An amazingly entertaining experience, even with horrible flaws
Paradox Interactive is mostly known for their work on very serious and complex strategy games in line of Europa Universalis, where you take on the role of a dictator and manage an empire with your vast knowledge. This is no laughing matter, as there are treaties to sign, research to be done and more very stern tasks. Magicka is not one of these games.
Quite contrary indeed, this action game takes you through the quest of up to 4 wizards who fight to restore the relative good by slaying everything in their path. If any innocents or even they get caught up in the blast, then that’s a funny means to an end. The story will get narrated through each chapter by Vlad, who’s not a vampire, but more of a friendly guide whom will also advice you throughout each level. As you go through these 12 stages, you’ll encounter epic bosses one after another, but each with their own quirks. It’s as if the 3 Stooges have taken control of all the minds in Midgard.
The slapstick isn’t just implemented into the whole world of Magicka, but gets accompanied by a huge, reference-filled tale that is remarkably woven into one. Think of Diablo, but throughout the worlds of Star Wars, Star Trek, 300, Lord Of The Rings, Higlander and even Rambo; because it’s perfectly logical for a wizard to brandish an M60! All this will grip you, make you laugh, but also make you come back for more. The laughter is one of the cornerstones of this game, taking you through a colorful and varied world, between dungeons, valleys and the liveliest underworld since Corpse Bride.
It’s no surprise that the humor also finds its way into your active battle system that fuses 8 elements together to create powerful spells. Combining up to 5 of these components and unleashing them through 4 different means, creates a multitude of spells ranging from beams, shields, imbued weapons and even powerful landmines. You’ll also find powerful Magicks that can create special effects to aid you or alter your surroundings, with a powerful blizzard for instance. The magic possibilities are endless and you’ll need to switch between spells to make it through different sections. As an added plus, you can also manipulate certain areas by freezing water for passage or creating flame barriers to stop your enemies. But more importantly, experimenting between this wide array of options will lead to much hilarity when you realize you’ve just blown your wizard to smithereens.
There is a downside to this hilarity though, as the tough control scheme is a very hard one to master, although it is an inspiring implementation on both keyboard and gamepad. Turning the right thumbstick different ways creates different spells and is surprisingly fluent to the touch. But given the fast pace of combat, you’ll miss more often than necessary; leaving you dead for one small mistake. Dying in singleplayer is especially tiresome as there are no real save points, only checkpoints at certain intervals. Quitting a chapter will set you back at the beginning and sometimes this will lead to much useless restarting.
Most of this rebooting will not be in your hands, as Magicka is unstable to say the least. This is the single most horrid drawback from this game. Not only is the launch release riddled with game-killing bugs, but being kicked out and having to progress to some very tough levels over and over again will get to you. The game has seen a patch come out for it 4 days in a row after release, fixing many graphical glitches, horrible clipping, scene errors and more, which is admirable of the development team. But releasing an unpolished game that isn’t ready for consumers is unworthy of your clientele, whom is forced to wait for updates for a decent playthrough. In particular, multiplayer is very haphazard, which is unfortunately where the game needs to draw its strengths from.
Magicka is a game you can enjoy on your own and have a quite literal blast. But the real fun starts when you get together with 3 other wizards and ensue the shenanigans from combining your forces. Anyone familiar with Ghostbusters knows you should never cross the streams, which is exactly what you’ll do when the fecal matter hits the fan. Time and time again, you’ll get a different and hilarious result you won’t expect and this keeps you on your toes while trying to fight. Dying also becomes much more of a funny side effect of playing than a troublesome chore, as your buddies can revive you without losing progress.
And believe me; you’ll need all the reviving you can get, as Magicka will make sure to throw curveballs at you constantly. You’ll mess up spells, a giant boulder will make you fly away, you’ll create an area of death in your panic and you will die. As the AI is also quite solid yet comical, you’ll get faced with a different outcome each time, when hordes of enemies adjust to your tactics and surround you and your friends before you realize it. This is another great addition that makes the core gameplay of Magicka an amazingly entertaining experience, which will keep you coming back for more, even with its horrible flaws.
The ambitious aspects of Magicka make it a superb title, well worth the money. Behind a story that can take you a dozen hours, you have options to play with friends online or locally, take on waves of enemies in an arena or even merrily start the whole thing over. Even though the game shines most in multiplayer, it’s well enjoyable alone. Unfortunately, the buggy release can dampen a lot of the initial euphoria, which may or may not be forgiven due to the great facets of the game. The fact remains that Magicka makes a very aspiring display that is both innovating and captivating. It’s advisable to wait it out a couple of weeks until all the kinks are taken out; after which any fan of a feel-good action adventure should seriously consider blasting their way through the comical world of Midgard.