Just minutes into my demo with Magicka 2 on PS4, Paradox Studio Manager Mattias Wiking told me that the game does not protect its players. In any way. I discovered this by tumbling off a cliff while running from monsters, and my success with Magicka 2 did not improve drastically during the remainder of the demonstration. So how can all these sudden deaths and comical explosions of the arcane be so much fun?
Magicka 2, like its predecessor, places players in control of a robed wizard and a selection of eight devastating elements. With the touch of a face button, players can charge their wizard with crackling orbs of lightning or burning plumes of fire. These elements can then be channeled through the wizard’s staff and directed at enemies, imbued into the wizard’s sword, used as an area attack, or just cast upon the wizard itself.
With this straight-forward elemental system, all the fun in Magicka 2 comes roaring to the foreground. Wiking explained that after a short introduction, all the elements are fully unlocked to players and open to experimentation. Charge a wizard with fire and water, for example, and a searing-hot blast of steam will issue forth from its staff. Or mix ice and water together for some snowball fun. Even three different elements can be fused together to form some interesting combinations, from life-restoring health-pellets to powerful death mines (yes, death mines).
There is no limitation to the system outside of the simple rule that opposite elements (fire and ice, for example) will cancel each other out. Otherwise, if players want to cast a death spell on themselves, they can — and they will suffer for it. Friendly fire is always turned on and, like the recently released Helldivers, will cause hilarious misadventure.
Wiking noted that the development team took special care to ensure that the DualShock 4 controls were refined and easy to use. Pressing one of the face buttons loads up one of four different elemental orbs. Holding L1 will change each face button into the opposite element, so players have easy access to all eight. This makes lightning-fast combinations a reality, and keeps spell-casting a constant, entertaining challenge.
Magicka 2 fully supports drop-in, drop-out cooperative play, with any combination of online or offline players. The game has a full campaign to play through, solo or multiplayer, but also boasts a collection of wave-based challenges. Survive against increasingly difficult sets of enemies to earn a better score, or to just test one’s own spellcasting prowess.
The biggest addition to Magicka 2 comes in the form of artifacts, which are adjustable game parameters that players can use to either help or hinder their progress. There are 32 artifacts to unlock and experiment with across several categories. These artifacts could buff a player’s health and spell power, or empower monsters with similar stat boosts. With up to six artifacts in play, players have much more control over the degree of the challenge they want in battle.
Despite my many deaths and accidental friendly kills, Magicka 2 was an absolute blast — even if I only sampled a small taste of the spell casting. If chaotic, elemental co-op sounds like your cup of tea, Magicka 2 hits PS4 on May 26th.