Magicka [5 Minute Review]

Easy with that Lightning Strike there, partner.

Magicka has enjoyed fantastic success with well over one million copies sold worldwide – not bad for a game developed by a team of university students. After all the fine tuning, patchwork, and DLC releases, I figured that it was time I took a closer look at it.

The plot is light-hearted and filled with nerdy pop-culture references – this is a game that doesn’t take itself too seriously. The game has you (and your friends) set out to fight an evil sorcerer across 13 levels. The campaign does feel a tad short, although the DLC and the arenas step in to fill the void.

Combat is frantic. The potential for error is high – you may find yourself accidentally healing enemies, setting yourself on fire, accidentally calling a lightning strike on your teammate, or mis-queueing elements and whiffing your spell casting. Enemies are plentiful and can dish out the hurt; there are masses of orks inspired from Lord of the Rings, giant trolls, burrowing worms, and demons that phase in and out of existence. Battles in the later stages can rest on a knife’s edge, with lots of kiting, freezing, and fiery beams of lightning death. Co-op sessions are a riot, with great opportunities for teamwork yet the potential for some wayward friendly fire to throw a spanner in the works.

The real fun comes from experimenting with combining the eight different elements. Combine Lightning, Arcane, Fire, and Shield elements to make a deadly minefield, or combine several Ice and Rock elements to create some frosty meteors. Spells can be focused into beams, be launched as projectiles, or have an area of effect. There is no mana bar – as long as you can keep your element count under five, you can cast to your heart’s content.

The mouse serves as the primary means of control and movement, and the keyboard is used to manage the selection of magical elements. Magicka is also playable on a gamepad, although the control scheme really struggles to allow easy access to all eight types of elements, and it simply can’t match the speed or responsiveness of a keyboard.

However, I experienced some nagging matchmaking issues – I had trouble starting up a visible server and having another player see it in the server browser. There is a workaround for this, but it’s a black mark against an otherwise excellent package.

At this point in time, there are plenty of DLC packages, challenges, and PvP matches to enjoy. It also apears to be on sale semi-frequently in Steam, and I recommend you pick it up and enjoy it with a few friends. Games like this tend to be lightweight distractions in between AAA titles, but Magicka burns brighter than most.

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