PS3 one would work as well. This is probably due to the studios hope that Magicka will eventually get the console release they've been chasing.

The sweet spot has to be working with three other people though, whether it's local or online. In fact, we'd go as far to that it's even more fun if the other people are in the room with you, or if you at least have voice contact with them. Not only does this make coordination easier, but it just increases the fun. Berating Number 2 for not healing number 3 in time, congratulating number 4 for a well timed projectile, and then summarily apologising to everyone for accidentally killing them all with a mistimed lighting blast... we could go on with such anecdotes,, but it's really something you have to experience for yourself.
It's moves like this that could go so horribly wrong...

The fact that, at the time of writing, Magicka had surpassed 150,000 sales, is just a testament to how fun and addictive the core game really is. Now that most of the major hiccups out of the way, this is definitely a must-buy game, but it really needs to be experienced to get how much fun it is. We hope Paradox also learns a lesson with this as far as QA is concerned - although the game did have a beta, which is the odd thing. Anyway, buy it, grab some friends and get your robes ready!

Top Game Moment: It's a tie between pulling off an amazing combo with friends, or accidentally-on purpose killing them.



By Azsinistar (SI Veteran Newbie) on Feb 07, 2011
I got this game on launch, and yes it was a mess. However it was really nice to see a game patched up immediately (instead of months down the line) and this game is a blast. I play mostly in single player and coop with my son. If you want a fun play, I highly recommend this one.
By DJIM (I just got here) on Feb 08, 2011
I played it with a PS3 controller so i can confirm that it works. I had to set it as a 360 controller using motionjoy to work though