Review | Magicka
And boom goes the magician
Format: PC | Genre: Action RPG | Publisher: Paradox Interactive | Developer: Arrowhead Game Studios | Release date: 25/01/2011| Price: £7.99
Marco Fiori gets all magical with MAGICKA.
BY NOW you’ll have heard of Magicka – the rags to riches story of a small studio who dreamed just beyond their means. Whether you’ve experienced the issues that plagued Magicka’s launch is irrelevant. Many of the technical difficulties have already been patched and it won’t be long before Arrowhead Games deal with the remaining problems. Thus as a result it’s not entirely fair that the patching be held against the game’s critical analysis. After all, anyone who buys the game now will most likely have a smooth experience.
So what exactly is Magicka and why has it taken the PC by storm? At first glance, it’s a lot of death. You’ll die. Then you’ll die again. Finally, just for kicks, Magicka will let you snuff it for good measure – not unfairly mind, it’s merely the case that it’s punishing you for your stupidity. After all, creating that fire-barrier for protection against maraudering beastmen seemed like a good idea at the time. How were you supposed to know your robe-wearing companion was charging up an arcane-electric bolt in the direction of your newly formed protection ring?
Obviously mass chaos ensues and all that’s left is a steaming pile of blood, guts and fabric as the beastmen laugh at your abysmal attempt at teamwork. You see Magicka is a team game. Whether or not you like it, playing through the game solo is not only lonely, but it’s also chuffing difficult. The hordes of goblins and big-boss moments were never designed for a loner with a staff – instead, they’re built around the careful coordination of spell-wielding super humans, telepathy included.
With a full team of four you’ll ideally breeze through the swathes of enemies that attempt to stab you into oblivion. The reality is far from the majestic promise shown in the pre-release trailers. As you fling fireballs your compatriots will most likely do the reverse; instead sending counter-spells in the direction of your targets. Magicka’s a clever game, but often it’s too clever for its own good. It underestimates the stupidity of the average player, especially when they’re given a playground of firework-like spells to experiment with.
Utilising a well laid out control scheme (QWER/ASDF), Magicka has you combining the eight elements of the world for potential devastation. Throw together fire and earth and the result is a huge block of burning death. A similarly effective approach is to dab some water on your enemy before unleashing some chain lighting on their being. Sparks fly, limbs combust, it’s all hunky dory. Where it goes wrong, and let me state it’s through no fault of its own, is when your teamwork is slightly askew.
You want to work like a well oiled engine but it’s often more like a rusty bucket of bolts that enjoys exploding in your face try to understand what’s gone wrong. The ‘oops’ moment is obviously hilarious, but frustrating with the sparse checkpoints between chapters. Supplementing the accidental humour is an intentional attempt to poke fun at the genre Magicka is based on. It’s outright tongue-in-cheek mocking of RPG conventions are fresh and well thought-out, even with the majority of the speech being in non-English dialogue. The characters, script and subtle design touches all combine together to offer a fresh perspective on a tired genre.
Helping the humour is a graphics engine that’s delicious. Magicka might not be a big-budget game, but its overall presentation is right on the money. Beautiful varied settings ground the player in a fantasy setting while the spell effects pop out of the screen in emphatic fashion. It’s luscious for a debut title and one that should truly be commended.
For My Next Trick
While some troubleshooting niggles still remain, Magicka has thankfully been patched to be the title it should have been on release. Enjoyed best with friends (it’s a shame there’s no AI-support for those that want to enjoy the story alone), Magicka offers a unique experience that’s ripe with novel concepts and interesting mechanics. Blending new with old, it’s a remarkable little game for a first outing.
The English voice acting might be a big stiff and on occasion, it can prompt you to wildly curse profanity at your monitor, but overall it’s a game that’s well worth a look. Stripped to the bone of RPG inaccessibility (character development, expansive plot, overwhelming loot), it’s the perfect game to jump in and enjoy from the get go.