Magicka: Wizard Wars (PC) Review

By Aria DiMezzo 17.06.2015

Review for Magicka: Wizard Wars on PC

Magicka focuses on a group of mages teaming up to save the world, and has gotten rather popular as a co-op game on PC. Magicka: Wizard Wars tries to move the game in the direction of a free-to-play MOBA where players will team up against other groups of wizards in an effort to destroy each other in chaotic combat. Being free-to-play proves both a blessing and a curse, and no free-to-play title is complete without the caveat of an in-game store, which is only a problem if there are severe imbalances in the design and implementation. Multiple reviewers at Cubed3 take a look.

While Magicka: Wizard Wars is at least interesting in its premise, it never really tries to break free of the standard MOBA mould. This MOBA relies on a unique 'spell-weaving' system in which the player, instead of using a list of set abilities, is allowed to chain different elements together to create spells. There are eight elements available: water, life, shield, cold, lightning, arcane, earth, and fire. Chaining together three of the same element yields a powerful single-element spell, but weaving multiples can result in explosive balls of rock, burning steam, or a wall that heals nearby team-mates. Using the right combinations is critical, as friendly fire isn't that friendly, and spells will kill members of either team.

However, despite this, while the number of various options may seem deep at first it ends up being very shallow. The first, and certainly largest, problem is that it's difficult to tell the difference between what the various spells actually do and to what degree. While mixing fire and earth, for example, will lead to the meteor, what is the difference between stone, stone, fire and fire, fire, stone? What does mixing fire and water to make a steam cloud actually DO in terms of gameplay? What happens when three spells are mixed together? The only way to really find out is trial and error.

Screenshot for Magicka: Wizard Wars on PC

The worst part is that, ultimately, all this depth will be useless as the meta-game will sit down and figure out the 'best' spell mixes. If mixing fire, death, and water doesn't measure up to mixing just fire and death, that element of being able to mix the spells together will simply be worthless. While it can be argued that this won't happen as each spell will occupy a unique role, the converse can also be argued - that people will deduce what roles are the best and ignore the others. As well as the regular elemental spells, there are more powerful Magicks to be unlocked. These have lengthy charge times before they can be used, and useful effects aren't covered by the standard magic, such as reviving other players or summoning minions to help in combat.

Another problem comes from the equipment system, in that there is very little variety in the actual equipment itself. Most of it boosts one element up in a trade off, dropping another down. While this is... passable... in theory, in practice it means little as an ideal build will be determined and then stuck to, rendering any variety of equipment pointless once again.

This system appears balanced on paper, but some elements will inevitably prove better than others, because utility (not to mention things like Area-of-Effect and Friendly Fire) can't be so easily quantified; if they can't be quantified, then they aren't likely to be balanced. Specialising in a given element makes wizards substantially more powerful than not specialising; on paper, a wizard with fifty for every element is equal to a wizard with mostly fifties but one seventy-five and one twenty-five, but in practice it doesn't work as the wizard with the specialty will be victorious.

Screenshot for Magicka: Wizard Wars on PC

Sadly, this is what makes Magicka: Wizard Wars "pay to win," because players who aren't willing to pay money for a free game lack sufficient options to level the playing field. While some portion of the equipment can be unlocked through play, the unlockable pieces are inadequate in number compared to the amount of gear that can be purchased with real money. An in-game store is expected in a free-to-play title but Magicka: Wizard Wars has an incredible imbalance between availabilities. A cursory glance shows that a solid 90% of equipment can only be purchased.

While slinging spells at each other is the primary method of dealing damage, melee weapons are available for use in a pinch. Most of the weapons are fantasy regulars like swords, daggers, hammers, and spears. An old-style pistol and a few special weapons are also available, but require certain DLC or purchases at the in-game store.

Screenshot for Magicka: Wizard Wars on PC

Beyond these balance and customisation problems, Wizard Wars doesn't offer very much to actually do. There is a single-player tutorial level, yet there's no point in playing that after the mandatory tutorial at the beginning. There is also a duel map, but two wizards meeting and throwing spells at each other until someone dies is not particularly entertaining. In fact, it's roughly the equivalent of duelling in World of Warcraft: pointless, except for marginal player training benefits.

The first main game mode is a zerg to kill trash mobs and other players, all of which will drop Souls that must be collected. When a team has two hundred of these Souls, the enemy's totem can no longer two-shot players, and can be destroyed, which wins the game. The second mode consists of capturing spawn points so that enemy players have nowhere to respawn. This is decent enough but the first mode, Soul Harvest, is significantly more enjoyable. The only real issue with Soul Harvest is that the matches can take upward of 30 minutes to complete, which is a little long for a match in a MOBA as shallow as this - after all, this is no Defense of the Ancients 2.

Screenshot for Magicka: Wizard Wars on PC

Cubed3 Rating

5/10
Rated 5 out of 10

Average

For a free game, Magicka: Wizard Wars isn't bad, although it requires a great deal of time to rise to the middle tiers of players, and rising to the top is impossible without a substantial investment of both time and money. There is little reason to play Magicka: Wizard Wars over other games in the genre, and the dominating nature of the in-game store severely hinders the experience, rendering this as being "free" only on a technicality. Whether Arrowhead Games Studios is aware that Wizard Wars isn't really much fun when nothing is bought from the store, is a matter up for debate.

Developer

Paradox North

Publisher

Paradox

Genre

Strategy

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  5/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

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