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Hands-on: Magicka Preview

Greg Tito | 24 Jan 2011 21:00
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Once you pick the perfect combination of elements, you can cast the spell in a number of ways. Casting a projectile shoots out the magic in whatever direction you are facing, while the area of effect button surrounds your wizard with the energies. Casting the spell on yourself either powers your weapon or imbues you personally with the magic to varying success. Casting water on yourself just makes you wet, but casting Life will heal you for a small amount.

As a PC game, Magicka's default control scheme is the mouse and keyboard, so creating spell effects by combining elements means tapping a series of keys. However, where the game sang for me was while using an Xbox controller, where combining elements is handled by a series of half-circle movements with the left analog stick that felt like a fighting game.

Playing through by yourself is fun enough, but the strength of Magicka is in the 4-player co-op. Wizards can link spells together for more power, but there is of course the danger of blasting your friend by mistake. That's especially important when you have effects cast on yourself. Getting hit with water spells will make you "wet" for a period of time and if you happen to use lightning while wet, well, let's just say you don't want to throw a toaster into a bathtub, do you? But you can use these effects with your friends to take out enemies faster. If your buddy wizard blasts the bad guys with water, for example, it just makes sense to follow up with a lightning spell of your own for some eye-popping damage.

Mixing any element with Arcane creates a beam of that type and these beam spells can merge with your friends' for dramatic effects. If there's a boss coming at the party, you can direct a Fire beam at him, your partner can do the same, and these beams will merge for a massive boost in damage. Beware crossing the streams, though. "If you cross the beams of opposite elements, it will explode instead," said Englund as he indeed merged an Earth and Lightning beam and fried us both.

The best part of the magic system in Magicka is that there are no mana points or pool of energy to draw from. You are limited only by your imagination, your ingenuity, and how much your trust your companions as you play through the romping campaign.

I only got to play for a few minutes and was certainly sucked in, but the action-packed design of Magicka was praised by my fellow journalists and even other developers at the Paradox Interactive Convention. If you're looking for a fun diversion from the normal hack-and-slash action title and feel like experimenting with an innovative magic system with your friends, Magicka has definitely got you covered. With the price only $9.99, there are more expensive and less fun games out there.

Magicka is available tomorrow, January 25th, from Steam or publisher Paradox's own GamersGate. A retail box will be out February 15th.

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