Magicka Hands-On

Magicka's sinister spell combinations seek to bring out the sadistic sorcerer in each of us.

by

Magicka, the upcoming co-op action role-playing game from Paradox Interactive, is intended to offer fast and frenzied action, but there's so much stuff here, it's actually a bit overwhelming. Between the numerous elemental combinations, different methods of spellcasting, and the persistent friendly fire--all of which are at your disposal upfront--the sheer number of combinations is staggering. However, after spending some time with this Swedish-developed dungeon crawler, we've learned to appreciate the joys of diving deep into the untested waters of arcane lore.

More-complex spells, such as raise dead, can be learned only through hidden tomes.

First we dropped into the 13-level campaign mode, which started us out in a nondescript wizard's academy before launching us on an epic journey to save the world--or something like that. Arrowhead has gone to great lengths to make sure Magicka doesn't take itself too seriously, with plenty of witty characters, fantasy satire, and pop culture references. But the game's real draw lies in its complex spellcasting system. Composed of eight spell elements--including water, arcana, lighting, and shield--this system allows you to mix and match different elemental combinations in various ways to create a staggering number of abilities. All eight of these elements are introduced early on in the campaign, but it's up to you to discover all their deadly secrets.

As we might have expected from a fantasy hack-and-slash game like this, we eventually ended up surrounded by goblins. A handy combination of arcana and fire produced a beam of energy that caused our little green friends to explode into a bloody fireball upon dying. As we advanced, a couple of beefy trolls decided to block our path. First we doused them with the water element, and then we froze them solid with the cold element, before finally shattering them to bits with a fully charged earth element. Deadly combos such as this are handy for dispatching hefty foes, but you also have to be careful not to blast your fellow wizards as well. But every so often, it's impossible to avoid a little collateral damage, especially once the fireballs start flying. Thankfully, a simple revival spell can bring a fallen friend back into the action.

With the trolls in pieces, our next challenge was a powerful goblin shaman and his massive army of minions. Magicka won't hesitate to send hordes of enemies after you, which means that even the most carefully coordinated assault can quickly end up as an all-out free-for-all. A torrent of flashy spells and tiny goblin axes soon enveloped us, and before we knew it we were back at the last checkpoint. Since Magicka doesn't have any experience levels, skill points, or gold to worry about losing, there is little to fear from death. You do, in fact, find loot like swords, staves, and spell tomes that you can take with you as you progress.

Outraged by this defeat, we decided to vent our frustrations in the game's challenge modes. These four areas pit aspiring arcane masters against numerous waves of enemies. The intimate size of these stages also makes friendly fire commonplace--which only compounds the chaos. You start off with all the spell elements in the game and quickly amass additional spells and loot by defeating hostile treasure chests. We quickly noticed that casting more powerful spells caused our wizard character to move more slowly. Take too long to power up, and your relatively weak wizard is toast, but relying only on cheap, weak spells isn't going to win the day, either.

Spells can also be used to imbue your weapon for some powerful melee attacks.

Magicka is a game built around cooperative multiplayer. While you can play the game by yourself, it seems a lot more frantic and a lot more unpredictable with some allies by your side, especially when the friendly fire starts flying. And while the game is set for a digital release solely on the PC, with both local and online four-player co-op support, developer Arrowhead Games isn't ruling out the other platforms just yet. Between its witty charm and frantic gameplay, Magicka should tap into the sinister sorcerer in each of us. You can look for the game in January 2011.

Discussion

19 comments
OnyxBMW
OnyxBMW

@ofiki100 The point isn't to grind experience, levels, or buy equipment. The idea is to throw a bunch of people into a specific area and then just watch the chaotic symphony. If you really need levels, there are hundreds of other games out there for that. If you want to weave 8 different elements together (water cold fire lightning electrical arcane nature and shield) in a combination of, IIRC, 5 spells deep to see what will happen. Preferably to the enemy and not your allies, but I digress. The point is to play the game and have fun. Not achieve ultimately futile goals. If you wish to be technical, is there a point to chess, considering that it has no exp or buying of equipment or gold?

Raiden_II
Raiden_II

@ofiki100 You'll have to find tome to learn spells, and loot for equipment. Meaning, you're not strong at all when you are starting. Spells and items will be you strength.

ofiki100
ofiki100

it looks pretty dumm that there is no XP(no, not the smiley) levels or gold to buy better equipment. i mean, if there is no XP system or trade system to advance than you can just play as the strongest charcter right at the beginning,what the point?

icebox98
icebox98

sounds great, and the spells look more powerfull than the spells in other games

Kerberos_Panzer
Kerberos_Panzer

It sounds like a rip off of Avencast: Rise of the Mage which came out months ago from Indy developers. (It's on sale for 4dlls via ImpulseDrive)

Shardz7
Shardz7

This sounds great and all that, but I stopped getting excited about co-op games when 98% corner you into Steam-exclusive options. If you include direct IP and LAN options, then we might have a deal. I'm not sure how this will compete with Torchlight 2 and other titles coming out in 2011, but I will meet them halfway if they don't force me to use an overcrowded system created by wolves in sheep's clothing.

FoeCrusher
FoeCrusher

I like the idea of cooperative online multiplayer. The game depending on how it turns out sounds like it has promise.

NeoEnigma
NeoEnigma

Depending on when it gets released ( I feel like I first heard about this game ages ago), it will be competing for a slot with Diablo 3 and Dungeon Siege 3 (if THOSE ever get released). Ultimately, Diablo 3 will be the one I play. If D3 was out now, I wouldn't even be giving these other games a 2nd glance...

neatfeatguy
neatfeatguy

@crazy_happy It read in there "You do, in fact, find loot like swords, staves, and spell tomes that you can take with you as you progress." You find new spells to learn, along with weapons you can use. This title seems interesting. Might be worth some good laughs in a co-op environment.

sCUS
sCUS

it seems like a good concept but without a leveling or skill point system i don't know how long this will be entertaining for, i can see it getting a little monotonous. but in saying that ill give it a go and hopefully will be proven wrong

crazy_happy
crazy_happy

If you don't level up, how do you gain access to more powerful spells?

yodathewise
yodathewise

Looks good. It'd probably be better if you could level up, though, and if there was something to be lost from dying. Oh well. Looks cool anyways.

blueace88
blueace88

Playing co-op in a game where it's easy to accidentally kill each other doesn't seem like much fun

nord1c
nord1c

As it is multiplayer - I look forward to a possible PvP mode.

BetardxFoosier
BetardxFoosier

@ Decardcain Well, they couldn't identify the items they found and needed you to do that for them.

Decardcain
Decardcain

what other loot except the spells has this game??