Monday, May 2, 2011

Mega Review: Magicka, and expansion; Magicka: Vietnam (PC)

In a special double review, Digitally Downloaded takes a look at both Magicka and its expansion, Magicka: Vietnam.

Magicka

The Magicka series has garnered a steady reputation since its release in early 2011 as a lighted hearted but excellent action adventure full of humour (mostly sarcasm). This is richly deserved.

Designed for multiplayer (up to four), but adept as single, the player takes the role of a wizard as they embark on various missions on behalf of a staunchly-in-denial-vampire named Vlad. Equipped with a magical staff in one hand and a normal weapon (ranging from a sword to a machine gun), you work to achieve many and varied goals.

This is a game that pokes a lot of fun at traditional fantasy

An unusual feature of the game is that it will give you all the basic ingredients to cast spells from the very first mission – there is no mana bar, no experience and no finite resources of any kind. As a mage, you have the option to cast from a range of elemental options – the typical earth, fire, wind and water as well as others such as lightning and healing, eventually totalling eight. From these basic functions, you utilise these elements, either individually or in combination, to assist your friends and reign down destruction on your enemies. The learning curve in the game involves obtaining experience in specific combinations, so to cast impressive and powerful spells the number of combinations is extensive and experimentation is actively encouraged.

The game is full of humour. In a parody of World of Warcraft, within the first 30 minutes (so I don't feel bad for spoilers - who hasn't seen those 30 minutes?) of playing you will probably come across a woman with a exclamation mark over her head who will ask you to take care of a few rats. After being attacked by a random set of goblins, she will then congratulate you on your victory, inform you that if the inventory had been properly designed she could have paid you and wonder aloud how to remove the grammatically correct symbol. It are these sort of meta touches that make the game fun, even if you do tend to get abused by a few of the random strangers. References are littered throughout including, amongst others, Monty Python, Lord of the Rings, Castlevania and most other titles with a star in them.

Zap


The instrumental soundtrack is excellent. It sets the mood, pumps the player with adrenalin when required, and is varied enough to keep attention and for the most part is appropriate. Added on to this, the sound effects are present without being overwhelming. Further, the game is greatly advanced by the voice acting – a facet that captures the silliness perfectly. Graphics are cartoonish but perfectly adequate.

There are however a number of unfortunate drawbacks. One disappointing point to the game is its length, which is not extensive. The replayability likewise is not exceptional - with a linear, one dimensional storyline with its cultural references being its most interesting features, the appeal lessens with every viewing. In addition, the number of in game glitches is staggering. AI belongs in the Dark Ages, displaying little intelligence. The game is also influenced heavily by lag, chat options are at best disappointing and, with any game where friendly fire is combined with godlike powers, rage quitting is a popular behavioural option for random community members.

Magicka is, despite all of this, highly enjoyable and must for any who counts themselves geeks and nerds. The cultural references and the tongue in cheek manner of design will put a smile on the most staunch face. The ability to play with friends greatly enriches the experience and the amount of combinations are indeed impressive. It is also ideally suited for those who like instantaneous battle with little time or inclination to optimise your heroes – the playing field is very even. Taking into accounts its problems, this game is still highly recommended by this reviewer. 

- Owen S





Magicka: Vietnam

Despite believing that the Magicka: Vietnam expansion for the very popular action/adventure game was indeed a practical joke played by on the gaming community, it was with great pleasure that this reviewer had the opportunity to play this eagerly anticipated sequel.

Developed in response to fans requests, the game designers have demonstrated they were listening. They have included new modes that increase the challenge rating as well as prolonging the life of the game (somewhat). Whilst staying true to the initial path to greatness (for those who believe the intellect of mages far outweighs hitting things with pointy sticks), the player is now transported to 1970's Vietnam to battle the goblin-cong. The trademark offbeat humour that makes the game so unique is maintained, and arguable, enhanced by its new setting. I mean, who doesn't think a cartoon run through the Vietnam's jungles is greatly improved by wizards attempting to bring peace and stability against a hoard of orcs and goblins?

Love the smell of magepalm in the morning. Witty stuff, huh?


Staying true to the theme, the player can draw upon an chronologically accurate cache of weapons, from single shot rifles and AK47's through to rocket launchers as well as being able to magic up some napalm to send your enemies to fiery doom. This results in a completely new experience, as your tactics undergo a forced alteration to account for the ranged fighting. Indeed, the new ability to duck behind cover is often required. It is a welcome add-on. Apart from the occasional goblin hell-bent on a kamikaze charge, the majority of the AI is markedly improved and requires genuine strategy.

Sadly some of the game's glitches still have not been remedied, and some new ones have been added in. The increased focuse on ranged weapons to suit the industrial/gunfire age means that enemies can now target the player from offscreen, and losing the last bars of life to an unseen enemy is not fun. Lagging and chat options are still woefully inadequate. 

Guns and magic: a killer combination


The price for the game is low ($4.99). Essentially, you do get what you pay for – the extra is not extensive – in addition to features already named there are only two new challenge maps. Considering the value that Magika represented (at roughly 10.00), the sequel doesn't stand up. However, it is something that is enjoyable in its own right – the concept is sound, the game mechanic is still excellent and the humour is offbeat. This does prolong the game and if you enjoy Magicka, the Vietnam sequel is worth a look.

- Owen S

 
Reactions:

 
Live Support