Living in the future is great, isn’t it? We’ve got tiny little computers that double as phones, self-driving cars and, perhaps most importantly, the wonders of the Internet. All the pornography you could ever want at your fingertips! It’s delightful. Oh, and the Internet also offers online gaming as well, meaning that electronic entertainment experiences that might have been difficult to come by in the days of couch-only cooperative play are a little more common. The Magicka series is a great example of this – it’s a multiplayer-focused game that thrives on the fact that it’s possible to play with pretty much anyone around the world, and Magicka 2 once again shows what a great thing that is.
Magicka 2 is, once again, a game about being a mighty-but-perhaps-unrestrained wizard, and the spell system is largely similar to the original game. You’ve got eight different elements and can combine them (mostly) freely to create varying effects. Fire by itself produces a flamethrower, for instance, while Fire and Death is a heat ray, Fire and Water is a blast of steam and Fire, Water and Death is a steam beam straight from the early 1900s. Some elements, like water and lightning, don’t play nice together, and some combinations are counterproductive, like combining Life and Earth to make a rock you throw at someone to heal them…and simultaneously hurt them because you just hit them with a rock.
Spells can manifest as direct casts, area-of-effect spells, self-cast spells or sword enchantments, each of which offer a unique means of using your magic. This allows for a variety of playstyles; it’s entirely possible to create powerful earthen armor and wade into melee, for instance. With the removal of the Ice and Steam combination elements (these still exist, but only as combinations of Fire and Water or Water and Cold) the gameplay is a little less heavy on specific massively damaging spell combos, and it feels like you’ve got more freedom to play around with magic.
Magicks return as well. These are specific combinations of elements that produce unique and bombastic effects; one of the first you get is an enormous carpet bomb, for instance. You can still cast Magicks by inputting their specific combination, but now you’ve got a sort of mini-hotbar that allows you to store several Magicks and cast them instantly with the appropriate number key. Magicks you cast via this system have a cooldown, preventing the hotkey from being used multiple times rapidly, but this doesn’t apply to manually cast Magicks. There’s a variety of new Magick options available, with the most humorous and irritating being Abuse-A-Scroll, which produces a random chaotic effect and usually just kills off a random party member.
As ever, a key point of the Magicka series is that friendly fire is on at all times and cannot be toggled off. Anything you cast is entirely capable of harming or helping your friends just as much as your foes. Players who enjoy wide-ranging destructive magic are probably going to spend a lot of time murdering their partners. Fortunately, death is cheap in Magicka 2, and a quick cast of the simple Revive Magick will have your buddies back on their feet in no time.
Magicka 2’s plot is, uh, probably not going to receive much attention because the game’s all about blowing your friends up and you’ll be busy with that. It involves a prophecy, lion vikings, beastmen and so on. The story mode lasts about five hours, though this can vary based on how many people you’ve got playing with you and how trigger-happy they are. If you end up having to restart a level a dozen times because a certain someone couldn’t rein in their meteor-flinging impulses, for instance, your playtime might run on a bit longer. Artifacts are also available that alter basic gameplay and add some replay value, like a Sitcom Mode that adds a laugh track to the game.
The presentation here is about what you’d expect from the series. There’s that Swedish charm that’s been there since the first game, for instance, exemplified in the bizarre Swedish/English hodge-podge used for voice acting. Magicka 2 boasts slightly improved graphics, and little touches like Life spells causing flowers to bloom on impact are appreciated. The game’s controls and playstyle are similar to previous titles, though I found the wizards here to be a bit more spry, and they’re not slowed down quite as much when charging up more powerful spells.
Basically, you’ve probably played Magicka by now, so you know it’s one of the best multiplayer titles out there. Magicka 2 continues that tradition in an iterative fashion – it doesn’t feel like a sequel so much as an extremely fleshed-out expansion, but the gameplay here’s kind of difficult to shake up. If you can wrangle some pals together, there’s no reason not to conjure up a good time with Magicka 2.