Release Date: January 2011
Publisher (Developer): Paradox Interactive (Arrowhead Game Studios)
ESRB Rating: “Teen” for blood and gore, language and violence.
Pros: Quirky humor, magic system, beautiful world
Cons: Controls can be a problem during high intensity battles, derivative story
Overall Score: One thumb up and one thumb sideways; 84/100; B, *** out of five.
At first glance, Magicka really doesn’t seem like much. Then again, there is quite a bit that goes into the game that makes it worth playing and a bit that occasionally makes it a chore to play.
The story isn’t groundbreaking by any means. It’s your basic story of an evil sorcerer that builds a force to throw the world into chaos. You have to fight your way through the hordes to defeat the sorcerer who is out to take over and/or destroy the world. So take your typical fantasy tale and throw in more Norse mythology. That’s what you have with Magicka in terms of the story.
However, the story isn’t the thing that sets the game apart.
Sparks of Genius
The humor is one of this game’s big selling points with quirky dialog that is a lot of fun to read. Whether you’re thrown out of your own “start of the quest” party because a drunken, childish mage decided to almost blow you up (to start the tutorial no less) or you’re listening to your mentor Vlad who keeps trying to insist he’s not a vampire, the game always finds ways to amuse you. I love the fact that I seemed to have stumbled across a reference to the game company Games Workshop as early as the first actual village that you visit.
Another thing that you’d be coming to the table for is the magic system. You’d expect a game with the word magic in any form in the title to have a very inventive magic system. The entire magic system is based off of mixing different elements: water, life, defense, ice, fire, arcane, earth and lightning. Some of them cancel each other out. Others combine into new elements to open up more slots. Different combinations also have different effects. Mix defense with an element, you end up with a wall of that element to protect you. Mix arcane with something, it extends the range and/or power of the element. Half the time though, you’ll just be mixing elements together just to see what kinds of spells that you’d be able to come up with – even if they aren’t in the normal spellbook that you can pause the game to refresh yourself on the mixtures for certain things revival, rain and even crashing the game.
The world is absolutely stunning. Sure, it isn’t as detailed as a lot of games that are out there. However, it’s filled with the wonder and whimsy that would actually fit with the story and its humor. It’s very bright and colorful and it definitely gets even brighter and more colorful when certain spells are cast.
Something’s Off Here
While the controls are pretty simple (even during high intensity battles) it gets pretty hard to remember what key does what. Movement, attacks and spells cast on yourself are usually handled by the mouse. The elements are handled by the keyboard with the defaults being A, S,D,F, Q, W, E and R. If you’re using a laptop, you might have one of the spell buttons be a key rather than a mouse button as well. Still, during high intensity battles, it’s easy to forget or just push a button too quickly so you either just push something away, heal an enemy or hurt yourself. It’s a source of difficulty and irritation though it isn’t a major problem. You just have to pay close attention to what you’re doing.
The story is way too derivative. Even with the humor, if you’ve played any RPG you’ll feel like you’ve played through the story for this game. Sure, it’s satirical. Sure, it’s spoofing the stories of the genre. Still, satires and spoofs find a way to actually stand apart from things that it’s making fun of. Magicka really doesn’t seem to do anything to stand out from the things that it’s making of. It’s actually a little heartbreaking. I expected more from the game on this front. I guess you win some and you lose some though.
The DLC for this game tends to be very hit or miss and that seems to be a bit of a common theme. A considerable amount of the DLC only adds cosmetic touches, specifically new robes and starting equipment sets for your mage. Then there’s other DLC that adds legitimate additions like levels and campaigns (like “Vietnam”) or battlegrounds to beat your friends into submission (like “The Frozen Lake”). Some of the DLC is worth the money since it adds actual gameplay content. Other things, like the DLC that adds clothes, is a judgment call. It’s not necessary and doesn’t really change the game in any meaningful way, but can be nice. So that content is entirely up to you.
It’s Worth It
The game itself, simply due to the humor and magic system, is well worth the money. It’s fun, though a bit maddening. Sometimes you just want a fun mindless game that isn’t afraid to make fun of itself. Magicka and some of its DLC is that kind of game.