I was extremely dubious to say the least when Tom gave me Magicka to review. The title alone invoked images of those advertised free to play RPG’s that infect most gaming websites. Like some form of shady mystical salesman he coaxed me further. It’s supposed to be real good he told me; emphasising the “real”. Okay I said taking the game and a magical monkey paw from him, though I remained quietly doubtful.
Magicka is a game based around the use of magic in a style almost identical to the Diablo series. Player’s manoeuvre their wizards around whilst casting magic spells while facing seemingly impossible odds. Being attacked by a group of ten smaller enemies while one larger monstrosity lumbers towards you is a fairly common experience. The magic that your characters wield is the focal point of the game. It comes in eight distinct flavours: fire, ice, water, lightning, earth, arcane, life and shield each bound to a specific key. While many games will spoon feed a player with specific spells, Magicka gives you the ingredients and asks that you make your own. Like some magical chef you weave spells by combining the different schools and unleash them either directly at an enemy, as an area of effect spell or as a spell on yourself. This is the games bread and butter. There is some inherent joy in combining magic to create spell combinations that are far more powerful than there basic parts. Some google-fu tells me that there are a staggering 1123 possible spell combinations in Magicka. This ensures that even after you have sunk hours into the game you are still finding new combinations. The system is so powerful and innovative that I suspect we will see it copied wholesale in other games.
However the downside to this huge range of choices is that the player can be left wondering what best to use, especially during a more difficult encounter. The tutorial section of the game is thankfully extremely short and very intuitive. However its brevity harmed my progress a little as the incentive to learn new spell combinations wasn’t pushed in early encounters. For the first few chapters I would spray all the enemies with water and chain lightning them all to death. This approach left me scratching my head when I faced another wizard as my usual combination was wildly ineffective. Weaving incentives to learn new combinations into the games progress early on would have helped me greatly.
My only other issue I have with the game is the knockback effects which occur when certain abilities are cast on you. Getting hit by one can send your wizard sailing across the screen. This quickly becomes frustrating and a little confusing as the screen clutters with enemies and effects. More than once I thought I had died only to find my wizard obscured under a tree. I must stress that these problems that I found with the game were very minor and the game runs along at such a speed that any issues you may be experiencing are quickly forgotten as you’re engrossed in the next encounter.
I’ll finish up by commenting on the style and humour of the game. While the magic system is certainly the focus of the game its humour is definitely the gel that binds the whole experience into an enjoyable ride. Copy-pasting snippets of dialogue or funny game references would not do any of them justice, despite me wanting to do just that throughout this whole review. When people talk about Magicka they will probably not be talking about that cool spell they used in combination with some other ability. More than likely they will be asking their friends if they saw a particular joke or reference.
Tom, the other world peddler of strange games came up good this time, though the damn monkey paw is defective. At the small price Magicka is being sold for I think anyone would be mad to miss it. I would score the game an 8 if it was at the price of the usual releases, but for the price of a cinema ticket Magicka is a bargain and most definitely worth the praise it’s receiving.
9 magic missiles out 10