Developed by Pieces Interative. Published by Paradox Interactive. Released May 26, 2015. Available on PC and PlayStation 4. Review copy provided by publisher.
I absolutely adored the original Magicka. On the surface it was a humorous parody game filled with fantasy tropes and pop culture references. But under its hood was a powerfully robust magic system that let any wizard to become a god among men - when used correctly. Unfortunately players are generally as fallible as the wizards themselves, so what usually happened is one spellcasting disaster after another until everyone was in hysterics. Watching the chaos unfold was one of Magicka's greatest pleasures, even if you wiped out yourself, your team, and the surrounding village.
Now after a diversion into MOBAs with Wizard Wars, Paradox Interactive has returned to its co-op roots with Magicka 2. For Magicka fans, expectations are high. After all, this is one of Paradox's most popular games even as it racks up accidental player kills - that's a hard act to follow.
The good news is all of Magicka's co-op gameplay, chuckle-worthy humor, and unfolding chaos is included here, as are improvements that will delight long-time fans. But on the flip side, Magicka 2 might actually be too similar to its predecessor. Outside of visual and UI overhauls, there's not a lot differentiating this particular campaign from previous DLC expansions. It's not Magicka 2 as much as Magicka 2.0, an upgrade to old gameplay instead of a product that breaks new ground.
Thankfully, when it comes to Magicka, more of the same isn't bad... as long as you have a Revive magick handy.
Magicka 2 opens forty years after the events of Wizard Wars, where the constant battles and resurrections destroyed all magical orders and left the survivors reeling from spellcasting side-effects. With the wizards effectively destroyed, humanity has entered a new golden age where no one need fear their villages and crops being accidentally destroyed in a battle. But evil still exists, and a new prophecy threatens the balance - a girl has been born who will absorb all magical energies expended from the Wizard Wars to change Midgard for good. As dark forces march to prevent the prophecy, Vlad - who is absolutely not a vampire - returns seeking one to four surviving wizards who can protect her until the time is right.
As far as stories go, Magicka 2 is a good one, although it's not breaking the mold when it comes to generic fantasy tropes. Outside of a solid mid-point twist it's fairly comparable to Magicka 1, following a quest through human settlements, forests, snow-covered landscapes, underground caverns, and other typical fantasy locales. Thankfully Magicka's parody status rears up to change the tune - such as when Vlad's important quest narration is also overheard by enemies, or how NPCs always interpret your protagonist's silence as implicit agreement for insane tasks. Some of the humor is a little too referential to be lasting - like Jon Frost who knows nothing outside of the three-foot Wall of ice blocks he defends - but it makes for a unique world all the same.