Looks are deceiving
At first sight, Magicka looks like your average hack and slash Action RPG set in a just as average fantasy realm. In fact, upon closer inspection the game reveals itself to be even less complex than the average Action RPG. See - if - this would be an Action RPG there would be character leveling, inventory management, skills, abilities and more of those things. You would be hard-pressed to find much of those in Magicka, and yet, this game is absolutely amazing.
As the name suggests, the game is all about magic. A wizard named Grimnír has been doing all sorts of dangerous experiments, hoping to discover more potent magical spells to serve his ever growing hunger for power. Uncomfortable with these experiments, other wizards made an effort to banish Grimnír forever. They succeed and, happy that the world is safe again, the people of the realm rejoiced. Obviously that’s just an awful way to start off an enticing storyline so to keep matters interesting, monsters start attacking villages all over the land and the world is in need of a hero. That’s where you come in!
You play a ‘vertically challenged’, bathrobe-wearing magic student at a big magical academy. Your mentor, Vlad (who has - almost - vampiric powers) decides to send you out into the big bad world to investigate the source of the turmoil. As you progress, he will pop up left and right and serve as your guide on your road to destiny.
As mentioned in the intro, there are a lot of things you shouldn’t expect to find in Magicka. Your character does not level up, you won’t be gathering cash, inventory management is completely absent and character creation couldn’t be more straightforward: you simply start a game by choosing the color of your wizard robes and pick a name. That’s it. Seriously. I’m not kidding. Go on, continue reading. I mean it. There’s nothing else to it. Really.
The lack thereof…
Obviously the lack of all these things means that you have an extremely clean interface. The only thing you will ever see on your screen will be a compact legend of spells and corresponding key bindings and, of course, whatever mad chaos you will find yourself in. The decisions to separate the ‘RPG’ from Action RPG may be somewhat controversial but it is all done in good taste and it makes Magicka feel very pure.
You do occasionally find new staffs and weapons at various points throughout the game so you aren’t stuck with the basic items you are given early on. Staffs are a little more practical than other weapons and often come with both a passive and an active ability. A staff may for example have a healing aura and the power to resurrect a fallen comrade or summon a walking tree. One staff I found had an emergency teleportation function which proved particularly valuable when playing with a buddy.
Oh, and don’t let your fantasy run off with the word ‘weapons’ in there: you are a wizard in a robe and no matter how much magic power you channel into your weapon of choice, your lack of muscle power means you are a big wuss better equipped to do magic than traditional melee.
Magic is cast in eight different schools namely Life, Earth, Fire, Lightning, Arcane, Frost, Water and Shield. You can combine spells from each school to create more interesting results. Some spells cancel each other out. Conjuring up an earth element and then a lightning element for instance, removes both while combining water and frost creates an ice element and fire can be put out by casting water.
Versatile magic system us tremendous fun. Multiplayer is simply a hoot.
While playable, there are still some bugs to squash.