Many of you have probably heard of the game Magicka, developed by a small group of Swedish students under the name Arrowhead Game Studios that released back in January. The game revolves around a Wizard or group of Wizards, if you're playing multiplayer, who can summon and mix elements and cast them in various manners, trekking across the land to save the world.
Magicka is first and foremost a parody game. The entire game is spent making whimsical references to a variety of other games, movies, and novels, both fantasy and not. From Star Wars to Indiana Jones to the Cthulhu Mythos, Magicka references it all. And, beyond just references, the game openly parodies the fantasy setting. At one point, a women with a giant esclamation point over her head offers you a side quest. She later reveals that she is aware of the giant esclamation point, is actually annoyed by it. At another point in the game, the player or players are awarded with an M60 machine gun, allegedly built from "a shotgun and a paperclip" by the town's smithy. In the description of the weapon, it is noted as being too advanced for the setting. In this aspect, the game certainly succeeds. The game is funny and comes across with a very light air.
Second of all, Magicka represents an interesting concept in the elemental mixing and spellcasting. This becomes especially interesting with the addition of Magicks, from whence the game derives its name, which are special spells one can cast by ordering elements in a specific order and then pressing the spacebar. However, while the concept is novel, I found that I quickly fell into a routine. AASSR, whether in beam of AoE, was one of the most powerful mundane spells, I quickly learned, and Lightning Bolt was one of the only Magicks worth using. In fact, once I acquired Lightning Bolt, I scarce used anything else. I got particularly adept at spamming QFAS <SPACE>, and it literally solved any problem I had in an outdoor environment.
To counter this ease of play, in the second to last chapter, the game threw giant snow yetis at me. These things are faster than the player(s), have tons of life as well as passive life regen, and have two devestating attacks. The first is simply to eat the player, which instantly kills the player. Once grabbed, the only way out of this is to have already been casting a beam attack on the yeti trying to eat the player in question. This is also always the first attack a yeti will use. Failing this, the yeti will resort to a claw attack with a knockback. The catch is that it takes longer for the player to get up from this knockback than it takes for the attack animation to recycle. That is to say, the yeti can lock you in place with this attack, and it does massive damage, so it only takes a few to kill you. One, or even two at a time, I was able to fend them off with lightning spam, even though it takes two such strikes to kill one yeti. But almost the entire level is spent indoors, and as I mentioned, Lightning Bolt does not function indoors. Let's just say it was an extremely frustrating chapter to get through.
Now, while the game succeeded in being funny, and the concept was certainly solid, the gameplay itself was not. The game seemed to be riddled with glitches and bugs. Many times, during big battle scenes, the camera would lock in place, disallowing the player or players from proceeding or backtracking. However, on mutliple occasions, an enemy with a ranged attack will stop outside of the camera and fire or spellcast outside of the players' range of view, making it incredibly hard to kill. Or, if the players' have some staff or spell to summon an ally, the ally will move off camera, and start attacking enemies that you cannot see, causing them to group up outside of view. For example, in the third chapter, I picked up a staff that allowed me to summon a tree ally, slow moving with a knockback and healed by water. Cool, I thought to myself. It can tank while I spellcast. The tree proceeded to move off screen, and fought with another tree summoned by an enemy, all the while, the enemy caster continuously cast water, healing its tree and accidentally healing mine. All the while, I had to sit and wait for my tree to finally lose before I could kill the remaining enemies and continue on my way. I also noticed that while Life hurts undead, mixing it with any element that also hurts undead heals undead. So, a WWFFF beam (Life/Fire) would heal undead, despite the fact that Life (W) and Fire (F) both hurt undead. And during my brief foray into multiplayer, we had a lot of trouble with players getting dropped, the game crashing, and in one instance, one player's game only recognizing two of the three other players (so while we all walked across an ice bridge a player had made, the fourth dropped into the river and drowned because his game did not recognize the player who had made the ice bridge as being in the game).
However, most glaringly and most frustratingly of all is a gauntlet you get at the start of the third to last chapter. This gauntlet appears to be pretty nifty. It makes you immune to Arcane, but causes Life to hurt you (ironically, the boss you get this item from is not hurt by Life or immune to Arcane), but gives you a life steal active ability to make up for it. All in all, the gauntlet is not worth having. The life steal doesn't heal enough to be worth not using Life magic at all, and per the problem with mixing with undead, a player wearing said gauntlet is only immune to pure Arcane. Arcane mixed with anything else still deals normal damage. However, and here is the crux of it all, once you pick up this gauntlet, no matter what you do, the effects never go away. There is a glitch in the game in which the game never registers you swapping the gauntlet out for a wand. Once touched, you will always be immune to Arcane, and always be injurred by Life. Needless to say, going through the last three chapters of the game without being able to heal at all is incredibly annoying. The game might tease you, let you pick up a staff and temporarily relieve you of the effects of the gauntlet, but when you die, it will revert back to as though you were wearing the gauntlet again. I got so frustrated that, halfway through the second to last chapter, I just gave up and restarted.
Overall, given that the game only costs $10 on Steam, I think it was worth the cost. While the gameplay is buggy, the story is witty and the concept is interesting. Multiplayer added a whole new element, though it mostly turned into a griefing session, especially given the shared camera. At the end of the day, I liked playing Magicka, and I'll probably play it some more, though there is very little replay value, beyond the Achievements.
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