GDC 2013: ‘Magicka: Wizard Wars’ aims for accessibility and magical multiplayer mayhem

MagickaArrowhead Game Studios’ combo-driven, spell-hurling PC action game Magicka is now being blown out into a full-fledged 4v4 multiplayer game called Magicka: Wizard Wars. The in-development project is the work of the newly created Paradox North studio, a small team of 14 led by DICE and Funcom veterans. Roughly nine months into development now, an alpha version rapidly approaches.

Paradox North showed off some recorded gameplay in a GDC 2013 demo. The game runs on the BitSquid engine, the same one that powers War of the Roses, so it is a visual step up from the Arrowhead original. Two teams of four hooded, faceless wizards fling a variety of spells back and forth as they attempt to blast one another to pieces.

The game uses the same eight stackable spell types as the first one, though Shift and Ctrl-based modifiers have been stripped away in favor of a more contextual, one-click arrangement. Simply stack up whichever spells you want to layer on top of one another and click the desired target. The effect changes based on whether you click your own avatar, one of your teammates, or an enemy team members.

Wizard Wars features other new wrinkles as well, such as a progression system that sees cosmetic modifications (hats!) and sidegrades unlock. If, for example, you’re a fan of the fire spell, you’ll probably want to equip the fire staff once you unlock it for boosted attacks with that element. There’s always a tradeoff though; in the case of the fire staff, users will be more susceptible to water and ice attacks. Equipped unlocks come with visual identifiers, so the other team can clearly see when you’ve got one equipped, and what it is.

The bigger combo attacks from Magicka, such as Meteor Shower, also return in Wizard Wars, though the multiplayer focus required some balancing. Now, the super attacks and buffs (such as Haste) are designated as special attacks. You can’t bring all of them into battle and their usage is managed by a cooldown timer. Wizard Wars also features a minion system of sorts that sees players spawn in with a pair of goblins as backup.

The plan right now calls for just one map to be available at launch, but Paradox is of course considering what to do with other arenas as well. It’s possible that we might see some eventually that power up certain elements in certain zones. The lone match type that the team is working with now sees two teams vying for control of multiple spawn points. Control them all to prevent the enemy from spawning in reinforcements and you win. As with any work-in-progress, many details still remain to be worked out.

There’s no release date set yet for Wizard Wars, though Paradox North is committed to including the community in the development process. The team appreciates the approach that Mojang went with releasing Minecraft, so don’t  be surprised if this multiplayer Magicka embraces a similar approach.