Not your dad's hocus pocus.
Friendly fire can be a dangerous feature in games, and this becomes apparent incredibly quickly, when one of your fellow wizards sends a flaming stone fireball your way that knocks you off the side of a cliff. This was my introduction to Magicka 2, a faster paced sequel to the PC hit from Paradox where friendly fire is always on, and you're as much at your peril from friends as enemies.
It doesn't make Magicka 2 less fun, either. The swarms of enemies come in so thick that it would be a fool's errand to kill your buddies just to grief them, so it's more of a panic when one accidentally goes down from a misplaced shot. I recently had the opportunity to preview the game at a PR office in San Francisco, Peter Cornelius, the Swedish developer from Paradox Interactive having flown in from out of town, and got hands-on time with it.
Magicka 2 has been built from the ground up for both classic PC keyboard-and-mouse controls and console controllers, since it's planned for both PS4 and PC, and we played it on a PC with a DualShock 4. You mix your spells on the fly, selecting from eight different magical attributes in five slots; how you put these together determines what kind of spell is created, with a wide variety of effects. Combining "stone" with a magical element like "fire" creates a fire projectile, for instance. Finding spell combinations that work for a player's style can be crucial for making it through the game.
Magicka 2 won't let players rest on their laurels, though. Aside from the faster pace, with players now able to create spells and use them more readily on the fly, enemies are strategically based around certain elements. Demons are healed by flame, death magic, etc., so this means having to dynamically change tactics as the player encounters new enemies in the levels.
Part of the fun is figuring out which combinations create projectiles, AOE spells, and other different combos, and where and when these combinations would be the best to use. For stronger attacks, each player has a number of special spells that recharge over time (on the controller handily mapped to the D-pad) including a revive spell for their fallen cohorts which received liberal use in our playthrough.
Cornelius mentioned that the game would be about the same length as the original Magicka but would have certain challenges and unlockables that would make playing through multiple times more interesting. Game-altering "artifacts" mutate the game, making it easier or harder, or adding silly effects like a "Sitcom" mode that adds a laugh track to the background.
Magicka 2 looks like a lot of fun, plays faster than its predecessor, and has a more polished look. Paradox has seen fit to revisit what's already working in the original game and expanded and refined it. It's expected to release in the first half of 2015 on PC and Playstation 4.