Fantasy action adventure games are ripe for parody. Sword and spellslinger game settings offer so many opportunities for humor with things like indestructable cows, explosive barrels littering the landscape and the 5GP treasure stored in every refuse bin or wooden crate across the land.
It’s obvious from the first minute of Magicka that this is not your serious action RPG for the serious gamer. Instead, it’s a game that uses the same old tropes and attempts to inject a little fourth wall criticism in at the same time. Oh and Vlad.. is exactly not a Vampire.
Magicka (PC [Reviewed], XBox360)
Developer: Arrowhead Game Studios
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Release Date: January 25, 2011
Players take the role of a would-be world saving wizard on a quest to… SAVE THE WORLD! The savior can team up with three friends locally or online to complete the daunting quest to SAVE THE WORLD! There is fun to be had here through the humor, which even manages to be funny, most of the time.
Players who tend to enjoy intellectual humor and avoid pop culture references and puns should steer well clear of Magicka. This game is not afraid to lampoon any popular fiction – including the obligatory Star Wars and James Bond references.
I won’t waste time diving into the plot except to say this is a game that is bold in its acceptance that most players are here to zap things with magic and hunt for loot. The setting is ostensibly based on Norse myth, meaning they use Norse terms all over the place, usually with no relation to the mythology itself (or humorous connections). Since I actually paid attention to the story, I found the subtitled dialog humorous.
Speaking of subtitles, this is not a game for those who don’t like to read a bit. While most off the game is voiced, it is in a language I’m not fluent in (mostly because it’s gibberish – mixing English, Scandanavian and who knows what else – like Simlish). The delivery is far more important more than the words themselves.
It’s often comical how the actors read their lines with too much enthusiasm or seriousness despite the tone of a scene, and Vlad, the player’s mentor, is suitably Transilvanian sounding for someone who is definitely not a Vampire.
Playing Magicka is a bit of a challenge. The game relies heavily on players building combinations of magical elements to cast spells. Simply combining multiple instances of the same base element results in more powerful basic spells, but the game also has a fairly deep strategic control scheme thanks to this system.
Players are encouraged to mix elements to discover new spell combinations. Additionally, mixing opposite elements results in failed spell casting or backfired magic.
After a few hours of play, I found myself repeating the same spells over and over once I found the combinations I liked best. The game encourages a mix of spells but experimentation really relies on the player’s tolerance for pain – you don’t “learn” the spells through trial, so until you find the spellbooks with formulas scattered throughout the game you might need to keep paper and pen handy to jot down the mixtures.
Spells also serve to heal characters and overcome obstacles because as the game reminds you, Wizards can’t swim. The repetitive nature of the spell system really encourages macro programming if you’re lucky enough to own a keyboard that supports this.
Although I enjoyed the simple fun, I found the game a little frustrating. On a number of occasions I suffered game crashes and little errors with my summoned spirit minion. These bugs usually were not game-breaking, but they did serve as an excuse to go do something else for awhile.
Paradox is issuing almost daily updates, so most of the major bugs are being squashed rapidly. The sad truth is that the game probably didn’t get quite enough testing before seeing release, however with this sort of response from the developer it’s a minor negative.
Magicka is a nice little game. Along with the adventure mode (which can be played with friends online or locally), the game features a Horde-like survival challenge mode. Players who master the spell combination system can face a number of rounds of seemingly endless foes while trying to stay alive and commit fantasy creature genocide. The challenge mode is diffiicult for one player and is more fun with friends but isn’t varied enough.
The budget price and fun poking of the genre lend themselves to easy adoption. While Magicka will not replace more serious action RPG titles like Torchlight or Diablo, it manages to offer a fun co-operative experience with some funny moments.
- “Only Goblin Sharpshooters are so precice” – Pokes fun at all the right tropes
- Deep spell casting sytem
- Co-op adventure online and local
- Spellcasting works best with macros or 4 hands
- Some bugs yet to be squashed
- Repetitive multiplayer options