Hello, my name is Vlad and I’m not a vampire. Really, may I break my teeth in your neck if flying as a bat is a sign I’m that bloodthirsty creature from Transylvania. And just as serious, it’s still me, Vlad, who will guide you through the scandinavian-inspired world of Magicka. So make haste for Havindr, there are nasty things going on there, the orcs are meddling around, the city is under siege and the main villain plucks you like a duck at about 50% of your adventurous campaign.
The whole business in Magicka is based on humor. Very transparent hints take you from Monty Python to Star Wars and through police novels, Lord of the Rings, Star Trek, the Knights of The Round Table, Diablo, World of Warcraft, Braveheart or 300. Any player will recognize lines or scenes that will make them smile, if not laughing your heart out.
As for the rest though, Magicka is an incredible generic world where you just kill. There’s no XP, no mana for spells, no level up, no points to invest in abilities. It’s just you, the magic staff and the sword, plus 8 keys to unleash the Apocalypse on the orcs, ogres, goblins, worms and other creatures which want to bite your bathrobe… aaa… sorry, mage robe.
I’ll show you bathrobe!
Even though they have to save the world, wizards are the village idiots. Cannon fodder, your hero will be the main bait during the whole 12 levels. Fortunately, here comes the main bright idea in Magicka: combining the 8 “elements” – water, earth, shield, cold, lightning, arcane, fire and life. Of course, not all of them go together, earth and lightning cancel each other, just like in real life, but others, like water and fire, can mix for interesting effects.
Experimentation is the name of the game, especially since spells can be used on yourself as well (or on the weapon you have), they can cover a wide area or concentrate in a very powerful beam. From the dedicated keys (QWER+ASDF), plus Shift, mouse clicks and wheel, you get:
- area cast: shift and right click (meteor shower rules!)
- self cast (click wheel – for example, when you need to get dry because you can’t use lightning otherwise – well, you can, but water and electricity tend to provoke sudden death);
- staff cast: simple right click and the spell goes in the direction you are facing;
- weapon cast: shift and left click to hit with the sword, axe or mace from the off-hand (or apply the selected elements on the weapon).
Logically you get advanced combos from the basic elements: water and cold gets you ice, while water and fire, steam. These 2 go together to give you other elements for advanced spells (Magicks), like Summon Death, Vortex or Corporealize. More to that, once you start mixing you will see you can create clouds to spray the enemies with water, so you can then electrocute them with a lightning wall and, if by some divine intervention someone survives, some land mines will surely solve the issue.
Of course, it looks quite complicated and, until you get used to the keys, it takes a while. But afterwards, the temptation to experiment is so strong that I died many times trying opposite mixes without any protection. EDQF, ASASA, EFQA, ESFQA, EDQR or SEDQFS are just a few examples of more or less effective mixes, depending on the type of enemy. Some are sensitive to lightning, others to fire, others must be slowed down, watered down (against armor, water and lightning can do miracles) or blocked with the shield.
The AI isn’t that smart, but it’s not an issue. For example, if you cast a shield and maximize it (pressing Space), you let the stupid ogre hit it while you prepare the defensive or just hit him back. Careful though, you can’t attack from behind the shield, so you have to risk your own skin. On the other hand, the shield is useless against jumping monsters, so if you’re not careful, you can find yourself being surrounded by a hungry horde. Teleport!
Unfortunately, the single-player adventure is a mixed experience. It’s not that single because you can play cooperatively with 3 other friends, but with or without help, the abandon rate can get pretty high. First of all, even after 10 patches, the game is very unstable. It crashes to desktop, blurts out blue screens, freezes or doesn’t activate scripted events even though there’s no one alive but you in the area. On other occasions, enemies stay outside the screen and visible area, yet continue to attack you from range.
Then there’s the checkpoint system. If the game is stuck or you’re just bored, you have to restart the whole level; the so-called “save” areas only work for the current game session. The boss fights (but not limited to), the climax of any level, are just as good to throw the keyboard off the window: many times you’ll die just because a spell or a jump will throw you outside the level limits. And believe me, these limits are not just invisible, but annoyingly restrictive.