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A Communal Evening With: Magicka: Vietnam

Battlefield Bad Company 2: Vietnam. Men of War: Vietnam. Magicka: Vietnam. Wait … what?

Basing the first full add-on to your team-based, fantasy wizard game in Vietnam was always going to make it stand out. In a market perpetually saturated by too many great games, that was presumably the intent. But is Magicka: Vietnam just a comedy stunt, pulled off by developers with a keen sense of humour, or is it a worthwhile addition to an already funny game?

With the Vietnam expansion just released, Tim and I decided to find out. We also recorded a few videos of our feeble attempts to rescue POWs from the depths of the jungle, for your viewing pleasure.

Peter Parrish: Tim, I need your help to prance around in a bathrobe.
Tim McDonald: That’s actually not the first time someone’s said that to me.

[A hectic game of Magicka: Vietnam ensues]


Tim: Right.
Peter: Magicka, then … but in Vietnam!
Tim: We’re very bad at it.
Peter: We could lie about that I suppose, but the video evidence will probably speak for itself.
Tim: I can do some artful editing. No-one’ll even notice the cuts.
Peter: Hey, it looks like they’re about to die again … oh, it’s the end credits. Hey, why are they drawn in MSPaint?

Tim: Well, I dunno about you, but I enjoyed that. It’s chaotic as all hell, but that works for it.
Peter: I also enjoyed it a lot.
Tim: It’s been so long since I’ve played Magicka, I’d forgotten about all the wonderful, wonderful emergent things that happen, like when you laid down some healing mines and revived me on top of them.
Peter: Yes, I’m going to pretend that was on purpose.
Tim: I assumed it was!
Peter: No, unfortunately I was just miscasting the revive spell.
Tim: I kept expecting you to repeat the feat.
Peter: Haha, well, there’s a reason why I didn’t … (it’s because I wanted you to die.)
Tim: You bastard.
Peter: I’m a goblin-cong sleeper agent Tim, I’m sorry.
Tim: Genuinely, though, I keep forgetting how skill-based Magicka is. Whenever we failed it never felt that unfair to me. I kept thinking “If only I could cast Revive quicker,” or “If only I wasn’t panicking and trying to remember useful spells when things went horribly wrong.” Which, obviously, are things that good players wouldn’t have issues with.


Peter: I should probably mention that I played the game for the first time yesterday.
Tim: Magicka? At all?
Peter: Yeah.
Tim: Oh wow.
Peter: Going back to what you said up there though, the game does seem very fair with its deaths. If you die, it’s your fault. I mean, excluding bad ping or whatever. You’re given so many options to keep people alive, and I imagine that gets easier with four players too.
Tim: Well… sort of. You’re given so many options to keep people alive, but also so many options to accidentally kill everybody.
Peter: Haha, of course. But those deaths are fair too! Never trust your friends … There were a couple of times in our game where I had no idea why you or I died, though. We just kind of blew up. I’m assuming there was a sensible reason.
Tim: Usually, yeah. Sometimes I think it was the goblins with RPGs, who seem able to one-shot anyone who doesn’t have a shield up. Once it was because I was trying to cast Revive while wet, thus electrocuting myself.
Peter: It’s very taxing on the fingers to cast the right spells, I find. Which is why I bungle so many. And yet it’s obviously something you can learn.
Tim: That’s another thing I love about Magicka – if you can memorise the key inputs for one spell, then you can cast it almost instantaneously.
Peter: Right, exactly. That’s cool, it rewards people who know what they’re doing – and rewards learning.
Tim: Yup. And then you inevitably meet something that’s resistant to those spells, and then you have nothing to fall back on and die horribly. So you learn more.
Peter: Learning through death! Kind of like Jesus.
Tim: Did you just compare a game full of wizards and magic and other heretical things to Jesus?
Peter: I’m pretty sure Jesus was in ‘nam, so it’s ok.


Peter: The Vietnam mode, specifically, we should talk about I suppose. I do love the audacity of bringing your fantasy wizard spellcasting game into ‘nam.
Tim: Yeah. Magicka was never the sort of thing to be taken remotely seriously – I mean, the main campaign has references to quite literally everything, ever – but I wouldn’t have expected a Vietnam campaign.
Peter: And yet, why not set it in Vietnam? That’s one of the things I love about games, but which also frustrates me – you can do anything! So why don’t you?
Tim: Mm. It seems like a really good idea, actually. In a game containing almost everything, it’s pretty much one of the few things I wouldn’t have expected. It’s a much better way of grabbing attention than going “Download the Demon’s Castle DLC.”
Peter: This represents a developer going “Hey, we actually can do this faintly ridiculous thing,” which I really admire.
Tim: Absolutely. More of this sort of thing, please.
Peter: Yes please! But also maybe some more checkpoints. I mean it’s a game where dying is usually funny and not really a big deal. But it’s also nice to make progress occasionally. Of course, this issue may be related to our badness.
Tim: Mm. I think the Vietnam stuff is geared towards four players, like the original content. So, y’know, it’s John’s fault.
Peter: Haha, yes, let’s blame John. Damn him for being swamped with … writing important things.
Tim: I know there were only two of us and Magicka, inevitably, is about a group of four, but still. It started getting a little frustrating the fifth time we were going through it all.
Peter: So if you’re lonely and depressed, don’t buy this expansion, you’ll just die a lot and feel worse.
Tim: Again, that was always true of Magicka. It’s usually possible to get by in single-player, it’s just tricky.

