When released in 2011, Magicka propelled developer Arrowhead Game Studios to greatness with its chaotic display of spellbinding humour. Since then the team has moved on, having worked on titles such as the superb PlayStation exclusive, Helldivers, as well as the not-so-good Gauntlet reboot. In their stead, developers Paradox North and Pieces Interactive have broadened the growing franchise’s horizons with frenetic online multiplayer in Magicka: Wizard Wars, before now bringing us Magicka 2, as a straight up sequel that finally brings the series to consoles.
Following the cataclysmic Wizard Wars, the people of Midgard are starting to build a peaceful new existence. With the order of Magick dispersed and dwindling in number, the common folk have been able to go about their daily routines without the fear of being “accidentally” burnt, frozen, electrocuted, or mutilated by roving bands of careless wizards. Since the events of the original game, however, the forces of darkness have started to rally once more, and only wizards can defeat this resurgent foe.
Playing alone, or with up to three friends (both online and locally) Magicka 2 will take you across a series of fantasy vistas, dispatching enemies using a powerful codex of spells. Although there is only a sprinkling of light RPG elements, Magicka 2 still evokes the feeling of a dungeon crawler with its top down camera and combat-heavy level design.
Naturally, one thing missing from the cooking pot is the option to toggle character classes. In Magicka you will only ever have the option to play as a wizard, tweaking their armour, staff, and melee weapon to unlock certain perks and stat bonuses. No matter which combination you manage to come up with, all players come to battle with the same grimoire of spells.
There are eight basic types of spell, each one denoting elements such as fire, ice, life, stone, and shield. By pressing the button associated with an element, the player effectively loads it into their queue, subsequently allowing them to use it as projectile, an area attack, or on themselves. With five available slots in the queue, you can supercharge spells of a single element or, if you’re feeling more adventurous – and you should – combine them for an array of weird and wonderful effects.
Although certain elements, such as water and lightning, simply don’t go together others combine, so that water and fire or water and ice will produce a torrent of steam or ice bullets respectively. From time to time Magicka 2 will force players to experiment thanks to the presence of different enemy types, some of which are resistant to one or two element types. Regardless of their strengths and weaknesses, enemies will usually come in waves, looking to completely overwhelm their spellbinding nemeses.
As a result, Magicka 2 can be an extremely tough singleplayer experience. Throw in one or two controllers, however, and the true nature of this sequel comes to light. Marching from level to level will become slightly easier, given the small pool of healing and revival spells on-hand. Then again, if you happen to be playing with clumsy mates (or simply online randoms) things can really start to fall apart in ways that are both fun and infuriating. The frenetic pace of Magicka 2, combined with the range of arc and area damage spells, means that friendly fire is an inevitability with wizards blowing up left, right, and centre.
For the first few missions this style of play will grow more and more endearing, especially as you try to work out an arsenal of lethal spell combos. Repetition will set in, however, thanks to the AI’s swarm patterns and lack of bonus elements. Sensing this, developer Pieces Interactive has put a clever twist on its catalogue of collectibles, each one either unlocking new loot or modifiers that can alter certain in-game factors. These let you customise the game difficulty quite extensively, with health modifiers, movement speed alterations and even added effects such as making all characters explode upon death, sending those nearby flying across the screen
Magicka 2’s persistent humour also helps to keep the game afloat, with a myriad of gaming references and nods towards other pop culture icons such as Game of Thrones delivered by way of nonsensical Swedish-styled gibberish.
Although it hits the marks in several key areas, there’s no shying away from the fact that Magicka 2 can feel monotonous in parts. This may be eradicated (in part) when playing with friends locally or online, but not everyone will have that same privilege. There’s an overriding focus here on combat that could have been invested in other, more interesting pursuits such as puzzle solving or even platfoming. Still, it’s a competent action game that has made a beautiful transition from its original PC roots and one that will no doubt garner a new console-based coven.