Once in a while a game comes out that may not do everything right, but it introduces a core gameplay element that makes the game better as a whole. Magicka does exactly that, and though it may not be one of the best RPGs around, it has such a strong spell-casting system that it makes what would normally be a good game, great. When combined with a light and funny sense of humor and a bargain price, you have yourself a bona-fide sleeper hit on your hands. Unfortunately, not all is fun and games with Magicka, but enough goes right to make it good overall.
As I mentioned earlier, what makes Magicka stand out is its magic system, which is going to be the one thing that will sell you on this game. If you love it then this is the game for you, but if you don’t like it, the rest of the game will have a hard time winning you over. Magicka‘s magic system works like this: very early on in the game you will gain access to the eight core magics. Each core magic is assigned its own letter on your keyboard. Your wizard has 6 magic slots and each slot can be assigned to cast a certain magic. Once you have assigned at least one magic to a slot, you can cast it. For example, you can assign lightning to a slot and cast it to shoot a lightning bolt. If you assign two lightning spells in two of your magic slots, you will cast a lightning bolt that is twice as powerful, and so on. The part that makes this a really fun mechanic is that you can combine different magics in different amounts to make new spells. It is particularly fun to see your crazy combinations cast out towards your enemies and see the effect your custom spell has on them. Certain elements compliment each other while other elements destroy each other. For example, casting fire and earth gives you a fireball. If you accidentally set yourself on fire, you can extinguish the flames by casting water. There are a ton of different combinations to use and enjoy, and it really sets this game apart from its contemporaries.
Fortunately, the spell-casting system is not the only positive trait of Magicka. Soon after you start the game, you will notice that in general it has a very light-hearted feel, rarely taking itself too seriously, and if you pay enough attention to what’s going on you will notice lots of references to popular movies. The game also tends to break the 4th wall and poke fun about how you choose to play the game itself. This sense of humor compliments the visuals very nicely, as the colors are bright and cheery, the lighting works well, and the environments are lush and vivid. The almost cartoon-like look of the game works in this instance, and overall the visual qualities are excellent. There are also a number of environmental puzzles in the game that help to break up some of the repetitive action parts, requiring you to use your magics in interesting ways, such as freezing water to make a bridge or using explosives to expose a new pathway. Though this isn’t the first time we’ve seen something like this, it still adds plenty of interest to this game.
There are a number of issues that hold this game back from the halls of great games past. We did notice slow-down when the screen was covered in enemies attacking you all at once, even resulting in a game crash a few times, which was disappointing. Another small problem is that the game is almost too simplistic and doesn’t give the player enough information about the effects of your magic, or just about your character in general. We liked not having to manage all the stats of our character individually, but the interface is so simplistic that it was hard to tell what was going on with the character in the first place. Dying was a frequent occurance in large battles because there was no way to know what the status was for the characters. It was difficult to gauge the amount of damage being received or dealt: when we saw a mob, we just unleashed as much magic as possible and and hoped for the best. We would have liked to see a timer for protective spells, especially the shield spell. Hot-keys for favorite button combinations would have also been a nice touch for when things are getting particularly precarious. Either way, character information is important in RPGs, and when you have to battle mobs like you do in Magicka, it would make the game much better if there was some way to tell how your character is doing.
All in all, Magicka is an excellent game with a few noticeable flaws. It does a lot of things really well, and I would say that it gives inspiration to the genre with its fresh outlook on RPGs. Unfortunately, there are a few items that make the game more difficult to play and hold it back from being better than it could have been. Despite its downfalls, we would still highly recommend this game to anyone with a PC and a few extra dollars. It is certainly worth your time.
This review is based on a review copy of the Steam version of Magicka by Paradox Interactive & Arrowhead Studios
- Great Spell Casting System
- Funny Sense of Humor
- Great Price Point
- Noticeable Slowdown
- Lack of Hot Keys and Combat Timers