by Marjolein Verheij
previewed on PC
A dozen deaths
We were dumped right in the middle of the chaos that is Magicka: Wizard Wars with only a brief explanation of the controls. Marketed as a “4-on-4 team battle game”, I only got to experience a 1-on-1 round of blasting spells while running for my life. It was just as well, because as a newbie to the genre I already had enough trouble keeping one enemy at bay - our very own Senior Editor Ingvi. Hitting the spell keys and mouse buttons with a slight feeling of panic, I managed to kill him only once – and a glorious kill it was - and then died about a dozen times more. The fast-paced action will initially leave newbies like me gasping for breath after just one round but after just 10 minutes with the game, I noticed that my panic disappeared, to be replaced by an intensely competitive feeling. I was determined to get the hang of it and get back at my colleague.
Based on Arrowhead’s surprise hit Magicka from 2011, Magicka: Wizard Wars will be a free-to-play game that puts the community in charge of future additions. The sequel is powered by a new engine that has been borrowed from War of the Roses, making it absolutely perfect for a PvP experience.
Careful with that healing element
As in the original game, you will need to change your tactics on the fly to counter your opponent’s methods of attack. The rounds are being made shorter than before by changing the spell system a bit. You still have the 8 spell casting elements of Water, Fire, Arcane, Life, Lighting, Shield, Earth and Cold and will still be queuing them to create powerful spells. Where it differs is that instead of the 5 elements that could be combined in the original game, Wizard Wars only lets you queue 3. Click Shield-Fire-Fire and you are 100% protected against fire rays thrown at you. Choose Shield-Fire-Lighting and you will get 50% protection against both of those element instead.
Getting the hang of these elements and the spells that they form will take a while. Until you do, your own actions can actually turn against you. Ingvi somehow managed to shield himself against healing and could no longer fill up his health bar. That explains the one kill I got as it was the perfect opportunity for me to finish him off. I myself favoured the arcane element but my inexperienced made me do more damage to a flock of nearby – and totally innocent - sheep and a bunch of unsuspecting barrels than to the enemy.
Besides those spells, each mage can unlock four powerful super abilities by filling up a ‘super meter’ through capturing spawn points and dealing damage to your enemies. The abilities are Super Speed, Reviving Friend, Grim Reaper and Meteor Storm. The first two spells are very handy, the last two may cause more trouble than they are worth as they not only do damage to foes, but friends as well. It is not difficult to imagine Meteor Storm being just as likely to kill you or your teammates as your enemies.
For the win
There are two ways to win a round. The first is to capture 3 spawn points so that when your enemy dies he cannot respawn. Another is to make sure the enemies die so often that they use up all their respawn tokens. You get 75 of these when the round starts - which may seem like a lot - but you’ll die so often that you will burn through them in no time at all. When you capture a spawn point you are given two imp minions that will help you defend it.
You can customize your mage before each round by picking a weapon, robe, staff and ring. With it, you change your appearance and your elemental affinity, making you more powerful when using some elements and reducing the strength of others. The robe gives away the strengths and weaknesses of your character so it is a good idea to memorize the available robes. That way you know exactly which spells to use against which robe during battle. New robes and weapons can be earned by progressing through the game or bought with in-game currency.
All in all Magicka: Wizard Wars looks like a fun, hectic game that combines all the humour that made the original game so enjoyable with short burst of even faster-paced action. The upcoming closed alpha will include only a couple of robes, weapons and a single game mode and Paradox are looking for community feedback to determine which modes and items will should added later. You can sign up for the alpha today, guaranteeing your place in the queue of this maddening yet lovable game.