Magicka Review :
Be sure to bring a friend... or three!
Magicka... a game featuring (you guessed it) magic! Put out by budding game developers Arrowhead Studios (and published by Paradox), Magicka lets you take on the role of an all-powerful wizard and even jump online with up to three wizard buddies in a grand adventure. So it it worth the ride?
The story starts out with you picking and naming a wizard. You'll then learn about your order of wizards and a powerful mage that was banned from it named Grimnir. After a short tutorial level, you'll then be summoned by the king, setting you of on your adventure.
To be honest, the "story" of the game isn't very compelling or deep, as its pretty much there just to get you and some wizard friends out the door and out zapping monsters. A lot of the story is based on Norse mythology, and you will meet plenty of interesting characters along the way, including your mentor Vlad (who is absolutely NOT a vampire). Where the story does succeed though is how very humorous it is. You'll be constantly bombarded by pop-culture and geek references as you play the game. For example, the first six chapters of the game are named after the Star Wars movies, you'll come across 300 and Highlander references, and you'll even have a memorable fight against the wizards who say "Ni" and their shrubberies. As you can see, the game may not have a deep story, but it IS basically a non-stop ride of chuckles.
Magicka is also a very simple game to learn and pick up and play. There is no character levels and what color your robe is means very little. You'll start out with your basic sword and staff, as well as eight different magical elements. Six of them cause damage (fire, water, cold, earth, lightning, and arcane) while two of them support you (life and shield). All of these elements are assigned to their own keys as well. However, you can stack these elements to make stronger spells. For example, hitting "F" (fire) will spit out a small stream of fire. Hitting "FFFFF" will make that a LARGE stream of fire.
Oh, but it doesn't stop there! You don't have to stick with a single element! Throw in some arcane (SFSFS) or combine it with lighting (ASFAS) for some powerful beam attacks. There's also two elements that only show up when you combine certain elements, such as Ice (Water + Cold/QR) and Steam (Fire + Water/FQ). On top of that, you'll also find and learn preset spells from spellbooks, which give you the recipe for powerful spells (you do have to put in the correct elements and hit the space bar though). There's also a bunch of different ways to fire off your spells. You can cast them normally with the right mouse button, cast them on yourself with the wheel button, or do an area burst attack with the shift and right mouse buttons. As you can see, with ten different elements there are a LOT of spells to play around with.
But like my review title states, the game is SO much better with friends. A large part of this is because you can actually COMBINE spells (like those powerful beam spells) to make them stronger. Be careful though, as several elements just plain won't work well together (like earth and lightning). Also, it's important to note that you should play with FRIENDS, because friendly fire IS turned on, and you WILL die in some very explosive ways. Thank god for the revive spell.
Not everything is perfect though. Despite being patched several times, the game still has quite a few bugs, including some that will just plain crash the game on you. It was obviously not released in a polished condition. The saving system is also very shoddy, as while there are checkpoints throughout the game, you HAVE to beat a level to complete it. Combine that and the bugs with not being able to select which level you want to play and the game can be VERY frustrating.
The graphics in the game are very crisp and clean, with a very good variety of backgrounds and areas that you'll visit. There IS some backtracking, but its not too much. I really like the spell effect animations (there are some really good ones like Blizzard). I also enjoyed the boss designs. Heck, even the generic wizard designs are cute (they remind me of the classic "Black Mage" from Final Fantasy, minus the eyes). The music in the game works well but isn't very outstanding or memorable; instead you'll be focused more on the sound effects and pretty spell animations. The dialog and way it is delivered adds to the humor, though. It helps that the "story" is so cleverly written.
All in all, the game will probably last you anywhere from 6 to 8 hours to play through (probably even less if you play with some good friends) and lasts for twelve chapters. As I've stressed earlier, it does have an online function, but it also has a challenge option as well to put your wizard to the test.
So is it worth the $10 even with the potential for game ruining bugs? If you have friends, I say go for it. The witty dialog and fun spell system will easily pay for themselves. But if you're a lonely mage, I'd recommend finding something else. This is a very decent game though, especially from newcomers Arrowhead Studios, and I'm personally looking forward to their next project. Have fun and keep playing!
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