Magicka – Review

Title   Magicka
Developer  Arrowhead Studios
Publisher  Paradox Interactive
Platform  Windows PC
Genre  Action, Adventure, Parody
Release Date  25th January 2011

The premise of Magicka is simple – you’re a wizard, and you’re off to save the world from another -evil- wizard. That’s about as complicated as  the story gets, but to be fair this game isn’t about the story, it’s about being a bloody wizard! At first glance you’d be forgiven for thinking that this was a bit of an RPG game, however, underneath the fantasy setting lies a fast paced action game that refuses to take itself seriously, and there isn’t a character sheet or inventory in sight. You are guided along your story by a vampire a guy called Vlad, who is totally not a vampire. Vlad and the other NPCs that you meet are chock full of one liners and subtle references to other games and films. Within the first five minutes of playing I had spotted two Star Wars references and another from Star Trek,  and I was still on the first level; even if you don’t get the references there is a lot of visual humour to chuckle over as well.

After choosing one of three starting wizard types (they’re all the same really, just with different starting weapons and style of robe, along with different colours for your robes for easier identification), you are introduced to the game with a standard tutorial section which teaches you all the basics. As well as a melee attack, we learn that there are eight basic elements from which to choose and then combine to create potentially devastating spells: Water, Life, Fire, Lightning, Cold, Shield, Earth, and Arcane. You are able to combine up to five of these elements to create wonderful, and often entertaining, spells to kill your many enemies. For example, combining Earth and Fire will send a flaming ball of rock hurtling at your foes, whilst combining Water and Cold will shoot sharp icicles into the nearest troll’s ugly mush. Additionally, each element is fired in one of a number of different ways, and this can also be manipulated. Fire and Water, for example, are fired in a spray while Arcane and Life are beams, and Earth is a projectile.   Not every combination will bear fruit, however – Earth and Lightning will cancel each other out, as will Arcane and Life and, as such, if you combine these opposites nothing will happen at all. Once you become familiar with the basics, the more adventurousamong you out there can even start to add more elements into the mix, and you’ll be surprised with what you can come up with – electrified arcane land mines anyone?

Once you’ve selected a combination of elements, simply aim with the mouse and right click to fire. Alternatively, you can cast your spell on yourself with the middle mouse button or by pressing the right mouse along with the alt key – this casts your spell around you, creating a player-based area of effect attack. There are literally thousands of combinations to play with.

As well as the spell combinations to discover, scattered around the Adventure mode levels are spell books that you can pick up, which give you special Magick abilities to use. These Magicks require specific element combinations, followed by a press of the space bar, to activate. The correct combination for the Magick will be shown underneath your character so you don’t need to remember them off by heart. A good example of one of these Magicks, and one that you will pick up quite early in your game, is the Revive Magick which can be used to revive your fellow wizards in co-op games, and trust me, it will be one you use quite often. Once you have found a few of these Magicks you can remind yourself of the correct combination by scrolling through them with your mouse wheel, which works quite well.

To further add to the possibilities, you can also imbue your weapon with elements to boost your melee attacks. Like the spell system there are plenty of combinations to play with, however, the elements imbued in your weapon only last for one attack. I found that it wasn’t that useful in the grand scheme of things and tended to stick to my magic, only using my melee weapon if an enemy got too close. The system is rather daunting at first and I struggled to begin with, but after about an hour or so muscle memory started to kick in, and I felt like I had a fairly decent handle on the mechanics. After a while you will find that you pick a favourite few spells and spam them, until you are forced to change tactic due to certain enemies being more resistant to them. I found that the Water/Cold/Earth combination worked quite well in most situations – the Water and Cold combine to form ice, and mixed with the Earth, you get a pretty devastating ice ball which kills most enemies with one hit, and if you charge it up by holding down your right mouse button before releasing, it will smash through armoured targets quite effectively.

Graphically the game isn’t that demanding, but it still looks quite nice and you can tell that Arrowhead have spent a great deal of time making sure that the spells and various weapons are distinguishable from each other. The graphics aren’t going to drop jaws, but at the same time they are still very pleasing on the eye. The sound is also nicely done; from the oldie timey music, to the comedy murmuring sound of the NPCs talking, it all works together very well.

