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Indie games. I love indie games. Many are free, and those that aren't are usually still cheap enough to buy virtually regardless of your budget. Another reason I am a fan of the indie market is that they're very good at listening to their fans. A great example is Mount and Blade: Warband. After the first game was introduced, fans wailed and screamed for multiplayer, and you know what? They got it. Mount and Blade: Warband features multiplayer that many people find sufficient, and if not, you can modify the game to hit your sweet spot.
But that isn't what I love most about indie games. No, no, no...I much prefer the fact that indie developers have much less to lose, so much more to gain and that means they push the envelope. Hell, they don't push it, they light the sucker on fire and piss on the ashes, developers Arrowhead Game Studios and publishers Paradox Interactive that is.
The game I'm talking about today is a fantastic example of a developer unleashed, and how fantastic it can truly be to see true geniuses able to work they way they want to. That result is Magicka, an action game based on Magic and its elements.
When you click start, you find yourself in what appears to be a classroom with a man named “Vlad” who insists that he is “not a vampire.” You are briefed on the recent happenings, and it appears that some bad things are going on around you, so you are sent on your way. On your way to engage the present evil head on, you come across someone who tells you that there is a party, and they have cheese! So you make your way to the party, and a man who is obviously intoxicated throws a spell into the air and it comes crashing down, destroying the floor beneath you.
So they make sure you're okay, and then board the hole in the floor while advising you to make your way through the catacombs while reminding you that the safe word is “banana.”
Hence commences the tutorial, where you are taught the ways of spell casting. It turns out that you, like your fellow wizards, control eight elements of magic. Shield, life, lightning, water, fire, earth, ice and arcane. All of which have their opposites, other than shield. Some elements can't be combined, but most can. Fire and water combine to make steam, ice and water combine to make shards of ice. You can queue up to five elements at a time, and depending on your selection can come catastrophic results or amazing gains that will leave you wanting more.
Fire, water, and ice all spray. Lightning is immediately like chain lightning, earth is charged and then released. The amount of earth you queue decides the size of the boulder you unleash and the charge is how fast it and how powerful it is launched. Arcane is a beam, as well as life. Shield, of course, will create a barrier that you can power up by mashing the space button.
Now, you aim with the mouse, but what button you choose on your mouse determines what the spell does. Want to heal yourself? It's the middle mouse button. Heal a friend? Right click and it'll launch a beam. Heal everyone around you? Hold shift and click the right mouse button. The spells effect everyone, and you can accidentally set yourself on fire, in which water will put you out. If you're wet, you can't cast lightning, if you're on fire, you panic, and if you freeze yourself, you're still.
Lining up arcane with any other element, except earth and shield, will create a beam. My personal favorite is the steam/arcane/lightning beam because the steam makes things wet and will make them more susceptible to lightning elemental spells.
You also have a weapon and a staff. These weapons can range from swords to daggers to an M60 machine gun, to all sorts of other craziness. The staffs are also as numerous and vast. As long as you have no elements readied, you can hit the middle mouse button and certain things happen. One that I use often is the staff with the ability to emergency teleport me out of danger (or sometimes in!)
The story is that a wizard, named Grimnir, was once a mage of the order but started studying and creating forbidden magic that, after a time, his peers could not ignore and imprisoned him in a far off part of the world. Well, now that he's gone, many of his followers and friends left the order. Now that the order is gone, there are rampant monsters attacking people, and these attacks are going unchecked. Also, the Orc chieftan Kahn is leading these raids.
Now that you know the quest, you must now know that this comes with a price. The game is fun, but the learning curve is extremely steep. Now, the first game I ever reviewed was Super Ghouls and Ghosts for the SNES, and this game makes that look like Candy Land. Contra? A vacation. I venture to say that this is easily the hardest game I have ever played.
At level five, you have a mind duel which is a series of duels on a rock that you can be knocked off of. I got stuck on this level for 2-3 hours straight before giving up the first time. I came back, and beat it after another two hours. That's just one part of one level. It's not even close to the end of the game, it's just getting started and already I was cursing so much that my wife hit me in the shoulder. I swear a lot, and she's used to me swearing a lot. So when I tell you I was at my worst in years, I was worse than Pulp Fiction and South Park: the movie combined, tenfold.
But, with intense difficulty, comes immense awards and satisfaction when you get passed. The difficulty can be insanely frustrating, but where most games are simply reflexes and repetition, this game is constantly changing. Many of the times I would get blown off the stage instantly. Other times, the AI would use a different tactic, which almost made it harder because as soon as I got ready to counter one spell, they hit me with another. Contra and games of the like are so repetitive that you're bound to get it if you keep trying, because almost everything happens the same way, and Magicka created a whole new way of being hard. But even then, I wasn't quitting. It wasn't one of those “I have to beat the computer” things either. I just wanted to keep playing. I was having fun losing.
So, you can do so much in this game, it's mind boggling, and it will be hard, but I urge you, sincerely, to play this game. I purchased it for $9.99 on Steam. The sale ends today, so go get it!
It takes a good, long time to get used to. But once you do, the rewards are limitless and you'll be smiling as you watch innocent bystan – evil goblins running around on fire as you follow up your spell with a beam of steamy, lightning, arcane goodness. It's almost completely point and click, and the mouse is more imperative than in most other games, but that's okay. It's actually really nice ot have the controls be relatively simple despite all the complicated spell creation.
You add all of this together with online cooperative multiplayer that lets you go through the story with three of your buddies, and things get real exciting!
The game looks fantastic. It is in an isometric viewpoint, and there's no RPG elements outside of being a nameless, mute character fighting monsters with magic and steel. But the spells look amazing, the atmosphere is just right and you're sucked in really easily. However, it isn't going to be setting any records. It looks great, but not so much that it's going to be forcing most players to upgrade their machines. Parents be warned, the enemies explode into red mist and red chunks. This game puts the gore back in gorgeous.
The music is perfect, and the voice acting doesn't matter much because it's in Swedish. However, some players might find themselves a little turned off as it does have a huge comedic element and sounds a whole lot like Simlish. It didn't bother me, and actually made me laugh a lot. But I find strange things amusing, like when I saw that body just laying there in the middle of the road, eaten by - ...I mean -
The musical score is nice and epic. Symphonic music with chanting. 'Nough said.
Fun Factor: 11/10
While this game might have me exclaiming filth, I still enjoyed myself. It's hard, but it's a fun kind of hard. It's rewarding when you beat something that you've struggled with and give you an immense sense of accomplishment that no other game in years. Even the easy parts will have you grinning as you impale goblins with your arcane-enchanted ice-bolts.
The story isn't bad. It's a little on the silly side with some of the comedy, but I think many games take themselves too seriously, and while there's a place and time for the serious experiences, sometimes you want to feel powerful. Not The Sims powerful, but that you're a force to be reckoned with. Even if the game is knocking you around like a mad scientist with a guinea pig.
Although funny, I didn't care much for the story as much as the combat. I didn't notice it much, and skipped through everything I could to get back into the action.
Get this game. Seriously. Get it before the end of today, it's $10, and at worst you hate it and you're stuck with it. On the other hand, you could get one of the most revolutionary titles seen in gaming history. The choice is yours. But you'll rarely experience this much control over spell casting ever. This is coming from a guy that always places the melee characters in RPGs. Even people who hate magic in games are finding themselves addicted to this game.
This is a game, though, that I would easily shell out $50 for. I can play with friends and the like, making this game a real gem for $10, $20, $50. Just do it.