It’s pretty common these days, especially for indie titles, to take whatever genres are/were popular and mash them together in the hopes that the combination works out in the end. It’s often pretty rare for the title to come out as something more than just a Frankenstein of this and that but Magicka has pulled it off. It isn’t the prettiest girl at the party but does enough things uniquely that it’s hard to take your eyes off her.
The plot is your generic fantasy fare as Hávindr, the capital city of Midgård, is under attack and as a student in the Order of Magick it ends up being your job to investigate the cause. Along the way you’ll battle orcs, goblins, trolls and anything else fantasy related you can think of in a mixture of everything from Gauntlet to Castle Crashers. Now normally I would completely can a game like this for lack of anything really special in the lands (other than a relatively funny, vampire-esque narrator) if it wasn’t for the saving grace of the title: the control scheme.
Learning how to play Magicka and use the unique spell casting system is similar to learning to type or cook for the first time; slow, methodical and full of mistakes in the beginning. Once you’ve gotten the hang of it, however, the system offers plenty of discovery and experimentation with the eight elemental powers granted to you (fire, earth, water, cold, arcane, electricity, shield and heal). You can mix and match any combination of elements, up to 5 elements in one spell total, to cast spells ranging from a simple haste to a fiery machine gun.
The isometric view and simplistic graphics lend well to the game considering that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Geek culture nuts will have a field day as they progress through the story with the numerous references to things like Star Wars, Diablo, Monty Python and more. Enemies put up enough of a fight to make the game challenging but still solo-able for those who can’t convince their friends to spend the $10 and pick up the title. Those who do will be able to play through the campaign in a co-op mode which will open your mind to new combinations that you didn’t think of as your partner casts away at the seemingly endless flow of mobs.
The game isn’t without its flaws; at the time of release, the game was extremely buggy. Arrowhead Studios has promised to patch up the issues that arise and have so far lived up to that promise, polishing the game up slowly but surely. Glitches and crashes are something that you’ll have to learn to live with, especially with the latter becoming increasingly frustrating considering how far the checkpoints are spaced apart. Most of the game breaking problems has already been patched at the time of writing, something to consider when researching the game from when it was first released.
In the end a slightly daunting control scheme and some bugs shouldn’t deter you from playing this title. Arrowhead Studios has crafted a fine game and injected some new life into the genre(s) that make up this title with their unique take on the spell casting system. Anyone who enjoys playing a good video game should pay the low entry fee to experience this title; it’s only $10, the cost of lunch.
Magicka was provided for review by Paradox Interactive.
Unique casting scheme, full of geek culture references.
Buggy, difficult doesn't scale with co-op.