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Magicka is a game synonymous with co-operative mayhem, with death rays, mines, ice, fire and lightning all being thrown around resulting in many a case of friendly fire. So after saving the real and a brief stint in Vietnam, where are our intrepid robed heroes off to now?
Paradox North, a new internal division of the company have the answer in the form of Wizard Wars, a multiplayer team deathmatch game boasting a brand new engine. I played the alpha for a couple of hours today and quite a bit of trouble tearing myself away to write this.
The first thing that bears mentioning is that the magic system has been tweaked, now only allowing for three types of magic to mixed instead of three. This makes it significantly easier to use, and thankfully retains almost all of the spells which you know from playing the first game. Most spells have had their damage and area of effect drastically altered to fit with the competitive setting, resulting in a combat system that feels sharpened and balanced beyond the game's years.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=pl ... -PvxJJNpnM
The entire movement system has been overhauled and allows players to move and cast spells at the same time, upping the game's pace noticeably. Chaos is high on this battlefield, with geysers of lighting, tongues of flame and volleys of meteors punctuating the pauses between between cries of "I'm on your team!" or screams of "Burn the sheep".
There is some customization available to your wizard, you can swap out robes, weapons and staff. All items come with their own brand of advantages and disadvantages. The game is intended to be free to play, with some items being available through microtransactions. This does open up some variety in terms of play style, with players being able to choose builds that allow, for instance, more movement speed or health or specialize in an element like in the original.
Despite the rather close likeness to it's counterpart, Wizard Wars is very much the anti-Dota. Short brutal battles over the control of three spawn points where everyone has some sort of ridiculously powerful speel a click away, gives the game a high ranking in terms of silliness, something that has been drastically lacking in the action RTS genre of late.
But even through the pink mist that had ten seconds prior been a tea mete unlucky enough to walk in front of my fireblast, you can see that this is game that boasts a deep combat system. The idea of having three spawn points lends a lot to the battle, with choke points shifting every minute and conservation of life (something very alien to the series) becoming increasingly important as the match draws on. Each team spawns with 75 respawn tokes that get consume upon death. The team I was playing with realized mid round the really needed a healer, and having someone firing healing beams, and erecting shields all over the place really can make a world of difference.
Each spawn point you hold grants you victory points, the team that reaches the target first wins. Lose all three spawn points however and your know on your last legs, with death know becoming permanent. But a comeback is more than possible if a lone wizard manages to capture a spawn point for his teammates to return to.
At the bottom of the screen there is a bar that slowly fills with magic use, unlocking four special abilities in order of power. Use it at the first segment and you'll gain haste, enabling you to quickly run over and escape death or capture a spawn point. Let the bar charge fully and you'll be able to hurl a massive meteor that is capable of killing the entire enemy team.
Looking at it from afar you can see the intelligent tactical design, from within it's a loving vortex of chaos, with each player restoring to their old favorite spells more by muscle memory than anything else. The competitive spirit is high in this title, with teams able to quickly learn the basics and plan out some strategies, which will (inevitably) end with someone being electrocuted and/or incinerated.
But the slapstick does go hand in hand with the skill, with quick witted players being able to turn the tide of the battle at a moments notice. A simple shield spell can ricochet a beam back at it's caster, a teammate on fire can become a projectile, two identical spells hit each others ending that casters reeling back, then the Grim Reaper appears to stalk the survivors.
Wizard Wars hones the elements that made Magicka such a great comedy of errors into the backbone of a new game that is just ass intelligent as it is hilarious. If your in the market for something else when it comes to competitive games,you should really keep an eye on this one. It's only onSteam early access for the time being.
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