Imagine if you were in a mystical world, a world of magic, sorcery, monsters, kings, knights, not vampires, and... an M60 machine gun? Magicka is a quirky homage to both Diablo styled RPGs as well as numerous internet memes, jokes, and references, all piled into a fun little walkabout.
The game opens with you (and your colleagues, should you be playing co-op) sitting at your desk asleep, while your mentor, Vlad (certainly not a vampire, at his behest) tells you what your mission over the course of the game is. You then go to a going-away party, where a fellow wizard mis-casts a spell, plunging you into a well-introduced tutorial area. The game is linear, taking you from location to location with singular tasks, but it also gives you plenty of little side collectibles to find. Most notably, you will have to go off of the beaten path to find each and every one of the game’s preset spells, from the useful Teleport, to the fire-dousing Rain, to the almost-always-instant-kill Thunderbolt.
The preset spells aren’t all the tools you get against the many enemies of the game, though, as you are given different elements with which to construct your own spells. There are basic elements, Fire, Cold, Water, Lightning, Earth, Arcane, Life, and Protection. Many of these can be mixed (with exceptions, such as Fire and Cold, or Life and Arcane) in order to mix their effects. Life and Arcane turn anything mixed with them into a beam, while Earth turns any other element into a projectile, and Shield will create a barrier made out of the element it is mixed with. Any spell can also be self-cast or used as an area effect spell for often completely different effects. For example, most shield spells mixed with other elements will create a barrier as previously mentioned, however if self-cast it will make you immune to that element for a duration. Stacking several elements together will also multiply the spell’s effect, although you can only use 5 spell runes at a time.
Magicka’s difficulty curve is rather good, throwing a lot of smaller enemies at you in the beginning, and slowly working its way up to throwing hordes of difficult enemies at you. It is clear that both yourself and the enemies you face are equally overpowered, especially in co-op. Your spells can quickly chew through any enemy, even bosses, but many of the bosses have countermeasures to make sure you’re not just spamming the same spell everywhere.
The graphics and sound are not something to write home about, but are good enough to play the game without horrible slowdown during crowded portions. The spell effects and blood effects are equally satisfying, and the character models are detailed enough to let you know who is what at any point in time. The voice overs are rather good, with the cutscenes in translated English and the rest of the in-game dialogue spoken in Swedish with dialogue boxes. It has a lot of internet and game memes and references laced throughout its dialogue, setting, and even achievements, but it rarely detracts from the overall game experience. Magicka rarely takes itself seriously, and it makes for a fun, comedic experience.
There is also a “Challenge” mode that acts as a survival type mode, pitting you against waves and waves of enemies. It also has leaderboard support, allowing you to see how your magical skills match up against your friends. This adds a little bit of replayablilty to the already repeatable rhyme and meter that the game creates.
The only major issue that Magicka has is inconsistency. It is a somewhat buggy game, crashing at random sometimes, and becoming desynched in multiplayer at times. Paradox has done an excellent job of patching after release, but there are still a lot of issues that need ironing out. It is by no means a perfect game, but luckily the developer is supporting it well, so I expect that most issues will be fixed sooner rather than later.
Overall, Magicka is an excellent game with unfortunate coding at places, but the gameplay and overall charm more than make up for any current issues. It is $9.99 USD on digital distributors right now, and I can confidently say it is definitely worth the purchase, especially if you have friends who can play co-op with you. No vampires, though.
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