Magicka

Magicka: Wizard Wars Review

I found myself feeling apathetic and un-enthused after a few clicks around the website for Magicka: Wizard Wars. In an increasingly saturated ARTS world, my expectations were exceedingly low. With a reluctant click and an exasperated sigh I started downloading what I assumed was another three lane MOBA clone. Within minutes all of my preconceived notions of Magicka being a simple copy cat were smashed and replaced with excitement and fits of near maniacal laughter.

Upon loading the player is introduced to basic game mechanics via a very brief tutorial. It is in no way comprehensive and doesn’t do a very appropriate job of explaining the game’s in depth combat system. Even with this slight pitfall, Magicka still remains very accessible. The learning curve is gradual and encourages a “pick up and go” mentality. It would be nice to see a more extensive tutorial covering some of the games more advanced combat mechanics. In-depth guides are made easily accessible via the games website, but it would be a wonderful addition to see a more robust training mode implemented in game.

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The art direction is light and doesn’t take itself too seriously. Sporting a palette that is full of vibrant colors, Magicka features character and environmental models that fit in very well with the aesthetic. Spell effects are bright and carry over well with the rest of the game. The hyperbolic death animations (complete with exploding cartoon gore) serve to seal the deal in this over the top cartoon fest.

Sound and music is handled in very much the same manner, although the soundtrack feels relatively cliché and uninspired. The announcer has a booming personality and is full of wit and tactless retorts that will give you a chuckle. Sound effects are mostly what you would expect, full of splats and explosion sounds reminiscent of a Looney Toons short.

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Game play is where Magicka really shines. The games primary team mode eschews the traditional base destroy mechanic in favor of holding spawn points. This is not a completely new idea, as FPS and other games have applied this Mechanic for nearly two decades. It does work well in Magicka though, creating a quick changing objective based meta.

Magicka also features no differentiation in characters, instead employing a combo based spell system. The game uses ten different elements. Each element is assigned to a key bind. A particular combo will consist of three elemental triggers. The entire games nearly 100 different spell combinations fall in to several different categories, such as beams, projectiles, heals and area of effect spells. For instance you can chose to add two rock elements and an ice element to make a freezing projectile. Positioning is heavily emphasized in Magicka. Spells not only hurt your opponent but can damage your allies as well. Team work is a must and often requires careful coordination. The twitch based combo system, as well as the inclusion of friendly fire allow for an incredibly deep Meta and insanely fast game play.

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Matches in Magicka are significantly quicker than a traditional MOBA. Respawn times are set at approximately 10 seconds; this keeps the pace of the game lightning fast and engaging. The shortest matches can be over in less than two minutes with longer matches rarely taking more than ten minutes. The game is won when either team runs out of spawn tokens or all the spawn points are controlled by one team.

A player also has access to a variety of “Ultimate” spells. These spells charge up over time and can make a detrimental impact on the game. The variety of ultimate’s is currently limited but the developer has stated more will be added as time goes on. As you level up your account you will earn “crystals” which can be used to unlock new Ultimate spells. Ultimate spells can also be unlocked by purchasing them with real money.

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Magicka’s business model keeps “pay to win” at a minimal. Items are available via the in game shop. Different items will slightly modify stats, usually at the expense of others. For instance you can make your healing based spells more powerful, but it will slightly degrade the quality of your shield based spells. Any item that can be purchased with real money is no more than an aesthetic variation of an item that can be earned with game coin.

Levels and coins are awarded at a reasonably quick pace. It never feels like it takes too terribly long to earn the items you want to purchase. Exp and money rewards are a direct correlation between your performance in the game. Performance is measured not only by your kill to death ratio but by the amount of spawn points you help capture during the game.

Unfortunately the community features of Magicka are lackluster at best. The game relies too heavily on Steam’s community features. Players you meet in random matchmaking cannot easily be added to your friends list. Magicka also does not offer any sort of Clan support or ranked match making. There is no built in voice support, making communication with random team mates nearly impossible. At this time Magicka has no replay system and does not keep track of wins and losses. For a game that shows massive competitive potential it currently does not offer many of the essential features to harbor such an environment.

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Even with its slight setbacks in the areas of community development and inadequate in game tutorials, Magicka: Wizard Wars is an enchanting title. With a small download size and accessible game play I highly recommend that everybody give this title a spin. In a world filled with HoNs, LoLs and DOTAs, Magicka is a refreshing change of pace that might just have you clicking that matchmaking button over and over again.

Pros:

  • Easy to learn
  •  Deep game play mechanics
  • Quick Matches
  • Very fun and wildly entertaining

Cons:

  • Poorly implemented tutorial
  • Very few community features
  • No Ranked Matchmaking

Overall Rating: 8 out of 10

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