We may earn a commission when you buy through links in our articles. Learn more.

Magicka: Wizard Wars hands-on: death is on your side

Magicka: Wizard Wars in explosive action.

Magicka was a game that let you pluck elements from the air and combine them into spells that could turn a goblin into an explosion of blood. It was chaotic in singleplayer and became a brilliantly mad scramble in co-op multiplayer. Magicka: Wizard Wars takes that spell creation system and straps it to a more focused 4v4 arena game. 

It is one of the most batshit versus games I’ve ever played.

The rules of multiplayer are lifted straight from Battlefield. Both teams have a well of respawn tickets which are used to bring dead players back into the game. When the well runs dry that team loses. It’s not only kills that reduce the supply: there are three summoning circles dotted about the map which can be captured, when under your control the circle will steadily reduce the opposing teams tickets. The more you control the faster their lives drain away.

Where Paradox North deviate from DICE’s formula is that there is no home spawn point. The three circles are the only spawn points on the map. So, one tactic for the daring is to deny the enemy a respawn point by capturing all three circles. The game then descends into a mad scramble to hunt down the enemy wizards before they are able to capture one of the circles and start respawning again. It’s an instant win if you can take them all out.

The rules of the game don’t change the fact that this is Magicka, the game where you frantically mash buttons to draw elemental spells out of the ether and fling them about with abandon. Despite its new versus game framework, within a minute of launching the first game, I was dousing enemy wizards with rain and electrocuting them. All the old rules apply: I couldn’t combine electricity and earth into a spell but I could crush player’s shields with flaming boulders.

It felt good to be playing Magicka again. It’s a game which managed to be as hilarious to play as an incompetent as it was satisfying to master: that carries through to the multiplayer. As in the original, teammates can fire arcane beams into one another, combining their spells to increase their damage. Good teams will dominate the field when playing in sync together. More often I suspect you’ll see people setting their friends on fire by accident.

Wizard Wars isn’t entirely new territory for Paradox: the original Magicka was updated with a simple deathmatch arena game but the mode lacked direction. It was oddly unbalanced, and quickly became dull.

I’ve only played a few rounds of Wizard Wars but Paradox seemed to have solved the original game’s problems. The capture points provide a focus for players to fight, for a start.

But Magicka’s most powerful spells are now found on a focus bar. If you want to rain meteors down on the opposition you’ll need to earn the right by amassing kills and base captures. The focus bar is a lot like Call of Duty’s scorestreaks: Paradox plan to let you switch out your different mega spells so you never know what your opponents may be able to cast.

It’s worth the wait.

I was having a tough time in my second game of Wizard Wars. The journalist I’d been set against was a real turtle in multiplayer. Plus, he really had a thing for fire. I’d capture two bases easily but every time I tried for the third he’d be held up and defending with everything he had. I’d assaulted and been driven back three times at this point.

I’d forgotten about focus until a Paradox dev whispered into my ear that I could summon a little assistance. As I ran in for my fourth assault I could see my opponent start stacking up fire spells in his staff, readying a full on flamethrower. As he began to spark up his staff I hit cast and Death himself clawed up out of the ground, charged him, and in one neat swing of his scythe turned the guy into a plume of red.

It’s quite easy to capture a base when you’ve Death on your side.

You’ll also be able to customise your wizard’s gear. Unlocking and equipping new robes, hats, staves, and pendants that will buff some of your stats and weaken others. You could put all your focus into fire damage, as my opponent did, but it will leave you vulnerable to other elements and less able to adapt.

Wizard Wars will launch as a free-to-play title early next year.