Reviewed: February 5, 2011
Reviewed by: Charles Boucher

Publisher
Paradox Interactive

Developer
Arrowhead Game Studios

Released: January 25, 2011
Genre: Action Adventure
Players: 1-4

9
8
7
10
9.0

System Requirements:

  • Windows XP / Vista / Windows 7
  • 2.4 GHz Pentium 4 or equivalent
  • 2 GB RAM
  • GeForce 8800 / ATI X1900
  • DirectX 9.0c
  • DirectX 9.0c Sound
  • LAN / Internet Connection
  • Mouse and Keyboard

    Requires original EU3 and
    all previous expansions

  • Have you ever wanted terrific power over the elements, calling down lightning or fire, as you will? Well, if Magicka has taught me anything, youíre probably better off practicing in a safe environment first, because for as many ways as there are to call down terrifyingly powerful magic, there are equally as many ways for them to go terribly wrong.

    Arrowhead Game Studiosí game puts players in the shoes of a wizard adventuring through a whimsical, albeit blood-soaked, world inspired by Norse mythology and laden with pop culture references, alone or with up to four players, and despite some technical issues, it manages to be absolutely delightful, especially with a full group tripping over each othersí toes and crafting elaborate magical disasters.

    The heart of Magicka is its system of elements. Bound to Q, W, E, R, A, S, D and F, the eight elements allow you to quickly dial up a spell, which can then be unleashed at will upon any of the monsters or harmless villagers that inhabit the world. While the basics of the elements are spelled out in a tutorial, such as the forms they take and the elements they oppose the more complex aspects, such as the creation of fields of healing mines or beams of deadly steam are up to players to figure out.

    While experimenting in a safe environment is all right, the real joy comes out of Magicka when you start experimenting in unsafe environments, crossing beams of fire and cold to create massive explosions to take out a boss on a whim. The magic system is also deep and consistent enough that, once you get a few spells you really enjoy, you can start swapping out parts, say, replacing cold with fire, to see how it changes the overall effect.

    Even the less successful experiments, like creating a minefield that lights a mageís robe on fire and sends them careening around the battlefield in panic, are good for a few laughs and a trip to a nearby checkpoint, so screwing everything up is relatively harmless. If you manage not to kill everyone, all the better, since with a few seconds of spellcasting, everyone can be resurrected and fully healed to keep up the adventure. The system really manages to hit an excellent midpoint between being complex in its permutations, but intuitive in its execution and the assembly of spells, resulting in a terrifically deep magic system that anyone can pick up quickly.

    However, the controls seem to have some issues deciding whether the game is meant to be played on a gamepad or with a mouse and keyboard. While the magic system is perfect for a keyboard, the game also features robust gamepad support, which lends a more natural feeling to movement at the expensive of moving the intuitive dial-a-spell system to analogue gestures. Still, both systems are good enough that it really comes down to a matter of preference.

    The gameís campaign takes place across thirteen stages, and is supplemented by a challenge mode. As the campaign progresses, players will find elaborate spells they can use to set up fantastic effects, such as meteor showers, that go beyond the normal limits of the gameís element system. The campaign has a light, humorous tone, and while there donít seem to be English voice acting outside of a few select cutscenes, the voice acting in the original language has enough joy and enthusiasm put into it to get the jovial tone of the game across and enhances the sense of being in a fantastic land set apart from the modern world.

    The one problem in the campaign, and the challenge mode, is that the difficulty does not scale at all with the number of players. While this is compensated for by the fact that more players provides more chances for error, it does mean that playing with one or two players can get rather rough. Indeed, some of the gameís bosses and more challenging areas seem like they might be too much for one player to get through on their own, short of trial and error until they luck out.

    However, while having a group of players is advisable, both for completing the game and having the most fun on the way, the gameís multiplayer selection is like something out of 1999. Providing only a list of active servers, which doesnít seem to be inclusive, and the option to enter an IP and password, itís functional, but a far cry from the more elegant menus of modern multiplayer games. While it provides a more or less acceptable way of arranging games, it seems like a notable deficiency in a game that relies so much on its multiplayer.

    Despite these relatively small flaws, however, Magicka is one of those games that deserves to become a classic. Despite a rough launch and initial problems with multiplayer over the first week or so, Magickaís recovered well and is now one of the most refreshing, engaging, hilarious games Iíve played in a long time, and its frequent patching is to Arrowhead and Paradoxís credit. Anyone who has any interest in cooperative games or action-adventure would do well to pick it up, especially for the almost ridiculous price of $10.