Release Date: April 28, 2015
Genre: Strategy MOBA
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Developer: Paradox North
Magicka, was one of the best received indi games of all time. It featured small, comical wizards, that were able to combine a large number of elements, in order to create incredible spells and counterspells. So, take this concept, combine it with a team-based multiplayer, make it free to play game, and the resulting product should be very successful, at least on paper. The reality is, that Magicka: Wizard Wars, is not very good. Don’t get me wrong, the game is still very enjoyable, because of the skill-based formula, but it also showcases that a poorly taught MOBA design can suck out all of the magic out of the game.
Because of the unstable and crude client, provided by Paradox North, old and unwelcomed memories of the first Magicka’s multiplayer, where most of my attempts of joining a co-op game ended in matchmaking failure, or crashes, resurfaced. Sometimes, I’ve sat in the lobby, watching other players come in and out, resetting the game’s countdown with very reconnection. Almost every time a game ended, I got a quick view of the score screen, and then the lovely “Connection Lost” window popped-up and the game dumped me back to the main menu, or is some cases, to the desktop.
Most of the time, I managed to find a game in just a few minutes, with a few restarts of course, but once I was in, I did manage to play all the way to the end. The big problem is that, at times, either there are no players online, or the matchmaking is broken. Because of these issues, every time I wanted to play Magicka: Wizard Wars, this thought came into my mind: “Maybe today it will be better”
Once you manage to get yourself into a match, things become much more stable, but even when the games is at its best technical behavior, you are still playing a Magicka game with MOBA elements that don’t really complement each other, but instead, they coexist in a very unnatural way.
Three game modes:
The Wizard Warfare is clearly the best in my opinion. It’s a control-the-base-mode, with limited respawns, where the first team that lost control of the spawning points, or ran out of respawn tickets, loses the game. This mode is fast-paced, very dynamic and reaches a rather swift endgame. There are a few different maps, with different dynamics and strategies, that allow you to go for a rush-attack, or to stay in the shadows and pick out your opponents with swift sneak attacks.
The Wizard Duel, is, just as it sounds, a one on one duel between two players. This mode gives you probably the most pure magical competition. There are two teleporters that allow you to better maneuver, but at the end of the day, it all comes down to which player is best at blocking and casting spells. The problem with this mode, is that whoever gets a little behind on hit points, most of the time loses the game. They become easy prey to the spammed melee hits, and, to be frank, those wizard melee attacks always felt a bit anticlimactic to me.
The Soul Harvest, sees teams targeting the opposition’s magical effigy. Players must collect souls by destroying wandering monsters and by killing enemy wizards. When your team has enough souls, then you will be able to reach the effigy and destroy it. This game mode is a welcomed addition because of the PvE element that we do not see in the previous modes, and it does focus more on team play in the classic MOBA style, but it ends up in being a misfire.
Since your character doesn’t level up, doesn’t get any stronger and doesn’t acquire new skills, you will be killing the same NPC camp over and over again, until you can attack the opposition’s effigy. Fighting other players is pointless because of the respawn times, and if you manage to win a big team fight just before you attack the effigy will actually make things harder, because your opponents will instantly appear at their base. When you have a MOBA style game mode, where you encourage players not to fight each other, then you’ve surely missed the point of this genre.
Regardless of which mode you are playing, most of the time, victory comes to whomever manages to produce the better wizard. You are allowed to have three spells at a time, that you get by combining different elements. For example, if you combine earth and fire, then you will produce a fireball spell, while water and fire will produce steam, which is a high damaging spell, but with a shorter range. There are eight elements (Water, Life, Shield, Cold, Lightning, Arcane, Earth and Fire) that you can combine together, in order to get new spells, that have different effects and triggering mechanisms.
Magicka: Wizard Wars Gameplay
The gameplay is as enjoyable as ever, but it can be a little overwhelming at first. In time, once you get the handle of things, and you learn how to quickly combine elements and cast spells, you will get a great deal of satisfaction from casting the right protective shield at the right time, depending on what kind of attacks your opponent is using.
After playing for a few hours, where I got absolutely destroyed by more experienced players, I found myself in a Wizard Duel mode. My opponent casted a devastating fire and lightning beam at me, but my fire shield was already up, and I swiftly replayed with a cold and earth spell, freezing him in place, followed by a powerful death bolt, that made him explode into a million pieces. I can’t stress enough about how satisfying that moment was for me.
The fact that you have to know what spell will be effective against which defenses, when to heal, defend or attack, gives Magicka: Wizard Wars a little feeling of a fighting game. There are a lot of combinations, and if you want to learn them before you jump into a game, then simply click here.
The odds of having a fair and balanced match are also pretty slim. Because of the server’s instability, or because Wizard Wars does nothing to discourage people from abandoning games, or from being abusive (no report player whatsoever), you will end up most of the time in a unfair 3V4, 2V4, or 2V3 fight. This is a hard blow, especially in the Soul Harvest Mode, where your team will have to spread across the map to farm as many souls in as little time as possible.
The fact that you do not have a report player option really hurts Wizard Wars, especially because this is a game where friendly fire is possible. In one of my matches, I had a teammate running around killing everybody, regardless if they were friendly or not, and in the end we lost the game, after 50 minutes of agonizing frustration. I think that any competitive, MOBA style game should have a way to deal with such players, but unfortunately Wizard Wars does not.
Magicka: Wizard Wars Items
You can buy equipment with in-game currency, or with real money, that will provide penalties and bonuses. You can also gain experience and unlock masteries, that give you access to limited-use powers (something similar to a ultimate in a traditional MOBA) and special items.
It is rather important to pick items that complement you strengths. For example, I love using death magic, so I bought a robe and a staff that give gives me bonuses to this specific elemental attack, but it also gives me penalties to the fire attacks ( but I rarely, if ever, used fire). The problem here is that you only get to see your opponents strengths and weakness before the match starts, and let’s be frank who will remember what the guy in the black ninja robe was good at. Most of the time you will have a deep frown on your face, thinking “Wasn’t that guy immune to lightning, or was it the other, similar looking guy. Man I can just go play DOTA and be done with this game”
As I said before, you can buy items at the store by using real money, or the in-game currency that you get from playing the game. Sometimes, you will also receive treasure chests, similar to the ones in DOTA 2, that you have to unlock with keys. You have no idea what items are located in the chest, but they will tell you what quality they are.
Wizard Wars is not a poorer experience with basic gear, so don’t have to spend money, because, at the end of the day it is the same game no matter what items you are using.
Magicka was a sillier, lighter kind of game, about incompetent wizards running around and blowing themselves and others people sky-high, however Wizard Wars is repetitive and short on tactical depth. It is in fact a great platform for PvP, but it makes for a rather thin MOBA game.
The game can be enjoyable once you find yourself in a good match, but because of the server situation and the almost nonexistent community, a good game is very rare.
- Fun gameplay mechanics
- Server instability
- Nonexistent community
- Very repetitive and stale
- Few game modes
- No way of dealing with abusive players