Magicka 2 Review
Sony PlayStation 4Also available on PC
One of the things the original Magicka was praised for was its humour and witty dialogue, and it’s clear that developers Pieces Interactive took this in their stride as they set out to develop a sequel of their own. After being announced at E3 2014 via a humorous trailer, Magicka 2 received a Game Of Thrones-esque release date trailer and a launch trailer which featured giant enemy crabs. So it is obvious that the humorous tone from the Arrowhead Games Studios developed original has carried over, but is Magicka 2 a game actually worth playing? The answer to that question depends on whether you play on your own or cooperatively.
Magicka 2 is a co-op adventure game that is played from an isometric viewpoint for up to four players. However, this venture places very little emphasis on its story. We are introduced to the world of Magicka 2 through a brilliantly narrated cutscene that sets up the world and its people, but that’s about it in the storytelling department. The player is then sent out to rid the world of evil after a quick tutorial. It’s obvious that the plot wasn’t the focus of the game, but we were expecting more a few more developments as the game progressed. It’s disappointing to be introduced to the lands and inhabitants of Magicka 2 so well, to then never return to the richly narrated cutscenes we saw at the beginning of the game.
You take up the role of a wizard in Magicka 2, with gameplay focusing on eight different elements that can be used through the weapon you possess. The player can cast a variety of spells including fire, water, rock, lightning, life and shield, and you can combine up to five of these at any one time to defeat your enemies. Furthermore, you can either cast a single spell or a combination of them in four different ways: in a certain direction using the right analogue stick, around oneself to injure nearby foes, attach a spell to a melee weapon to give it increased damage, or cast a spell on yourself such as life to regain some vitality. While this does give the player a huge amount of variety in the way they tackle any situation, we also found it very overwhelming. It can take a long time to learn all the different button combinations to create some of the more eccentric spells, and this caused a lot of frustration in the first half of the game. We got better as we played, but even after defeating the final boss, we still didn’t feel like we had fully mastered the controls. We died far too often simply because we couldn’t recite the correct spell mixture and thus we were wiped out. The control scheme and the amount of options available is incredibly overwhelming and this could put off a lot of first time players, even within their first hour with the game. To make matters worse, the game suffers from huge difficulty spikes that feel a little too unfair. Not only are insta-kill enemies frequent, but whole hordes of opponents can be thrown at the player frequently, and this all works together to make playing through the game on your own a complete chore. Singleplayer in Magicka 2 simply isn’t fun.
Thankfully, playing the game cooperatively makes things far easier. Teaming up with friends gives you more time to think about what you’re doing and thus lessen any frustration you may have experienced had you been playing alone. Buddies can take on the hordes of enemies while you take more of a back seat as you still learn the controls. Co-op didn’t fix the problems we had learning the controls, but it did give us a chance to get right back in the action if we messed up. Another great feature is that players can revive one another instantly if one was to go down, which turns dying into not such a big deal. This is absolutely the best way to experience the game because it turns what can be a tedious and frustrating slog into an enjoyable and experimental experience. Playing the game on your own will cause a lot of problems, and we strongly urge you to not purchase the game if you don’t have any friends to team up with.
Upon completion of the six hour campaign, two further modes are available to play. Challenge mode operates similarly to a horde mode, where players must defeat waves of enemies while trying to earn the highest score possible, in conjunction with earning new magicks as that score increases. Trial mode is a boss rush that allows you to battle any of the game’s nine bosses, all while trying to defeat them in the quickest time possible. These are nice little additions that help to extend the game’s longevity past the initial story campaign. Another game changer comes in the form of artifacts, which operate just like the skulls in Halo. These artifacts modify the gameplay experience in a variety of ways such as extra HP, tougher enemies and a modifier that teleports you to a random place on the map after every kill. In conclusion, it’s clear to see that there’s a lot of content for players to play around with after completing the main adventure.
As well as offering a good amount of side content, Magicka 2 is also a good looking game. Environments are detailed and colourful, particularly in the snow based levels and underground missions. We did encounter a few glitches such as sound effects disappearing and camera issues, but they weren’t prominent enough to become a major problem.
In the end, Magicka 2 almost feels like two different games. If you choose to play through the game on your own, you will regularly become frustrated at the game’s control scheme, its random difficulty spikes and overwhelming and unfair nature. On the other hand, if you team up with friends, you’ll get a far more enjoyable experience that doesn’t fix all the game’s problems, but does make them easier to deal with. So, the value of Magicka 2 rests on one question: Do you have anyone to play this game with? If the answer is no, we don’t recommend playing. If the answer is yes, Magicka 2 is worth checking out.