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Review: Magicka 2

May 27 // Steven Hansen
Magicka 2 (PC [reviewed], PS4)Developer: Pieces InteractivePublisher: Paradox InteractiveReleased: May 26, 2015MSRP: $14.99 If you haven't played the first Magicka, the set-up is still familiar enough: up-to-four-player overhead adventuring and monster killing. The trade tools are the big difference. You're granted immediate access -- there's no progression system, really -- to eight different magics, just about all of which can be combined, in different strings and quantities. There's a balance between stronger spells, which are more complex to cast, and dealing with basic elemental affinities. On a controller, spells are mapped to four face buttons, while L1 swaps to a second set of four spells, a system I much prefer over the first's fighter-like quarter circles. Once queued, they can be cast forth offensively, as area of attack, or unto oneself. And Magicka 2 is more than willing to let you drop a rock on your own noggin as easily as you might heal yourself. Or let you set an unfortunate friend on fire. Magicka 2 gets most of its good will for its co-op, which is why controllers for couch play are sort of preferred, though you can play online, and in parties of any make up (two local, one online, and so on). While playing co-op can make the worst game fun, Magicka 2 is definitely improved with and seems designed around having friends to revive you and to separate enemies whose AI encourages them to clump in writhing, obscuring masses. It is no fun to play solo, constantly drowned in a sea of goblins. [embed]292791:58693:0[/embed] The clean interface and easy drop in, drop out are about the only significant improvements over the original. That and the lack of bugs. Enemy AI mildly trips out sometimes and, especially in co-op, being anywhere near the edge of the screen feels like you're constantly stuck on screen restrictions mixed with level geometry, but mostly it's a clean running -- and lean running -- game. Collision detection also comes into play with the physics heavy final boss fight, which was equally the most creative and frustrating encounter.  The story is told over 10 or so brief chapters with replays encouraged by challenge instances and modifiers (collectable artifacts) that allow for Mortal Kombat Test Your Luck-style additions. Madly increased movement speed (please), extra unsafe damage boosts. There's a fair amount to tinker with. That's if you want to tinker, though. Again, Magicka 2 just feels like more Magicka levels and I felt fairly sated not even having finished the first. There's a giant enemy crab as a sort of sub-boss, and then you fight another giant enemy crab, and then you fight two giant enemy crabs. It gets redundant. Enemies are fodder, relentlessly marching toward you en masse, hardly flinching in the face of your supposedly powerful magics. The crowds get messy and you die, or you do a lot of running backwards while spraying spells at your angry entourage like metal filings chasing a Wooly Willy pen. It often feels like the equivalent to a shooter with lengthy mounted turret sections, the discovery of powerful spell combinations evoking sighs of, "Thank god, I can kill the next wave of 20 goblins more easily." And while I appreciate Magicka 2's lighthearted take on fantasy tropes, I don't like the bulk of its humor, which confuses making references with making jokes. It's like a non-hipster version of Life is Strange, allowing you to be self-satisfied for having seen Game of Thrones rather than Battle Royale. Thwacking a wooden cow -- or your friend -- and it exploding into chunks of meat is always funnier, but Magicka 2's actual jokes at least fare better than the winks and nudges. Repeated insistence that Dracula-accented, narrative-driving Vlad is not a vampire? Even a deadpan loading slide regularly reserved for game tips that just says "Vlad is not a vampire." Funny. Oregon Trail jokes? Belongs on Epic Threadz next to the "I [picture of cartoon bacon] BACON" shirts. If you want to pat yourself on the back for getting in-jokes and you can drum up enough play pals for co-op, you might find Magicka 2 [Borat voice] very nice! Like its references, though, Magicka 2 is just a retread.
Magicka 2 review photo
Spelling inside the lines
Magicka 2's tagline is "learn to spell...again," and that sums up the sequel to the Paradox-published, surprise-millions-selling first Magicka. The second fantasy trope stuffed outing comes from Pieces Interactive, makers of ...

Wizard Wars photo
Wizard Wars

Magicka: Wizard Wars hits open beta & you should play it

Fun, colorful murderers
May 27
// Steven Hansen
I am not into MOBAs, but I have had a blast every time I've played Magicka: Wizard Wars. Probably because you could murder sheep into a blood cloud and people didn't yell obscenities at me. And because Magicka is fun and sur...

Casting magic spells in Magicka: Wizard War's new mode

Jan 24 // Hamza CTZ Aziz
Magicka: Wizard Wars (PC)Developer: Paradox North Publisher: Paradox Interactive Release date: October 15, 2013MSRP:  $12.99 (Starter Wizard Pack) Duel Mode will see four players enter a compact arena. Two of the players will be pitted against one another while the other two get to watch from the stands. The two players engaged in the match will need to use a combination of various spells to defeat the other, and the last one standing wins. After a very brief pause, one of the players watching in the stands will be cycled into the arena and this repeats until someone reaches six total kills to win the game.   The entire concept is pretty straight forward, and from an outside appearance it all seems pretty simple. But much like a fighting game, Magicka offers a ton of depth to its combat system. Players have access to eight different spells, ranging from fire, lightning, healing, earth, shields, and more. Each spell can be used in an offensive or defensive manner, but where the depth really comes in is combining the different spells to create an even greater attack. Press the F key once and you'll unleash a simple fire blast. Press the F key three times and you'll shoot out a giant blaze. Combine the fire and earth spells and you'll shoot out a fireball. You get the idea. Some spells work better together than others, and it'll take some time to truly master the system.  Along with these spells you have a basic melee weapon, plus four powerful super spells that need to charge up over time. Your melee weapons, super spells, plus your cloak can all be altered before a match, too. Some examples of the super spells include summoning Death who will slash an enemies life bar by 80%, to summoning an outhouse that will spit out a couple of little helper minions.  The action and fighting is great, and pretty addicting. What's a little disappointing though is the spectator part of it all. The purpose of this is to help new players see how others use their fighting tactics, but for me personally it was kind of boring to just wait around and watch the two other players fight. You can't do anything from the stands, other than press a button that shoots out confetti every now and again onto the arena. I would have liked to been able to do something while waiting for my turn, from actually practicing different spell combinations, or maybe even betting on who the winner would be with the other person that I was waiting with. The minor annoyance aside, Duel Mode is pretty fun and will be a nice addition to the core MOBA experience of Magicka: Wizard Wars. 
Magicka photo
Duel Mode pits player versus player
Magicka: Wizard Wars has been available through Steam's Early Access program since October and it's been seeing updates at least once a week. Updates ranging from small bug fixes, to big new additions. A lot of these updates...

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