PAX East 2014: Magicka: Wizard Wars combines Avada Kedavra and PTFO into one game

Magicka: Wizard Wars is a welcome break from the typical top-down point-and-click combat game. Rather than basing the fighting around hundreds of character combinations or RPG-style stats, Magicka is much more action-driven.

Each sorcerer has eight elements to choose from for casting spells. Things like fire, lightning, and water provide simple things like a fireball, shock, or water spray, but the elements can be combined as well. Queuing up two, or three elements provides a different result than one. The result isn’t just dozens, but hundreds of potential spells. Fire can be a flamethrower, a laser, an explosive shot, or a front-facing shield. Spells can even be cast on yourself, effectively doubling the number of spell combos possible. Casting a level three fire spell on yourself will result in 100% resistance to fire for a short period of time.

Magicka: Wizard Wars

Everyone playing the game has access to the same skills, making for something that plays more like a fighting game than, say a MOBA. You can counter opponent’s spells, absorb their damage, and even redirect a spell back at them. Playing against one of the developers, I was amazed by how quickly he could react to my moves and annihilate me in seconds.

The sensation is not unlike a sorcerer memorizing a pile of spells. As you play you’ll learn favorite combos and counters, helping you to get them out quicker and become a deadlier magic user.

There are a few ways players can differentiate from each other. Cloaks offer up different elemental strengths and weaknesses, while players can also equip melee weapons like axes and swords with different stats. In addition, each player has a four-stage bar not unlike a Street Fighter Super Bar. Each stage has an increasingly powerful attack, from a meteor strike to a dive-bombing dragon.

Magicka: Wizard Wars

The main mode of the game is a 4v4 gametype similar to Battlefield’s conquest mode. Points around the map must be captured and held, and spawn tickets drain faster when you get killed with less capture points held down. If one team captures all the points, the other team loses their ability to respawn entirely, and must capture a point before they’re all killed. A lot of the same objective-focused strategies hold true from BF to Magicka — stick with your team, focus on the objectives, and communicate.

There’s a pretty big learning curve to Magicka: Wizard Wars, thanks to the incredible degree of magic combos. It meant that as a rookie I was largely ineffective against everyone. I could see how skilled players would be able to do some amazing things though. Again, it’s closer to a fighting game than you’d think.

Wizard Wars is a pretty simple game all-in-all. It seemed rather barebones in terms of modes and presentation, but the core gameplay at the heart of it is endlessly deep. If you’re looking for a very different kind of skill-based combat game, this might be the one for you.

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