Get information on Magicka in our preview here and watch an exclusive video demonstration of the game on Saturday's episode of Today on the Spot.
While the hack-and-slash action of role-playing games like Diablo can be addictive and fun, Arrowhead Games feels that the old way of sitting next to the people you're playing with while hollering and yelling directly at them is better. Especially if you're playing the kind of game where you can "accidentally" vaporize your buddies and take all their stuff. That's the idea in Magicka, which is an upcoming hack-and-slash action adventure game that looks like Diablo but owes more of its roots to such games as Castle Crashers on Xbox Live and the classic arcade game Gauntlet.
In Magicka, you play as a fledgling wizard in what Arrowhead describes as "a fantasy world that's fairly generic," and must zap your way through hordes of oncoming enemies using magic spells and an equipped melee weapon. Your job is to save the world from the encroachment of some kind of dark lord, or something, by fighting your way to him and defeating him in a compact campaign that Arrowhead estimates will be four to six hours long. While that may not seem like an epic odyssey, the studio feels that the game will offer replay value in the form of its branching campaign, its items (such as new magic staves and weapons that will not be permanent loot but will act more as power-up items that can be dropped if you die), and its cooperative online play--but more on that in a bit.
Magic spells are performed by combining one of eight "elements," such as life, shield, fire, cold, or lightning, using a radial pop-up menu (Arrowhead feels that the game works best on a USB plug-in controller rather than a mouse and keyboard). By inputting various combinations of elements, you can formulate new spells on the fly, such as combining a fire and an earth element to create a simple fireball spell. Over time, you'll come to memorize your favorite spells as controller-plus-button combinations, similar to the complicated maneuvers of a fighting game. And you can actually combine larger groups of elements to create bigger, more devastating spells to prepare for boss encounters. Interestingly, you'll start a new game of Magicka with all eight elements in your wizard's possession but no real experience progression or skill trees or anything like that. This means that your skill and dexterity will determine how quickly you can come up with the best spell for the current situation and fire it off.
Interestingly, while the game will offer multiplayer for up to four players and have full online options, Arrowhead feels strongly that the game will best be played by people in the same room, which is why the game will not only support LAN play but also hotseat play for up to four players on the same computer. (The studio also suggests that it plans to bring the games to other platforms in the near future.) And as it turns out, while some of Magicka's most powerful magic spells create spectacular explosions that can fill up the screen, all damaging magic spells can hurt any and all other players nearby. That's right, friendly fire is always on, and the studio currently has no plans to add an option to turn it off.
While this may sound like a potentially counterproductive aspect of the game, Arrowhead prefers to call it "hilarious," and cites numerous internal play sessions where players disintegrated their buddies accidentally-on-purpose in the heat of battle. So although the game will use the overhead isometric perspective and the constant stream of monsters from Diablo, it'll be something of a party game as well. In fact, on each of the game's maps, you'll find the exit to the north. This is a facet of the game inspired by the arcade classic Gauntlet--another four-player action game that had decent hack-and-slash action but was a lot more interesting with four players and the potential for comical misunderstandings.
Magicka is currently confirmed only for the PC and scheduled to ship on that platform later this year.