Magicka (PC) Review
In Magicka, mixing elements and creating new, awesome spells is almost more fun than blasting enemies with those spells!
Magicka is a game where you can experiment and combine up to 5 elements to create spells. Experimentation is important. There are thousands of combinations.
For example, using an earth element by itself will create a rock projectile, and fire by itself creates a flamethrower effect, but combining both earth and fire will create a fireball.
From a quick-glance, Magicka looks like a Diablo-clone, but it plays more like Microsoft’s Flight Simulator. Seriously. I have never played an action-oriented PC game that required so many keyboard inputs as well as taking advantage of multiple mouse clicks (both basic and contextual).
It’s overly-complex, but it actually works. However, the learning curve is going to be a bit high, and most gamers who are expecting this to be a Diablo-clone might immediately find the requirements to be completely overwhelming.
The elements that you’ll be required to combine to cast spells have quick keys: Q, W, E, R and the A, S, D, F keys will quickly become your friend. Memorizing which element corresponds to which key will save your life.
Not only do you have to juggle 8 different elements (which can also be combined to form additional elements, like steam — combine fire and water), but the way in which you cast spells is also something you have to remember.
Pressing the right mouse button is the default casting button. The longer you hold it down, the more powerful the spell. You can also press the mouse-wheel button, which will cast a spell on yourself, like heal. Casting a spell on yourself can also be devastating if done accidentally with a powerful combination of elements. Sometimes casting a spell on yourself is important in order to save your life. If you’re wet, and cast an electricity spell, you’ll get a horrible shock. However to quickly dry yourself, you can cast fire on yourself which will dry your robes. Sure it’ll hurt a bit, but it’s much less disastrous than electrocuting yourself.
A third style of casting spells is holding down the shift key and clicking the right mouse button. This will cast the spell in a radius around you. This is good when you’ve been swarmed from all directions.
Moving your wizard requires you to hold down the left mouse-button. At first, this design decision seemed strange, and I constantly wanted to click and area, like in an RTS, and have him automatically walk there.
Expect to spend more than an hour getting used to the controls, finding out what combinations of elements work best, and which combinations work well against certain enemies.
Probably the best thing about Magicka, is that the game is totally about magic (well, duh!) but you don’t have to worry about juggling mana. The power to cast spells is always there, and the power to cast healing spells upon yourself is limitless. This might sound like a “press button to win the game” kind of move, but Magicka throws a lot of bad guys at you, and you’ll find that having an unlimited ability to heal doesn’t mean you’ll be able to cast it fast enough to save your sorry hide.
The game has a great sense or humor, and doesn’t take itself seriously at all. The writing at times is very witty, and often has the dry wit of a really good British comedy.
Magicka is also a very gory game, in that if you charge up an enemy with enough electritity, they’ll explode into bloody pulp. Being an old-school PC gamer, it immediately reminded me of Bungie’s PC series Myth, where enemies would explode into chunks if hit with the right kind of explosive.
Magicka isn’t a very complicated looking game, but you’ll likely want to have an above average gaming rig to play it. Even using a fairly robust system with a nice graphics card, I experience some flickering of tree shadows that I couldn’t ever seem to resolve (or disable), and there were instances where the game sort of chugged along for no real reason. The graphic flickering was pretty consistent, but I eventually got used to it. The sluggishness occured only occasionally.
In addition to playing the regular story-driven game, there are several other options, including online play. 4 players can either play the story together or the game’s challenge mode..
The challenge mode can also be played solo. In the challenge mode, the player is thrown into an arena where they must defend themselves from waves of enemy attacks. As you can imagine, as you successfully survive wave after wave, the difficulty increases.
Final Thoughts: I really like Magicka. However, I’m a bit concerned that the high learning curve, and remembering the elemental combinations might be a big turn-off for people expecting Magicka to be a Diablo-clone. For those who can dedicate a little patience will be rewarded with a really fun (and funny!) game. Part of the enjoyment of playing Magicka wasn’t even in playing the game, but experimenting with the various combinations of elements and seeing what they do. Magicka has its share of glitches, but a lot of them can be easily overlooked. Magicka can be purchased for $9.99 through a service like Steam, and for what is offered, it’s an excellent deal!