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Magicka 2

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By ElderCub27-05-2015
Magicka 2

The Defence

Developer:
Pieces Interactive
Publisher:
Paradox Interactive
Genre:
Action, Adventure
Release Date:
26-05-2015

The Prosecution

CPU:
Intel Core i5 2.8 GHz
AMD A8 2.9 GHz
VGA:
Nvidia GeForce GT 640
AMD Radeon HD 6670
RAM:
4 GB
HDD:
3 GB
DirectX:
9.0c

The Case

The Magicka series has been, well, magical. Revolving around a unique take on magic spell, the first Magicka was not only intelligent in game design but also wildly funny. Making a name for itself back in 2011, the game centered itself around quirky characters and the vampire perfectly normal person Vlad. Following his advice, you travel in search of the evil wizard Grimnir who was imprisoned for his attempts to harness all the power of the magicks. Considering all its unique mechanics, the first game was an immense success. With the addition of Wizard Wars, a MOBA centered around the mechanics of Magicka, we were given Magicka 2.

The Trial

Let me just start of by saying that Magicka 2 is polished. Everything feels cleaner than the first game. Menu’s aren’t as clunky, if anything I’d almost say it has impact on the game as a whole. It just felt good. With a format focused on 4 player co-op, players are able to seamlessly join and leave sessions both online and locally at the same time. There are 3 difficulties to choose from; Normal, Hard, and my personal favourite: Bananas. Oh, and do I need to remind you? It’s still hilarious.

During the opening cutscene you’re given a back story on what has changed since the first Magicka, summing up its story, telling of the Wizard Wars, and lining up what’s happening in this game. A child is born, with the potential to hold all magick within her, and dark forces are in preparation to take her. Your objective as the quirky little wizard(s) you are, is to save her and rid the world of those who seek to harm it.

Pretty much one of the most useful spell to use with friends.

Pretty much one of the most useful spell to use with friends.

Starting off, the game introduces you to each element, just as the first game did, and it’s done excellently. Elements are given one by one and gives you the opportunity to memorize where they are on your keyboard or controller. Combining more than a single element up to five elements is known as a spell (I actually got excited and took the time to count out every possible spell - it’s 535 if you were wondering), and specially casting unique spells leads to magicks. Having eight elements at your disposal, each has rules. For example Lightning and Water cannot be used in a spell together, but Water and Frost will do just fine.

This brings me to my first actual disappointment; Ice and Steam do not exist as an element in this game. Let me take it back and explain. In the first game there were 2 elements that were never explained. Ice and Steam, whenever you put Frost and Water into a spell together, they would compound into Ice and take up 1 element slot rather than 2. Same goes for Water and Fire to create Steam. Going forward into Magicka 2, it appears the creators omitted this. While putting Water and Fire into a spell will still yield Steam, it will remain separate, taking away valuable space and removing some element compatibilities. No longer can I mix Steam and Lightning, since it still exists as Water and Fire separately.

Magicka 2 also offers a new perspective on wards. In the first game, self-casting Shield and any other element would give you an area around you in which would negate all damage from that element. However, in the sequel, wards act as personal protection only. Casting Shield and a variable amount of another element (1-4 slots) would either reduce incoming damage of that element, or even get healed by it. Magicka 2 has also remove the ability to cast Wind, a function of casting without any elements queued. This function has been replaced by a Push magick.

I'll have my lobster crabs with a side of death, please.

I'll have my lobster crabs with a side of death, please.

Annoying as it may seem, Paradox has given us a way to easily cast complex spells. By using 1-4 or the D-pad, you can assign quick spells and cast them at the touch of a button. On the downside, it brings us cooldowns, not only affected by the quickbar, but manually casted magicks have a reduced cooldown, which is nice.

As I progressed through the environment, something started to settle in. A feeling that I don’t get often. This game is beautiful. In graphical terms at least. It looks so alive. As if hand painted with care. Each tree that sways, every wooden horse. Things in the background, or below you still held meaning even though they weren’t the focus. Not to mention, he the music wonderfully accompanies it, every transition from combat to tranquility. Every strenuous moment. Casting Frost across a pool of water created a stunning effect of ice creeping along, freezing the water as it goes. It’s really the little things like this that are polished beyond what I’d expected.

Settings are above par too, a moderate range of customizability, the only thing it needed was a function to take away the HUD completely, excluding the hot bar. Once you know where every element is, the elements take up more space than they’re worth on the screen. There were several times when playing co-op that combat was obstructed by it. Speaking of obstructions, some sequences were a pain. Part way into the game, you encounter a type of enemy that knocks you back when killed. The little things decided it was a good idea to swarm me on a bridge with nothing but death on either side. Sometimes when trying to get through these parts I’d immediately die twice and it’d be over. From a level design standpoint you should never have the opportunity for a player to lose because of something they can’t help.

Just so long as that side of death isn't me.

Just so long as that side of death isn't me.

