Magicka begins with a tale about one greedy wizard's quest for knowledge and his subsequent overthrow by his wizard buddies who question his intentions and decide to imprison him at world's end. There's also a bit in there about a warlord named Khan who assembles the orc tribes and threatens the poor innocent villagers. So the world is thoroughly drenched in crisis and it's up to you and perhaps three wizard friends to cloak up and cast enough lightning-arcane beam spells to make everything quiet down. The storyline is all goofs, quips and referential humor making for an epically hilarious adventure. Prepare to catch references to everything from Zelda, Star Wars, Star Trek, Lord of the Rings, Monty Python and more.
The game plays like a simplified kind of Diablo with an overhead view but it departs from other action adventure games in a couple of interesting ways. You have a health bar, but it's really the only thing you have to monitor. There isn't any mana and there isn't even an inventory. You have a malay weapon and a staff, but more than anything these are useful because of their attributes. Some staffs will grant the user an easy lightning bolt spell to use, the ability to summon a treeman, certain elemental resistances or other abilities. Malay weapons have similar sorts of attributes, but they're usually strictly for attacking. Weapons and staffs can only be kept while the player is alive, upon death they are relinquished and up for grabs among the other players.
The main draw of Magicka's gameplay comes in its take on spell crafting. You have eight different elements, all bound to eight keyboard keys, to combine however you wish leading to hundreds, if not more, spell combinations. For example, combine fire and earth to shoot an exploding boulder, or combine electricity and arcane for a purple beam laser capable of dealing heavy damage. It's also interesting to mix elements for different effects. If you first make sure your enemies are soaked from a rainstorm spell they will be more susceptible to freezing and electricity attacks. You'll also come across more complicated spells that take some memorization to use quickly, though you're able to access learned spells at any time by scrolling through the combinations. These are usually more powerful but harder to wield making for situational appropriateness and cautious strategy. An unannounced meteor storm spell will not only severely damage nearby enemies but also probably kill the group if they don't know it's coming. Things get hectic with four players as friendly fire is always on. You'll have to communicate with your group at times, perhaps even divvy up tasks like healing to progress through the tougher moments.
Graphics in Magicka are well done, and the art design and characters are simple but well designed. The spells are appropriately pretty and overall everything looks pretty well polished. That being said I did encounter some glitches and performance issues with questionably low frames per second at times. The game certainly isn't too taxing, but I believe some optimization is in order. I've even heard that the game isn't supported for laptops without dedicated graphics card memory. Also, playing online can be challenging. I've put off the review for a while due to connection issues at launch, and while I've played in some games without issue, there still are a few blips in performance. It's important to note that the developers seem pretty devoted to working out all the kinks and have been updating the game almost daily since its release. It's also only ten bucks, so that alone might make it worth encountering some issues, but I'm sure for some players, even for a lower priced title, it's still not acceptable.
Overall Magicka can be a blast playing with three other friends. The hectic nature of four powerful wizards shooting fire, ice and lightning beams is inherently awesome. While the game does offer a single player campaign, I feel coop is how the game was meant to be experienced. Even though there are occasional bugs and connection issues at present, I remain hopeful that the developers maintain their devotion to alleviating the problems. Magicka certainly isn't going to lose its appeal in the meantime.