If you ever played Paradox Interactive’s Magicka, you killed your wizard teammates. It’s impossible not to. Occasionally, you might have felt a little sorry. Even more rarely, it might actually have been unintentional.
I like to think that Paradox realized how much time players spent reducing one another to quivering mounds of ash and decided to make a stand-alone game out of doing just that. And thus is born Magicka: Wizard Wars, currently available in early alpha access on Steam.
The control scheme is virtually unchanged from Magicka. Wizards have access to eight elements, which can be mixed and matched to create a variety of offensive, defensive, and utility spell effects, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. You aim spells where you point your mouse, which sounds easier than it is, especially when a teammate wanders into the path of your death ray or lightning bolts. And close-range scrums, with fire and explosions rocking the screen, are button-mashing, chaotic melees that you feel fortunate just to survive.
One main difference in combat is a meter that builds up as you play (and kill), allowing you to unleash one of four spell effects: a speed boost, a rez, a grim reaper that hits for a heavy damage, and a wide-area meteor storm. The last two are seemingly the most powerful and usually all anyone casts, so a rebalancing of this element might be in order.
The style of game is a combination of deathmatch and control points, not dissimilar from League of Legends’ Dominion mode. Teams start at 100 and reduce the other team’s score by scoring kills and holding three control points, which also double as spawn points. When a team can’t respawn by virtue of not owning any control points or having a score of zero, their opponents are declared the victors.
The dual-purpose nature of the control/spawn points is my only real sticking point with the gameplay. I’ve had matches that last about a minute and a half because my team gets a bad start and loses all its spawns, even though we still have most of our 100 points remaining. I’ve seen sporting-minded players put forth in pre-game chat the notion that nobody claims a team’s last spawn. Here’s hoping Paradox realizes that this is enough of an off-putting element to make a change, perhaps by simply de-linking spawns with control points.
Controls, as you can probably guess, take some getting used to – and I’m not there yet, even after a dozen or so games – so an expanded tutorial or offline/training mode would also be nice, as well as a directory of spells. Please try not rage too hard at team-killers – just watch those lightning skills in close quarters.
The cash shop hasn’t been implemented yet, but judging by some of the sample equipment available to starting wizards, which increases some stats and effectiveness with certain spell elements by reducing others, it seems plausible that it will offer more in the line of sidegrades and cosmetics, and probably leveling boosts, than direct power.
Right now, you can get into the alpha for free, though with potentially limited access (“as capacity allows”) or by purchasing one of three packages, for $12.99, $19.99, or $49.99. The latter two packages even include a copy of Paradox’s Crusader Kings II, itself a $39.99 (though frequently discounted) title on Steam.
It’s still early in development, but as a fan of the original Magicka, I can see myself spending plenty of time playing Wizard Wars. The spawn point issue is a bit of a letdown, servers are exceptionally flaky, and it could probably use more game modes to keep the action fresh, but it is in alpha, so there’s plenty of time to smooth out the game’s rough edges. For now, just charge forward and have a magick-and-slashing good time.
By Jason Winter