Mihai goes to war armed with Magic
I don’t get MOBA’s. I find them interesting for a little while, then I give up on them entirely because I get bored of them very quickly. So I was a little bit disappointed when I had heard Magicka was donning the MOBA robes. It wasn’t natural and I wasn’t going to play it, dammit! Except, of course, I played it. To be honest, I’m pretty glad I did.
One of the reasons it didn’t seem like a right choice of genre is that Magicka felt like a pretty slow game. Yes it was hectic, but as you approached a huge battle encrusted in rock and carrying four elements ready to unleash hell, it was a very tense moment. There were those breathless times just before you initiated a fight which inevitably exploded in a shower of gore. These were fantastic and did not make sense in a MOBA setting. Everything moves fast there, you have no time to hold your damned breath! Well, it turns out I was wrong. You’re guarding a spawn point. You’ve put mines down, Earth walls, Shields then a red dot approaches you on your minimap. This is all happening in seconds, much faster than in the original game, and yet it feels like minutes. Suddenly a teammate comes from the other side and accidentally pushes you into your own mines.
Wizard Wars isn’t so much a MOBA, as it is an 8 person PvP mess with some sort of objectives. Yes, you have to capture spawn points in order to keep your team alive, but kill them quick enough and you’ll breeze through it. Easier said than done of course. I’ve been up against some feathered-fingered gods, who just launched devastating spell after devastating spell. By the time I had thought of the necessary spells to counter theirs, I was little more than a scorch mark. And then there are the struggle fights, where the teams are balanced and the game feels like it lasts ages. That is, until Sudden Death is called and it’s last man standing.
Wizard Wars is full of amazing little moments. They’re all little moments, because no game lasts very long even when it gets to Sudden Death. You quickly move on to something new, a new objective, a new target. The mechanics of the game now encourage you to be faster. Everything moves more fluidly now, you are only able to combine three elements, instead of the originals four. Even when you’re slowed down by elements, you can still outpace just about any Wizard from the original game. However, the lobby system is anathema to the speed of the game, which I’ve found to be the game’s greatest failing. There must be two teams of four wizards, otherwise you will be stuck in lobby limbo forever. Gods forbid you have made a party of a few friends, because the matchmaking system tries to keep you together, so it needs to find a lobby with enough opponents and allies. It’s happened to a few of us whilst playing. To be missing just one person…then one guy leaves…and another, and another, until finally there is only two of us. I honestly wouldn’t mind playing in a game with unbalanced teams. It would either end quickly enough, or it might just stimulate me into another mindset where I can tackle three opponents at once, who knows?
The game feels great (when you’re actually playing), and the sound and the graphics round it off perfectly. Interchangeable robes and weapons are back – fortunately – and they look even better than before. You can definitely create a gear setup that complements your play style, but until you unlock things, you have to play (and win) quite a bit. The only unfortunate thing about Early Access is that there is only one map, which gets rather dull.
However, Magicka Wizard Wars feels different enough to be a new title, yet respects the original game’s best traditions, all the while addressing its previous mistakes. There are still a few things to iron out, but when you finally get into a match, it’s a wild, raucous ride, but it’s usually well worth the wait.