by Jonathan Fortin
previewed on PC
Silly Minions and More
Both teams get a few goblin minions whenever they capture a spawn point. At first enemy goblins seem like more of an annoyance than anything else, for they whittle away your health in tiny amounts and are very easy to kill. But in intense firefights, a single goblin can prove to be the proverbial straw that breaks the camel's back.
They also look really goofy, which goes to show how the game doesn't take itself too seriously. The oft-comedic item descriptions make references to everything from Lovecraft to Grim Fandango. Magicka fans will also be happy to hear that Vlad (who is most definitely not a vampire) offers brief, silly bites of narration during matches. For example, when you win, he might say, “You suck slightly less than those other guys!” The humor lies mostly in the details, never distracting from the game's main focus: fun, crazy magic battles.
While League of Legends has you choosing from distinctive champions to play, Magicka makes you develop your own hero. Unfortunately, in the alpha build, all the characters in the game are identical. Their robes might be different colors, and their staffs might look different, but by and large there isn't very much visual customization. This may not sound like it matters, but in the hectic battles it becomes hard to tell which wizard you're controlling since they all look so similar.
Also the customization of the character's strengths and weaknesses is limited in the alpha. Stats are impacted by purchasing equipment like new robes or wands, which will strengthen your skill in one form of magic, but weaken it in another. You can also upgrade your mega-spells (the aforementioned meteor shower can become a lightning storm, for example), but these must be purchased with differently colored crystals which are given to you at random after certain matches. This means that the only way to upgrade your mega-spells is to play as many matches as possible and hope you are rewarded with the right crystals. This is one of many ways the game becomes addicting: you want to unlock those new spells, but you don't have enough crystals yet. The game never seems to run out of carrots to dangle in front of you.
A promising start
Unfinished as it is, the game has a lot of room for growth. There's only one map, and there are no game types other than capture-the-spawn-points. It's also worth noting that Wizard Wars is multiplayer only: there is no single player option, and no Player-vs-Enemy option. That means that if no one else is online, you cannot play the game at all. I expect this will be less of a problem when the game is released, but at the moment the lack of PvE options makes the game problematic from a matchmaking standpoint: due to the lack of available games, it can be all to easy to be paired against players that are much more experienced than yourself.
It must be reiterated that this is the alpha version of the game, and more content will be added over the course of its development. Some of it will likely have to be purchased through microtransactions, however.
Even in its current, unfinished form, Magicka: Wizard Wars is fun and very addicting. The combat is exhilarating and original, both deep and easy to use. The game fosters a constant desire to improve both your play style and your character. If Paradox includes enough free content in the base game to keep things interesting, they may very well have a winner on its hands.