There were much more difficult parts of the game that required legitimate skill and problem solving and I appreciated those parts. As frustrating as they were, I felt accomplished, not just glad it was over. With the addition of customized difficulty before starting the game. It allows you to play the game you want after finding the right artefacts throughout the game. Modifiers like 150% health or 75% lightning damage can be found periodically along the way, and are often hidden. Level design in general has changed significantly too. It seems that almost every area either travels up or right, a departure from the first game where travel direction wasn’t nearly as consistent. It’s not a problem per say, but it makes the game feel a lot more linear than the first, regardless of how many secrets and off-routes there’ve been.

The Verdict

Magicka 2 has been fantastic from beginning to end. Yes, parts of the first game didn’t make it back for a second round but it’s alright. You can’t expect a sequel to be exactly what the first game was, or the formula grows stale. A game can’t grow from never changing. It’s been a wonderful adventure. Between the environments and music, to the combat, I’ll be playing this over again with tons of different modifiers and randoms online. On a side note, there is support for multi-monitor play. Setting the resolution to 5760x1080 gave no further visibility than the center monitor. The first game supported it, so why not this one.

Case Review

  • Magickal: Keeps the spirit of the first game alive and well.
  • Humor: Nothing feels better than a couple laughs after a hard part.
  • Features: Lots of small things like secrets and hidden puzzles to keep it interesting.
  • Multiplayer: Things are always interesting with friendly fire.
  • Features: Stripped features like Steam and Ice from the first game.
4
Score: 4/5
If you enjoyed the first one, you’ll definitely enjoy the sequel.

Appeal

Magicka 2 on this surface, is much the same game as Magicka, which is a good thing because Magicka certainly has a winning formula, but there are still some differences, Magicka 2 has been built by a new team, using a new engine, it does seem to run more smoothly, has slightly improved graphics and a nicer interface and UI, (although rebindable keys have not been added).The gameplay mechanics are largely the same. One change is the addition of “Focus” slots. Any spell can be placed in one of four slots, and activated instantly, this allows new players to handle complex spells easily, however the inclusion of a cooldown timer that increases with the number of active players, means that skilful and creative play is still rewarded.

Multiplayer is the icing on the cake here, just as it was with the first game, and just like with Magicka friendly fire will kill you - a lot, and that’s half the appeal. From the few MP games I’ve had with Magicka 2, it seems that multiplayer runs far more smoothly. It is also more convenient to join random people in their campaigns, or your Steam friends. Also available for multiplayer are a raft of different game modes from challenges to adventures and even some time trials.

The humour in the sequel is nearly as good as in the first Magicka, and this is high praise indeed. Humour is a rare and valuable commodity for video games, but the buffoonery in Magicka is second to none. A couple of the changes made in Magicka 2 are not ideal, but on the whole it is equal to or an improvement on Magicka.

4
Score: 4/5

Appeal

Magicka 2 manages to be an entertaining game with the right people. Ideally a group who are just functional enough to keep making progress and who keep finding it funny when you accidentally explode yourself with ice magic. Solo the game appears frustrating and petty, kind of like playing Mario Party on you own – monsters swarm your meagre wizard and even basic enemies can take you down in seconds while you're fumbling with the keys to cast a spell. Spellcasting still has the frantic and experimental nature that appeared in the first game, a set of eight elements that you combine into a five slot queue and then cast as either a personal, ranged, AoE or special spell for different effects. Often there's hilarious consequences as your spell backfires with a last second panicked click and you explode into chunks before the enemies even take a swipe at you. But sometimes you also find a combo that results in a stupid amount of damage to enemies and stick with it for as long as you can stomach cheesing your way through fights.

Much easier to recommend is the humour. Characters talk clearly in text boxes but the accompanying audio often sounds like a Swede trying to perform a racist caricature of an Italian. There's just enough sense thrown into the audio to bring a grin to your face and it's childish enough to be family friendly. Scenery and name gags offer throwbacks to everything from Akira and Jazz Jackrabbit to Lord Of The Rings and Everquest without rubbing it in your face or being too obscure to be enjoyed by the audience at large. Visual splendour abounds too with simple but pretty graphics and bright, colourful presentation as well as the occasional sight gag or wooden horse that'll explode into meat.

Though I had a great time with the game it's hard to recommend Magicka 2 to a player who'll spend time with it solo, or plays for completion's sake (not that it's lacking in collectibles, unlockables and challenges) but “just for fun” it's a great group activity so long as you're not prone to wanting to push forward or getting frustrated from friendly fire and unnecessary deaths. It is easy to recommend for gamers who want to share the fun with their family though, with the game being child friendly but grown up enough that the adults can have fun too. The final product is what it is, and it’s good but not for everyone. Butter-fingered gamers like myself may struggle to reliably pull off spell combos more complicated than a couple of presses and even then you’re liable to accidentally drop your fireball on your own head or death laser an innocent villager or ten. Accidents happen.

4
Score: 4/5
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