Review: Magicka

Enterprising Swede developers Paradox Interactive have released a new game. This has likely gone unnoticed to most of the world, because Paradox has not produced much that has made a blip on the gaming world radar.

Not so anymore, mein Freund. I do not actually speak Swedish, but I do speak German, which is close enough.

Magicka Logo

A tale... of sorts...

Anyway, Paradox Interactive developed this game, Magikca. And the gameoblogosphere has found it quite entertaining, because it is kind of cool in some regards, but fails to really “nail it” in a few very important regards.

First and foremost, this game is funny. And I do not mean funny in the way my columns usually are (that is, not funny), nor funny in the way the podcast is (tragedy of epic proportions), but I mean really chuckle-out-loud funny. Why?

Lots and lots of nerdy references. This is like a Sierra adventure game (and if anyone else is old enough to remember Sierra Adventure Games, come on by my room after lights out, and we will get in a covert game of cribbage while we watch Matlock). Everything is funny, from the achievement titles (“I put on my robe and wizard hat”) to the villager Gram’s “workshop,” whose logo parodies Warhammer Fantasy Battle developer “Games Workshop.” More “lulz” can be had as one explores spider-haunted mines to find spooning halfling skeletons and a sword named, er, “Stung.”

The story of the game is pretty bare bones: the player is a student at Scandinavian Hogwarts, and gets sent out (literally) to save the world, because that is just what students at magical schools do. Armed with a face-concealing robe, a battery of useless weapons, and an inventive magic system, the player is sent out to do battle with all manner of nasty beasties like goblins and trolls.

The best part of the game, however, is the magic system. The player is given control of eight elements and can combine them in fun and exciting ways. For instance, combining the “Shield” element with the “Life” element and casting it on one’s self produces a barrier that will protect the player’s HP. Casting “Water” and “Shield” on the outside world, however, produces a rainstorm. Other effects, like combining “Water” and “Fire” to create steam, or “Water” and “Cold” to create ice, are more straightforward.

Combat, on the other hand, becomes a little hectic. There is no time to gently strategize and pick out interesting combinations of spells, such as a fireball. Rather, players will find themselves frantically mashing buttons and returning to old stand-bys. I find the Arcane Beam and the Chain Lightning spells to be my favorites.

Magicka Screen Shot

A screenshot of in-game madness

Which leads me in to my biggest gripe with the game: the controls are wonky. Movement is accomplished not in a Diablo-esque fashion, but rather by holding the left mouse button and moving the mouse. This scheme is very counter-intuitive and I found myself mistakenly mashing my Life spell button (W) when I wanted to move forward, and mistakenly setting NPCs on fire when I tried to right-click them to talk to them.

A few suggestions, should the Swedish be listening in, and I am sure they are. First, allow players to store five or six basic spells as hotkeys. For instance, if I could save my Arcane Beam, Heal, Fireball, and Barrier spells, combat would be greatly simplified. A one-key press to queue up my high-usage spells is not only a time-saver, but a life-saver.

Second, come up with a better way to move. Click-to-move is the most obvious, as that way players could set a move in motion while queueing up spells.

And third, improve the targeting. It is rather frustrating to be facing one way, only to activate a spell that misfires. Maybe have the spell track the cursor, or some other way to improve player targeting.

Other than that, Magicka is a fun and innovative game with pleasant graphics, humor under every stone, and jaunty tunes. It also has a cooperative online counterpart, but as no one I know on Steam (cough cough readers add me) wants to play with me, I have been locked out. So if you see me on, dear and constant readers, drop in to slay some goblins!

Magicka on Steam

0 comments on “Review: Magicka”

  1. Also, what is with all these Russians commenting on my WoWconomy post? Did you sell out to the Organizistya?

  2. @Lane: Spam bots. If you get those comments, click the “Spam It” link in the e-mailed version of the comment.