I’ve always been a huge fan of co-op gaming. I stick to my theory that the addition of co-op can make literally any game better, or in the worst of cases, bearable. When I loaded up Magicka 2 I was actually looking forward to what looked to be a goofier, lighter version of Diablo. What I got was something quite different, but was that a bad thing?
Magicka 2 puts you in the shoes of a hooded Mage. Able to control various elements, spells, and other magic type things, you must use these powers to fight off the endless hordes of goblins and monsters that seem to always take over these magical lands we’re always hearing about. You, and hopefully, a friend, can mix and match these spells to create insanely powerful weapons, which includes everything from painful flaming boulders, to the totally ridiculous electrified ice. Some counteract each other as they should and you’ll be using these to progress in some areas, like freezing water to make bridges, burning things, pushing open areas with telekinesis etc. While these parts are few and far between, the first couple of times they do feel inventive and even kind of neat, but after you repeat them for the twentieth time, they lose their charm.
Controlling spells is the main mechanic of the game. Mixing and matching spells to create super-spells can be fun, but due to the hard to grasp controls it’s not most of the time. Remembering the massive spell options, putting them together in long combinations and doing this all while fighting off dozens of baddies is a challenge to say the least. There is no way to ‘favourite’ spell combos and despite playing for hours on end I have still yet to get the hang of spell mixing. I, much like I suspect everyone else who plays this game, will just stick to the classic fire spell; just mash this over and over, mix it into one massive fire spell and hope for the best. The idea of mixing spells is something different, but I can’t help feel as if Magicka 2 handled this idea in the worst way possible. Perhaps this is more manageable on the PC version, but I’m not so sure.
Playing very much like Diablo in the sense of being a top-down RPG with magic, co-op and loads of Orcs, the game is far from Diablo when it comes to the overall structure and balance. Featuring an extremely small amount of weapons and armour, all of which barely affect your stats, the game lacks any sort of desire for better loot once you realize there is nothing of value to be found. It’s also extremely bare-bones when it comes to the ‘skills’ of your character; with very little to upgrade or invest in, you don’t feel much drive to grind through the story other than the actual act of completing it. The upside of this would be the complete lack of grinding needed to progress, which will be a relief to some, but I myself don’t mind a little grind if I’m given something worthwhile for my time.
That’s not to say you won’t be doing things over and over again. The gameplay is basically always the same: Kill everything that isn’t you until you can move to the next area. So be prepared for hordes and hordes of mindless enemies to be flooding you throughout. That would be bad enough as far as repetitiveness goes, but unfortunately the game suffers from extremely unforgiving difficulty spikes. You’ll find yourself replaying areas over and over with the only difference between a failure and a success being pure luck or timing of co-op revives. If you’re playing the game alone, I would go ahead and buy a spare controller because you’ll likely be throwing it out the nearest window. I’m all for a challenge; games like Dark Souls and Bloodborne have proven that overcoming what feels like impossible odds is a great motivator when done correctly. The difference between this game and those is the very different feeling that is conjured upon dying; this is the game being cheap and not me being bad. The Souls games walk a very fine line to keep the balance and Magicka 2 is proof of that not being an easy task.
Away from the gameplay, there is a problem here which I’ve noticed in more and more games of late: the rampant use of current pop culture jokes, nods, and references. While I know this sounds a bit picky and unimportant, I believe it is a legitimate issue for some gamers, myself included. A neat little reference every now and then is fine, but when a game begins to replace writing for throw-away internet jokes and TV show nods, it gets a bit out of hand. This stuck out particularly strong when I first started playing this game; within the first thirty minutes of playing my co-op partner and I had encountered at least four Game of Thrones references. While I get the whole medieval theme, magic, dragons and the rest, it gets to a point when I found myself rolling my eyes more than any human should. I just feel as if some game writers are using these easy punchlines as filler, rather than actually being clever themselves. As I’ve said, this may not bother every player, but it certainly bothers me.
Visually the game is vibrant, clean and stylistic. Keeping to a cartoony and very light design, the game isn’t pushing the limits of next-gen, but it is pleasing, matches the theme of the game and performs well. The sound design is great as well; the music is what you would come to expect in a mythical RPG, with loads of Orc and Goblin grunts and screams to keep your eardrums filled. The voice acting is done mostly in the style of The Sims, with subtitles translating the garbled gibberish coming from characters mouths. There is even an ‘Arnold’ setting that replaces all of your dialogue with Schwarzenegger-esque grunts and yells. Needless to say, I found this setting beyond hilarious.
In the end, Magicka 2 is a decent little RPG aimed for the more casual of players. Stripping down the RPG elements to the bare minimum, the game feels a bit empty when compared to its contemporaries. While it may have casual changes within it, the game is at times bone-crushingly hard, especially if you plan to ride this one solo. To summarize; if you and a friend like light RPGs and have some time to kill, give it a whirl. Otherwise, sit this one out.