It’s worth prefacing this review with the fact that I loved the original Magicka, buggy warts and all. The seemingly limitless combination of spells, large variety of characters and top-notch writing were more than enough to make up for the often game-ending bugs and glitches. Throw in co-op and a few drinks, and Magicka forms the cornerstone of a great night.
My expectations for Magicka 2 were accordingly sky-high, and the trailers did nothing to help this. The Game of Thrones theme parody trailer tickled me significantly, but the actual effort in their E3 2014 trailer, a sketch, really got me. It’s the sort of humor and style embodied in older ads for games. I half-expected a narrator to chime in at the end with “Magicka 2 does what D&Don’t!” or something similarly terrible/wonderful.
Magicka 2 is a co-operative action game where you and up to three other friends step into the shoes of some of the few remaining wizards in the world. You are once again tasked by Vlad — who is still definitely and most certainly not a vampire — to journey across the land of Midgard. This time, though, you’re in search of a child who holds the key to Midgard’s future. It’s a serviceable storyline that gives you a reason to go from Point A to Point B and then steps out of the way for the real meat of the game.
As it turns out, that meat is… more Magicka. It’s got a new haircut and a few new sets of robes, yes, but it’s still the same game. And I really don’t know how to feel about that.
Gameplay still consists of casting spells in order to both stay alive and defeat various enemies. Friendly fire is always in play and there’s a variety of area of effect spells at your disposal. Spells are made by choosing from one of eight elements to fill up to five slots. Each element is bound to a keyboard key (QWERASDF) or face button plus trigger. Typing ASS, for example, will result in your wizard shooting some very sith-y lightning. SASS, utilizing an extra slot, adds damage to the spell.
Magicka 2’s Playstation 4 release has resulted in concessions made to controller-based play. Gone are the days of hold-based movement; the mouse must now be clicked in order to move, resulting in slippery and inaccurate movement during moments of urgency. Click-based targeting is another casualty. Projectiles travel based on how long the mouse or control stick is held before release. QF and QR — steam and ice — has been reworked so that they no longer have individual icons, reducing possible spell combinations.
A hotbar with four slots controlled by the D-Pad or 1-4 replaces the scrolling selection of the original Magicka. This is where spells like Revive and Haste are stored, and hotbar use is controlled by cooldowns. The spells themselves are not, so spamming AW will still have your teammates back quicker than you can make an insincere apology about accidentally killing them all.
Solo Magicka 2 is playable, but barely passable, and encounters feel as though they’re scaled to parties and not lonely, sad wizards. Co-op is the heart of the game. Magicka 2 is only tangentially about killing enemies and fighting bosses, after all. The real enemy is anybody within a half-screen radius of you in the split second after you say, “watch this!”. In that regard, the experience is unchanged. Smoother graphics and extremely short loadtimes were welcome changes from the barebones offerings of the first game and its “I’ll go grab a drink while I’ve got a moment” loading time. Local multiplayer has also been added, bringing your fellow wizards to within striking distance. If you want to play online, you’ll need a Paradox account. Servers in my experience have been largely unresponsive when trying to sign up for one, though this may change as the launch dust settles.
Artifacts allow players to customize difficulty to their liking, but add little to the game. One interesting example I noticed was that an artifact exists that stops players from moving when they have elements queued up for a spell. A challenge mode has been added as well, consisting of waves of varying enemies. It is Magicka 2 at its most polarizing — fun with the right friends in co-op, but otherwise devoid of merit in singleplayer — without even the saving grace of the game’s gibberish accents and enjoyably silly writing.
Ultimately, Magicka 2 fails to adequately build on its first outing. It feels more like an expansion to the original Magicka, or an unusually faithful remake. First-time players and Playstation 4 owners will find plenty to love about Magicka 2. It’s as funny and irreverent as ever. Anybody with a PC, however, is better off buying the original game.
- This article was updated on March 8th, 2018