Magicka Wizard Wars Preview: Cast till you drop

The MOBA genre is known for having lengthy matches with plenty of back and forth strategic gameplay. But this is Magicka, so you can pretty much throw all that out the window.

Magicka Wizard Wars is the franchise’s take on the MOBA genre, if you will. Two teams of four will compete in a multiplayer online battle arena – hey! That’s what the acronym actually stands for! Many “MOBAs” (Dota 2, League of Legends) are more strategy based than “battle arena,” so it’s nice to see Paradox Interactive not shoehorning the game into another action-RTS/Dota clone. In fact, it’s been noted that the game plays more like a Counter-Strike meets Battlefield than a Dota. Hear me out.

Two teams of four will battle on a map featuring three objective points. Teams that control an objective point will be able to spawn nearby. Should your team run out of respawns or not control an objective point, you lose. No creeps, no towers, no barracks, no ancient; Just you, your friends, and your spells. In fact, the game plays incredibly familiar to Magicka fans. You’re still able to queue up various spells to perform various combinations, but the entire process has been refined in order to balance things out.

Gameplay is a fast and frantic affair. Those who are able to successfully queue up their appropriate spells emerge victorious. This can range from keeping pressure on your enemies with damaging spells to throwing in some protective spells to help fend people off. This is where the strategy comes into the game: chasing someone down with fireballs for them to shield, stonewall, and walk away to safety. It’s a constant guessing game that needs to be played in order to be successful and one that’s only found in “traditional MOBAs.” The combination of this strategy and the FPS type action leads to an enjoyable experience.

There’s one thing that does stand out, however, and that’s the special spells found in the game. As you perform well, you’ll fill a meter over time. Once the meter hits certain benchmarks, you’re given access to special abilities, such as sprint, heal, a high powered nuke, or a large AOE effect. The specials add in another layer of strategy: do I spend resource to get to the objective point faster or can I trust my teammates to hold them off so I can unleash a high powered attack.

Magicka Wizard Wars Preview  -  Cast Till You Drop

Magicka Wizard Wars also offers various forms of customization for your in-game character. These options aren’t just limited to vanity choices. Various items will give your character different stats, allowing you decide what type of role you play in the battlefield, such as being an aggressive or defensive player. Combined with the matchmaking system Paradox has in store for the game and the result is an environment where newcomers shouldn’t be overcome with grief from seasoned veterans.

Sadly, yours truly wasn’t so lucky; players in the European alpha are really, really good.

There is an area of concern, however, and that’s in terms of communication. With the exception of a chat client, there is absolutely no way to talk to your teammates. No VOIP, no quick commands; nothing. Given the quick-paced nature of the game, chat won’t always be the most effective resource for talking with teammates. Paradox said that there aren’t any plans for VOIP; they’re going to focus on what they know: making a game.  While this does limit the amount of teamwork that can happen, it should also decrease the amount of harassment that comes with the genre.

I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from Magicka Wizard Wars when I first heard about it. After playing the alpha, all of that changed. A group based fast and frantic game with short five-to-ten minute matches? Sign me up.