Guest Author - James Shea
A wizard-themed hack-and-slash game, "Magicka" uses an intricate magic-casting system to cause mayhem and destruction.
"Magicka" is an action game casting the player as a robe-clad wizard, who, along with up to 3 friends, fights the usual mix of fantasy monsters - orcs, goblins, trolls, ogres, and so on. Where Magicka differs from other games, however, is in its spellcasting system. Rather than picking specific spells, like in many RPGs, Magicka's spell system is based on combining elements.
There are eight basic elements: earth, fire, water, thunder, cold, arcane, life, and shield. Each of these elements has an effect and a form, and combining them can make one take the form of another. For example, fire takes the form of a burning spray not unlike a flamethrower, while earth creates a giant rolling boulder. Combining them creates a fireball. The "arcane" spell takes the form of a ray or beam, so combining it with an element makes a burning, zapping, or freezing beam. Spells and combinations can be used in four different ways: Normal (shot outward in whatever format is applicable), Self-Directed (usually meant for healing spells, but has other uses as well), Area-of-Effect, and Sword Magic (applied to the wizard's melee weapon). This means that each combination of elements has four different uses. It's, quite frankly, staggering.
This spell-slinging concept makes up most of the gameplay. Of course, it may sound easy to create a death ray by combining different sorts of energies, but it's a bit harder to pull off when you're being swamped by goblins. This keeps it a bit more exciting, because "ease of casting" is a concern as well. There are so many spell effects that experimenting is one of the game's big charms. It's a game where you can go "hey, what if I try this" and it will generally work. This is aided by the fact that spells have more than just combat uses - cold can freeze rivers, water can put out fires, lightning can power generators, and so on. Therefore, using different spells and elements can do more than simply defeat enemies, it can also have practical exploration uses.
The game has a charmingly cartoonish style that's well-rendered and nice to look at. The game's humor primarily comes from quoting internet memes, which may or may not be irritating depending on how you feel about those sort of things. Overall, though, it's biggest draw is the complex magic system. It's difficult to describe how many options are available.
There is one negative factor, and that's multiplayer. A game like this is pretty clearly meant for a cooperative setup, but connection issues and poor net-coding have made it unusually difficult to join games online. The game has been receiving patches since it came out a few weeks ago, but it's still a bit of a bother. Overall, though, Magicka is a fun, innovative game that manages to bring new light to the old concept of "casting spells to kill monsters".
We purchased this game with our own funds via Steam.