So Magicka is a game from tiny Arrowhead Game Studios in Sweden, published by Paradox Interactive and it is a thing that proves interesting. It’s a pretty basic top-down dungeon crawler. Which is to say, you (and 3 of your friends) control a little dude (in this case a magician) and make him walk around exploring a big ruin/town/castle/etc and shoot/kill/crush/etc whatever random little monsters appear. Sometimes, you get coins or loot or a better sword or whatever.
So, pretty much the most basic thing besides Pong. What makes Magicka worth your time? Well, that’s… elementary. The Magic(k) system in Magicka is truly, honestly, the best idea for magic in a game I’ve seen in basically forever. It’s incredibly simple, too. There are 8 “elements” that you use to cast spells: Water, Fire, Lightning, Earth, Cold, Shield, Arcane, and Life. In order to cast, you simply hit a button (q, w, e, r, a, s, d, f respectively) that corresponds to an element and then choose a target: yourself, an area in front of you, an area around you, or your sword. So far, reasonably simple. Fire + front = flamethrower that you can sweep around. Life + self = heal yourself a bit. Water + self = put out robes when you inevitably set yourself on fire.
But that’s only the start.
You see, Magicka doesn’t just give you 8 elemental spells, it allows you to combine elements, up to 6 at a time. So, for instance, let’s say you tire of using a flamethrower. Well, Earth + front = a giant ball of rock that flies out of your hands. So… Earth + Fire + front = … a giant ball of rock that’s on fire and explodes on impact. Fireball achieved! You can even make a stronger fireball by simply adding 5 Fire elements instead of just one. You can also experiment with less standard combination, like Shield + Arcane + Cold + front = mines in a half-circle in front of you that freeze anyone walking through them.
Elements also interact. For instance, Electricity hits with much more oomph if your target is wet (and if you’re wet it shocks you when you try to cast it). So before you fry people with Chain Lightning, cast something that will spray as many of them as possible with water and watch the sparks fly! Your standard Arcane attack is simply a beam of energy, and if you’d like that beam to freeze people, light them on fire, electrocute them, or soak them you can simply pair Arcane + [element] + front. If you combine two or more beams by shooting yours so it hits a friendly player’s beam, they’ll create a new super strong beam that does more than double damage!
To further complicate things each element is paired with an opposite that it can’t be cast with, although Water + Fire creates the new element “Steam” and Water + Cold creates “Ice”, and those can be used in a combination. So for instance, you can’t make a Lightningball instead of a Fireball, because Lightning is the opposite of Earth. And if you do that Arcane beam combination trick, and one of you happens to have Arcane’s opposite number Life mixed in by accident…. well, you’ll all die in a massive explosion of arcane force. Combining elements that don’t mix tends to lead to that sort of terrifically deadly mishap.
In fact, the stunningly in-depth magic(k) system in the game isn’t simply entertaining for the amount of options you have to kill your enemies, but for the stunning number of ways you can kill yourself and your friends accidentally! From a write-up on RockPaperShotgun:
What is technically possible: Get your whole team to cast spells of water protection on themselves, summon a rainstorm, and blast the bejeezus out of your wettened enemies with lightning blasts while you guys remain toasty dry.What you will do: The one of you responsible for the complex rainstorm spell screws up the casting and gets a sort of riot-hose effect instead. Another of you screws up the water protection spell, gets splashed by the hose and all the lightning elements he was charging get shunted through his body for massive damage.
See, in Magicka there is no mana, and in fact no restriction at all to your ability to tap out spells. Everything is cast at full force as quickly as you possibly can manage the combination, and everything deals as much damage to you and your friends as it does to the enemy creatures. So that massive fireball? Better hope your friends have protection from fire on! That chained lightning? Good lord, Bob was still soaked from the river! That Arcane Beam? Oh god no, someone was trying to Heal Beam and you’ve crossed the streams! Never cross the streams!
Even in single-player, the sheer chaos that absolute freedom to unleash mystical force creates is spectacular to behold right up until it kills you. The controls are weird, but they work reasonably as a way of dealing with the freedom the game allows you. The game is suffused with a reasonably subtle humor, that adds a bit to the reasonably stock fantasy environment. Also all of the characters sound like the Swedish Chef on the Muppets. I cannot recommend the demo for this game enough. You, even those of you with little to no interest in games, owe it to yourselves to try out a truly unique take on something as staid as “elemental magic”. Plus, I need more people I know to get hooked on multiplayer games. And I mean it’s only $10 on Steam, so it’s obviously a steal!
Here, check out one of the trailers!