Magicka is quite possibly the craziest co-op game out there. At first glance, it might strike you as similar to Gauntlet with its top-down perspective and directional spellcasting. (In fact, these similarities earned Arrowhead Studios a chance to develop a remake of the original Gauntlet) However, there are some key factors that set Magicka apart from your typical action RPG. The first is the casting system, which allows you to combine up to 5 raw elemental components to make devastating spells. The second is the friendly fire mechanic, which means that your spells might end up devastating your allies if you’re not careful. Throw one errant lightning bolt when your teammate is soaked in water and suddenly you’ll be scrambling to piece together a resurrection spell while demons rain fire down around you. It’s a blast.
Magicka 2: Learn to Spell Again offers much the same madcap gameplay as its predecessor – there’s just more of it. New robes, staffs, and weapons have been added to help you take on a slew of new enemies and bosses. The biggest addition to the game, though, is the artifact system. Artifacts are collectible items that, when activated, change the game’s mechanics in interesting ways. These items operate similarly to Skulls in Halo, or gods in Bastion. They might make enemies more difficult to defeat and force you to change your strategies, or otherwise modify their behavior. These rule changes should go a long way toward making Magicka 2 more replayable – a vital element of any co-op game.
Pieces Interactive has put in a lot of hours to make the co-op experience in Magicka 2 smoother than ever before. Finding games in the original Magicka was a bit tricky thanks to a clunky framework, but with new network features like hot-joining and a better infrastructure, finding people to play with in Learn to Spell Again is a snap. While Magicka’s casting system is fun to play around with even in single-player, it’s nothing compared to combining spells with (and accidentally killing) your friends. These new features should ensure you’ll never have to play alone.
One of the other big draws of Magicka is its sense of humour, which is very, very Swedish. The game’s world, Midgård, is mired in Norse mythology, though its tongue never leaves its cheek. The original game concerned a group of bumbling wizards on a quest to stop an evil sorcerer, and the plots only got stranger with each expansion. Magicka: Vietnam charged the wizards with conquering a Vietcong force comprised of goblins and orcs, while Magicka: The Stars Are Left set them up against eldritch evils beyond their comprehension. Then there was Magicka: Wizard Wars, a free-to-play arena PVP game with almost no story to speak of. Of course, Magicka 2 follows it directly.
In the wake of the wizard wars, almost all of the world’s magic users are dead or insane. That is more or less the expected outcome when a bunch of wizards run around blasting each other to bits for giggles, and it’s kind of cool to see Pieces following through on the implications of a mode most series would consider non-canon. As some of the few remaining sane Wizards, you and your friends must journey across Midgård and protect the people from rogue magic elements. Along the way, you will make many things explode, sometimes even on purpose. It’s a goofy but interesting premise, and I look forward to seeing where they take it.
If you loved Magicka, then rest assured that Magicka 2 is everything you could want out of a sequel. The unique combat system is as compelling and hilarious as it’s ever been, and few games are more fun with friends. If you’re not a fan of Magicka… well, chances are you haven’t tried it. Its dynamics might seem familiar, but trust me, it’s like nothing you’ve ever played before. If you have yet to try it, then you can pick up the original game for ten bucks on steam, or if you’re the patient type you’ll be able to play Magicka 2 on PC and PS4 some time in the near future. (The game doesn’t yet have a set release date.)