Paradox Interactive’s Magicka has always been about working together to overcome great adversity, but every now-and-then it’s fun to jab your friends in the ribs. This was anticipated throughout the development of the videogame and accordingly provisions were made to allow gamers to push against one another while working together. Just how popular a design it would become must have surprised even Paradox Interactive themselves however, as its lead to a standalone product built specifically for this purpose: Magicka: Wizard Wars.
A videogame developed for bursts of competitive play in a similar fashion to the cherished Super Bomberman 2, Magicka: Wizard Wars gives players the simple tasks of holding bases and attempting to capture that of their enemies. Each team has a limit to the number of respawns they can use between all players, but of course capturing every base on the map will prevent them from respawning altogether. It’s a simple but compelling system, thanks largely to the immediacy of the videogame’s combat.
One of the greatest achievement’s of the original Magicka was it’s simple but effective spell casting system. Magicka: Wizard Wars pushes this even further by giving you the opportunity to work against human rivals in a test of not just speed, but foresight also. Players are able to combine up to three elements in a single spell significantly altering the effect, for example fire and stone may throw a fireball, but three fires will shoot a continuous stream like a flamethrower. This simple example can be expanded upon greatly when you realise that there are eight elements, and all spells can either be cast upon self (click mousewheel) or into the area (right mouse button).
The challenge between players comes as a Rock, Paper Scissors style match. If your opponent is using the above flamethrower-style fire spell on you will you counter attack it with a water spell? Will you defend yourself against fire by combining fire and shield into a self-casting spell? The solution is easily drawn when you take into account the visual indicators on the enemy avatar. Is there a flame on their staff? Then it’s more than likely they’ve equipped this item as they prefer bringing the heat to any other spell.
Your equipment plays a big part in Magicka: Wizard Wars, able to adapt your statistics to your liking and offering a significant amount of customisation to your play style. Dying too much? Buff your health. Weapon swing too slow? Change to a faster armament but sacrifice the damage dealt with each blow. During Electronic Theatre’s time with Magicka: Wizard Wars the options were limited, but even with only a dozen-or-so options there was a plentiful variety of character types that could be sent into battle.
Magicka: Wizard Wars is built for quick intimate battles of less than then minutes a time, and it’s at its best when the teams vary wildly in skill within themselves and against their opponent. It’s about prioritising you personal mission objectives; the choice between going for the kill or passing by a friend engaged in battle for the opportunistic base capture. Exactly how you prefer to play is a lesson that is learned rather than a given, and with Magicka: Wizard Wars launching a Steam Early Access programme today gamers will have the chance to experiment for themselves.