Magicka, the fantasy action roleplaying game from Paradox Interactive and Arrowhead Studios is kind of like a glass of wine. If you were one of the unlucky few who took it up upon launch, you were met with nothing short of a disaster; crashing games, saved files that didn't, you know - save. In short, there wasn't much that the game could do, but with a few patches and a bit of age, Magicka has become an incredibly fun and addictive co-op fun fest, just don't try to take it on solo.
The true genius of a game like Magicka is abundantly clear from the get-go, it's a blast to join up with a group of friends as the game's cast of hooded mages and let the destruction fly. It's not just that you can do this - it's the freedom you have to do it. You see, rather than have you earn all of your abilities, Arrowhead chose to give you a good portion of them right from the start, and the result often feels like playing with a mix of different combustible elements just to see what happens. This elemental mechanic goes a long way in making Magicka as fun as it is, I constantly found myself mixing different abilities just to see what would happen. Buddy ends up dying? Hit him with a mixture of life and lightning to bring him back. You can combine up to five elements for an attack, and changing up your load out based on in game situations adds a bit of strategy to the mostly action filled game. Going up against an enemy with a lot of fire abilities? Be sure to load up on water and earth based attacks to counter.
The majority of Magicka finds you questing through typical fantasy settings, smashing everything in your path. The mixture of enemies and their varied attacks make for a challenging solo experience, so you're going to want to have some buddies join you. Even in all of its difficulty though, Magicka never seems to take itself too seriously as its constantly referencing geek culture. It's this kind of self-aware mentality that sets Magicka apart from the other fantasy RPGs available today.
Even with all of the patches and updates though, Magicka still tends to have the occasional lockup; if you can deal with restarting your system every now and then, and have the buddies to play with, Magicka is a great way to spend a weekend, just don't expect too much more from it.
At first, Paradox Interactive and Arrowhead Studios Magicka: Vietnam expansion doesn't make sense, but when you really start to think about it, it's a perfect (yet decidedly odd) fit for the cannon the original game created. While the first game was steeped rich in fantasy lore and inspired by Greek Mythology, it also poked fun at franchises like Star Wars, 300 and at one point, even fit one of the characters with an automatic weapon, so this expansion, which puts the characters from the original in the jungles of Vietnam trying to rescue POWs doesn't seem that out there.
Unfortunately, it's Magicka: Vietnam's gameplay that seems like it doesn't match up with the franchise. In order to accommodate the change in setting, Paradox made several tweaks and changes to the established formula and the result is an uneven, frustrating and thin experience. If you really loved the original Magicka (and you should), you may get a kick out of the unexpected expansion, otherwise, you're going to want to steer clear.
Much like the original Magicka, you take the role of a mage (or mages in multiplayer) and use spells and melee attacks to quest through a series of challenges and survival maps. Only here, those maps come after you're dropped via chopper into the jungles of Vietnam on a mission to rescue POWs. The whole thing comes off as a tongue-in-cheek response to the industry's love for first person shooters - particularly those set in wartime. All the right elements are here, including a song that sounds suspiciously like Fortunate Son by Creedance Clearwater Revival, otherwise known as the song that plays in pretty much every Vietnam movie.
Sadly, the novel feeling and setting is one of the game's lone selling points as Paradox Interactive and Arrowhead Studios have made several tweaks and changes to the game's formula that don't fit well in the established universe. In the original Magicka, you could get through a good portion of the game using mostly melee combat with a few spells thrown in. Since the developers thought it would be fitting to outfit pretty much every one of your enemies with automatic weaponry, this is nearly impossible. Get close and you'll be blasted to bits. Of course, you can also pick up some of these automatic weapons and use them on your enemies, but as cool as it is to see a little hooded mage packing heat, it just doesn't feel like Magicka.
The automatic weapons also become a burden to the game as a whole. See, enemies have the ability to shoot at you with impressive precision from a great distance, much further than you can, so you're left with no choice but to abandon the series trademark hack and slash gameplay in favor of the more useful gunplay. Also, it's extremely frustrating that your enemies can also shoot at you from off screen, meaning that even though it's impossible for you to hit them, they are more than capable of taking you out before you even see them.
The most frustrating part of all this, the developers didn't include a way to save your progress in the Vietnam rescue missions of the game. While there are only two of these missions, it's understandably frustrating to be making good progress through the levels, finishing major firefights only to be picked off by an off screen sniper and have to start back at the beginning of the entire game. In the case of games like Ninja Gaiden and the classic Battletoads, difficulty can be good, but here, it's a completely different kind of difficulty that borders on brutal as opposed to rewarding.
The only other mode available in Magicka: Vietnam is the survival modes. Similar to the survival modes in the original Magicka, you'll see how long you can last against a never ending series of the game's bad guys. Unfortunately, this mode too is hampered by the same issues as the original game, and can become frustrating just as fast. Magicka: Vietnam is definitely at its best when played with multiple people, but even then, it's a harrowing experience to say the least.
Magicka: Vietnam is unnecessarily difficult, and doesn't feel much like the franchise gamers originally fell in love with. Trading a fantasy setting for the jungles of Vietnam may have been a novel idea, but trading melee for automatic weapons was not. At $4.95, it's a cheap value, and a cheap experience in general. Magicka fans should at least check out the expansion, but those unfamiliar with it should definitely try the original game first.
CHEATS USED: Super Health
The original Magicka has a trainer at Cheathappens.com, but it's kind of thin. You'll get the ability to unlock super health. Really though, there's not much else you'll need as you get access to pretty much all of your abilities right from the start of the game.
As of this writing, there are no cheats available for Magicka: Vietnam, but there are plenty of unlockables you can find if you're willing to traverse through the dangerous and unfair battlefield. I would love to see an unlimited ammo, HP and health cheat.
Stick with CheatHappens.com for cheats for Magicka: Vietnam as they become available.
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