There’s plenty to be getting on with in Magicka. As well as the standard Adventure mode, that you can play either on your own or with up to three others, there are the Challenge and Versus Modes. Challenge mode is basically a horde type mode, where you and your teammates are tasked with killing increasing difficult waves of enemies. Versus is the PVP portion of the game, which has three types of play – Deathmatch, Brawl, and Krietor’s Tourney. Deathmatch is self explanatory – set the time or kill limit, and away you go. With Brawl you have a certain number of lives before you are out, with the last man standing winning. In Krietor’s Tourney the match is split into rounds, with each player having one life per round; when there is only one player or team left a new round is begun, with all spells and effects reset so that nobody has an advantage over anybody else. As the rounds progress players are given access to new Magicks and weapons at the same time.

Despite the excellent spell system and great humour, the game isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. The co-op especially can be equally as frustrating as it is fun at times. With four players on screen at once the fighting can become too chaotic, and the fact that you can be killed by your own teammates’ spells only makes the situation worse, as more often than not it’s your team that kill you and not the enemy.  It’s quite funny at first, but after the eighth time of being roasted by a stray fireball it soon becomes old. After some experimenting I found that the game was most fun with only two people playing, and I reckon with skilful enough players a team of three could work too, but in all the games I played any more than two players was a complete disaster.

The friendly fire problem is made worse when mixed with a healthy dose of dickhead. On quite a few occasions I joined a public adventure game only to find one of the players hell bent on killing us all on purpose. As a result of these dickheads I found that most games were password protected, which seriously reduces your play options, especially if you can’t round up some friends to play with. I also found that playing on your own in the adventure mode can be quite difficult; the game does use a checkpoint system, but they are few and far between and dying means having to start from the last checkpoint again. Also, if you leave the game and come back to it later, you will have to start the level again from the beginning. With no difficulty options to choose from either I found myself repeating some sections of the game over and over again.

  • Awesome spell system with almost limitless combinations
  • Great sense of humour, stuffed full of hidden references and jokes
  • Plenty of game modes to be cracking on with
  • Fun and colourful graphic style
  • Spell system can be daunting to begin with
  • Four player co-op is too chaotic (for me)
  • Team killers force password protected games
  • Can be tough playing solo

I had a lot of fun with Magicka despite the few problems I encountered. The game's co-op mode is not perfect, but with a decent enough group it is seriously brilliant. The spell system is unique, and will often surprise as you experiment with different combinations. There are plenty of game types to keep you busy, and there seems to be a decent amount of players online. It's just unfortunate that a small minority of those choose to spoil it for everyone else, resulting in a lot of password protected games.

Last five articles by Ste



  1. Samuel Samuel says:

    I really need to get back into this game. I bought it cheap on preload on Steam, played it for a day when the download finally unlocked, and somehow forgot all about it. It was a lot of fun for the short time I played it too, so it’s kind of baffling.

    Great review Ste. Cheers for reminding me about yet another game I’ve not given proper attention yet, heh heh.

  2. Mark mark_s says:

    We had a good run at the MP on this Ste, was alot of fun. I managed to get a co-op game going with my mate in Canada and it was awesome and such a good laugh. It was however hectic and I think more players would only make that worse.

    Great game though and for the price I’d say a must buy for you PC gamers out there. One of those games you need try at least once.

  3. Chris Toffer says:

    Yeah I got this from a friend when it came out. Played it for a while but didn’t hold my attention which is a shame because I think the spell system had alot going for it. Good review mate!

  4. Edward Edward says:

    Sounds like a pretty interesting game, and the combinations of spells and the way you’re allowed to experiment appeals quite a lot to me. Sadly, the multiplayer type stuff doesn’t do as much for me as the rest of it.
    Regardless, sounds like a fun title :) Good job, Ste!

  5. [...] of DLC downloaded.  Published by Paradox Interactive, the popular action adventure parody game, reviewed by GL just under a year ago, seems to have barely been off the radar, with numerous DLC releases [...]

Leave a Comment