Magicka 2: Vlad is back, and he’s still MOST DEFINITELY not a vampire

The first Magicka was irredeemably broken. The netcode was held together with cantrips and prayers, and without co-op partners the campaign was unplayably unfair. Despite that, it was a uniquely great game, both in mechanics and humour.

Magicka 2 is developed by Pieces Interactive rather than the original Arrowhead, and returns to the four-player competitive co-op action that made the original such a lark. Following the bloody Wizard Wars, there are only four wizards remaining who aren’t dead or insane. They’ve been tasked by the returning head of the Magicka school, Vlad (still definitely not a vampire), with ridding the world of an unspecified evil.

Playing a short slice of the game, I explored a small dungeon area, overrun by giant crabs. This time around, I was encouraged to use a gamepad to cast spells, rather than the more familiar (and more easily-memorised) keyboard. As in the first game, players build spells in realtime by mixing up to five of eight magical elements (water, fire, arcane, cold, rock, shield, heal, lightning, bashful, sleepy and Doc, if I remember them correctly) then deploying them in four ways in a direction, in an
area, on yourself.
 A short game rapidly turns into a friend-killing bloodbath, mostly inadvertently
On top of the huge variety of spells, there are Magicks super spells such as Summon Death or Teleport or Haste. In the original Magicka, these were just extremely long element chains which you unlocked as you progressed in the campaign. Here, they’re on the D-pad, making them one-button nukes, albeit now with a cooldown timer. Though I had access to four Magicks, I mostly used Resurrection, given the squishy wizards’ propensity for rapid death. Thankfully, the movement slowdown when casting has been mostly removed, modestly increasing your survivability.

Given the complexity of these combinations and the always-on friendly fire, a short game rapidly turns into a friend-killing bloodbath, mostly inadvertently. I electrify and burn you while trying to heal you, you accidentally drop a Meteor Shower on my head. I summon Death to take your soul, but he takes mine. Standard buddy-buddy japes.

New elements include Dark Altars, elemental puzzles that, when unlocked, release a crazy-hard wave of enemies. Defeat them, and you’ll unlock a new object a robe, staff or one of the new artefacts. Artefacts are like old-fashioned mutators, hugely changing how you play the game. They can range from the irresponsible increasing enemy HP or removing healing to the silly, such as adding a laughtrack and 1000% friendly fire damage.

Magicka 2 doesn’t have to do much to succeed. It just has to match its predecessor, by being funny, beautiful, well-plotted and emergent. Oh, and with working netcode.

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