Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Finally got my copy of Magicka to work, and it was as easy as having it run in Windows XP SP3 compatibility mode; Which is embarrassing that I had not tried that before, but also a little surprising that a brand new game only works if you emulate an old OS. Anyways, since I have now completed the game (and am playing through it a second time) I thought I would do a full review on it.

Magicka is, of course, a third-person, heavily coop oriented. action adventure. The general idea is that you combine different elements on the fly to create custom spells that you launch at the enemy. Alongside this free-form spell creation are a few set special spells that need to be found (in the form of books) to unlock. These are typically more unique, and feature spells such as teleport, blizzard, and summon elemental. Additionally, your mage carries a staff and a weapon. The weapon, typically melee will have a damage, speed, and potentially a special ability associated with it (for example knockback, or set ablaze). The staff is far more interesting can can even shape how you play the game; They have both active and passive abilities, for example a staff might give you longer lightning as a passive ability and the ability to launch a lighting beam for an active ability.

One part I skipped over completely in my partial review was the story. Which would really of been a tragedy if I was not righting this absence right now. The story of Magicka is set in a classical fantasy world filled with goblins, magicians, trolls, vampires, warriors, and peasants. This world is wholly humorous (and oh so successfully so), a little silly, and full of references to other video games/movies. It is simply the funniest, and funnest, world I have played in in quite some time. One particular example of this funny/silly atmosphere really stands out for me, and this is one of the references to a movie; Included in the game is the M60 fully automatic machine gun from Rambo, this is the only ranged weapon usable by a player and it just looks ridiculously out of place in the fantasy setting.

Most of what you will be doing in Magicka is casting spells, and unlike most game you do not have a mana bar or even cool-down; Instead you can cast as fast as you can type. And a great replacement for the mana bar and the related RPG elements that come with it is simple skill at the game; While your character does not get any better the longer it is played the player does. Along with learning more powerful spells you can also learn devastating spell combinations and also simply get faster at typing. Spells are made up of 8 main elements: water, heal, shield, cold, electricity, arcane, earth, and fire and 2 secondary elements: steam, made from combining fire and water, and ice, made form combining cold and water. Most of these elements have other elements that they will not combine with and different effects. For example, electricity will not combine with water or earth, but will cause extra damage to any wet characters and slightly slows the speed of any characters it is touching; Additionally, any mage that is wet cannot cast electricity and takes damage if they try.

These spells can then be cast in different ways: in front of you, all around you, on you, or on your weapon and can sometimes even effect the environment (for example freezing or thawing a river). I really like how many elements will cancel each-other out, it really reduces on smashing the keyboard in a panic to cast some spell, I know I have tried this on a few occasional and ended up cancelling most of my magic with opposite elements making the produced spell very weak and useless.

Each element also has different states that they will take. Earth is the most “stubborn” and will always take the form of a boulder (with the size based on how much earth you put into the spell), and will make all elements put into a spell along side it follow suit (shield is a special case that I will deal with latter, but assume all general statements about elements do not apply to it); Earth is also special in how you cast it, while casting as a projectile you can hold down the cast button to charge up and launch the boulder with a greater velocity. One example of a interesting and very useful boulder spell is a frozen boulder (Earth + 4*Ice), which fragments on impact doing the most instant damage of any spell, weapon, or ability I have seen.

Next up the latter is ice shards that act similar to a shotgun shooting a small barrage of ice in a arc. This form is produced by any spell that has ice in it, and does not have earth. This spell can also be charged, but charging it only has the effect of reducing the arc length.

Which brings me to arguably the most useful form of all the beam. A beam is produced by adding either heal or more usefully arcane to any spell and leaving out the two previously mentioned elements. Beams are useful because they instantly shoot across the screen, instantly effecting their targets and are sustainable for a long time as long as the cast button is held. Beams damage-per-second also increases as contact with a character increases, and will do the most damage of any other spell is left on long enough. Additionally, they can be combined by merging two or more beam in a Y shape to produce exponentially more devastating results. My favourite beam spell is a chilling electric beam (arcane + 3*Electric + Cold), because it will freeze or chill the opposition, slowing them down, and the electric will cause massive damage. One interesting thing to note is that if you supply a constant source of cold to a enemy that is frozen (like in the form of a chill beam) they will never unfreeze.

Next is electricity that will combine with any of the remaining elements and produce a chain lighting like effect. One strange thing about electric is that their is a workaround to get it to combine with water: which is first to create ice, then add the electric, and finally thaw the ice with more fire elements. And using this workaround a very devastating, but long in the conjuring, spell is wet lighting (Water + Cold + 4*Electricity + Fire).

The remaining elements and their combinations are simple sprays. So now to the special case of shield. The shield element is more of a style of casting then a real element and you cannot even add more then a single shield element per spell. It is used to produce walls, mines, and in general effects that outlast the casting of the spell. For example, a mage is almost certainly going to constantly want to keep a simple shield spell on himself, which will completely protect him until it is worn out and will even deflect any arcane beams hurled at him. Additionally, combining shield with any element and casting it on oneself will make them completely immune to that element for the duration of the spell. Shield is also used to create permanent walls when combined with earth and can create temporary elemental storms like rain or chill in a small area or even lay proximity mines when combined with arcane or heal.

Another great part of Magicka is its presentation. The graphics are isometric and simply great. The world is vibrant and the graphics fairly detailed. While the game contains no voice acting and is completely captioned, it does make skillful use of Simlish (aka Sim Speak). But the difference between normal Simlish and this dialect is quite extreme in many situations. For one in Magicka it always sounds realistic, almost as if it could be a real fantasy language, and even contains the right tone for what the captions are portraying.

Relevant Articles: My gameplay only review of Magicka.

While I would not be surprised if this formula get duplicated and enhanced in the future, this is simply the most revolutionary and yet also playable and fun (even to a mainstream audience) game I remember ever having played. - 5/5

1 comment:

  1. Ah, compatability mode... what would we do without you?!?!? :-D