March, 17th, 2015
Time Played: 39 hours
Last Played: Steam won’t tell me!
Magicka: Brilliantly Ludicrous
I’m just going to get it out of the way: if you haven’t played Magicka, go buy it right now.
It’s only $10 dollars, has a very unique combat system, and is the perfect combination of self aware, stupid, and high concept rigamarole. PLUS, the sequel will be released on May 26th!
Now, if that doesn’t interest you… Well, uh… GTAV is out on PC… Or something…
When people ask me why Magika is so good, the first thing I think of is its sense of humor.
“Oh no. Not a ‘funny’ game.”
Yeah, yeah, I know. We’ve all been burned by one of those in the past. But this one is different. Magicka is just stupid… but In the best way!
The main plot device used to get the story rolling is: a powerful wizard, Grimnir, wanted to harness the power of all magick and use it to bring peace and prosperity to all the lands. But his peers were intimidated by his ambition and had him exiled from the order and imprisoned at the end of the world for all eternity!
And thus the world was saved… “aside from the increased numbers of monsters attacking the villagers” and “The Orc warlord Khan, who united the orc tribes, and now threatens the great city of Havindir!”
Now it’s your job to fix everything!
Okay, yeah it’s pretty stupid. But give it a chance. Most of the humor in this game is self aware, even though it isn’t always presented with ‘a wink and a nod’. Magicka likes to play around with clichés from popular genres—Fantasy, RPG, Video Game, even some Sci-Fi—and everything is presented at face value. I appreciate that.
But humor isn’t the only thing Magicka has going for it. It has a decidedly unique spell system, which breaks down like this:
You have eight elements mapped to the QWER and ASDF keys.
You can combine any and all of the eight elements up to five times to create a myriad of different spells to fight with. In addition to the vast amount of possible combinations (something like 32,768), many of the elements will actually interact. Some elemental pairs combine into entirely new elements! Like Water and Cold, which combine to create Ice. Water and Fire will create steam. Additionally certain elements will also cancel each other out, like Lightning and Earth, adding another layer of complexity.
But variety is pointless if the different elements don’t mean anything by themselves. That’s where the Magicka’s combat really shines.
Each element is unique and has it’s own rules and status effects. Straight forward, right? If something is wet, Fire will dry it off and Cold will freeze it. Lightning, by itself, electrocutes dudes. But! If they’re wet it will also deal far more damage! Not good enough for you? Well, If you’re feeling frisky, you can combine Fire and Arcane and make a fire-laser beam that not only ignites your foes in fiery anguish, but also causes them to explode upon death at no extra charge.
If that wasn’t enough for you, there are also three different ways to cast each spell:
Normally. (Need a group of people on fire? This is your best bet.)
Area of Effect. (Need a circle of fiery death around you? Look no further.)
And On Self. (This only goes bad about 98% of the time.)
Are you frozen solid? Better light yourself on fire to thaw the ice!
Let me give you an example of some of the possible interactions:
Scene: There are a bunch of Goblins, lets say twelve, running at you. They are trying to make your insides your outsides.
So, like any normal person, you conjure up a super awesome Water and Earth projectile spell, and shoot it towards them at high speed. The magical projectile splatters about 6 or 7 goblins into a smear of red paste and gracefully cover the survivors in water. Now would be a great time to electrocute them!
*A-A-A-A* “WHY AM I DEAD?!” – You, probably.
You were wet, that’s why. The water from your spell accidentally drenched you.
Anything you can do to the enemies, can be done to you.
The combat in Magicka is very interesting, and also quite hard. Sometimes annoyingly so. But it’s never impossible or cheap. From my perspective, each combat situation is a puzzle that needs to be solved via different spells. You just have to make sure not to rain down lightning from the heavens if your Wizard Robe is sopping wet.
And the developers were not afraid of altering how you think about your spell combinations. During a specific chapter the Life element, the only way to heal, becomes one of the best ways to output damage. Which completely alters how you go about choosing your spells.
Side Note: that was also one of my favorite chapters in Magicka.
I have spent just shy of 40 hours with the game, and I’ve enjoyed every second of it. The game has a pretty lengthy story, filled to the brim with genuinely enjoyable referential humor. You might groan a few times, but that’s half the fun anyway.
I’ll leave you with one last comment. Messing around with your buds adds a great deal of enjoyment Magicka. The game is wonderful on it’s own, but adding friends makes all those interactions come into even greater effect: one mage is trouble. Two mages, a disaster. Three or more? Chaos. Utter chaos.
Just remember: Do. Not. Cross. The streams.