{PAGE TITLE=A Staff Evening With: Magicka: Vietnam page 2}
Peter: I found the new guns pretty handy. Although using them too much in a game with so much magical flexibility seemed … wrong, somehow
Tim: Yeah.
Peter: Speaking of things being wrong, sorry I kept messing up the Revive spell.
Tim: I was messing it up too. I’m a solo player; I’m not that used to casting it!
Peter: Urrrggh spazzy keyboard hands, oh I’ve set myself on fire.
Tim: Hahaha.
Peter: That’s my Magicka box quote.
Tim: So what did you think of the new enemies and areas and whatnot? All three, that we saw.
Peter: Well, I wasn’t loving the enemies firing at us from offscreen But visually they’ve nailed the ‘nam look – rice fields, jungle, wooden huts and all that. Nailed the look that people IMAGINE Vietnam to have been like, I guess I should say. I’d assume the reality was a more dead civilians and terrible post-traumatic stress. Which, obviously, isn’t really the tone Magicka is aiming for.
Tim: I’m not sure that would’ve worked that well with… yeah. Although I would’ve been impressed if that’s actually the fourth screen. The tone of the game just shifts massively.
Peter: Haha. You get a level back in the US where everyone is booing you, so you open up on them with an AK47. And then you can’t get any proper mental health care so you end up homeless .. uh, this is getting a bit too close to reality. Sorry, Vietnam veterans.
Tim: For the first time in my life, I can say that I hope they don’t read IncGamers.
Peter: I’m guessing the idea of a funny wizard game set in Vietnam is enough to put them off.


Peter: Oh! I do really love the music.
Tim: Yes! It’s very… period.
Peter: Ripping off “Gimme Shelter” is excellent. Using the flame spray spell is also pretty period-appropriate, which I believe you mentioned in-game.
Tim: Yeah, the flame spell is about as useful as it ever was, but here it feels like a flamethrower!
Peter: Do we think there’s enough content (two challenge maps – one scenario challenge and one survival challenge) for $5? I mean, the full game is $10 (when it’s not on sale.)
Tim: I suppose it depends on how much you want more Magicka. I mean, I can say that I’m going to buy it, so I – at least – am apparently happy with it.
Peter: I got it for free in a shady under-the-table deal from a publisher, so I am obliged to say I loved it of course.
Tim: We were playing this on Peter’s copy, readers. Only one player needs to have the Vietnam DLC – Magicka players without it can join in with the new stuff anyway.
Peter: Oh yes, that’s important to mention, because it’s a very charitable gesture and actually that does make it much better value. Because you can just pressure one of your friends to buy it.
Tim: I can’t say it seems that weighty, but it’s a replayable (and seemingly large) bonus level, along with a survival map. Oh, and a new Wizard skin, and whatnot. For £3.50, that seems reasonable to me, but then I have no idea what money’s worth. I say “seemingly large.” We got to the third transition. Then we died. Again.
Peter: Yes, the scenario could be about ten hours long, we’d never actually know.
Tim: I’d pay £3.50 for it.
Peter: I’d probably just mooch off a friend, because I’m incredibly tight. It’s fun times though, definitely.


Tim: Oh, did you make use of the ALL NEW COVER SYSTEM? A tooltip popped up telling me that blocking when equipped with a gun would let me take cover behind things. At least, I think it’s all new; I don’t remember it from the vanilla content. Problem is I couldn’t remember how to block.
Peter: Yes, I did! Block is left ctrl, and yes it makes you kind of duck down now.
Tim: I did try using the (probably) ALL NEW COVER SYSTEM at one point, but I think I just set you on fire instead.
Peter: Maybe that is the ALL NEW COVER SYSTEM. You cover your friend. In flames.
Tim: That’s not particularly ALL NEW for Magicka.
Peter: Ducking wasn’t too useful for me, but I did use it a bit to hide behind some sandbags before I mysteriously caught fire.
Tim: Sorry about that. Ooh! Something that is ALL NEW and involves flames, though, is the Napalm spell.
Peter: Wow, we’re really bad at remembering the new features in this. Yes, Napalm seemed excellent – I struggled to cast it, but you seemed to be getting a lot of use out of it. Amazingly, it never landed on me.
Tim: It’s certainly one of the trickier spells to cast. It essentially summons a smoke grenade, and a few seconds after that a bombing run occurs. Timing it right is a bit difficult, and I never seemed quite sure what angle it was going to go in, but… well, it does a load of damage.
Peter: And, again, is theme-appropriate.
Tim: Considering the insane number of ranged enemies, it was tremendously useful.
Peter: I also thought having a tattered US flag on the staff was a neat touch.
Tim: Yeah. Again: themes!


Peter: So where can Magicka go next? Maybe Napoleonic France. Or some South American Inca fun.
Tim: Romance of the Three Kingdoms-era China.
Peter: Yes! Dynasty Magicka … Which could also be 80s soap opera Magicka.
Tim: Possibly the best idea yet! I think the big thing about the DLC is the rescue mission map.
Peter: Yes, that’s clearly the meat of the package.
Tim: The survival map was basically… well, just another survival map, only with new enemies, and you start with the Napalm spell. Plus it has loads of those little gits with RPGs.
Peter: Why would they have role-playing gam … oh, I see. Ho ho h .. ahh.
Tim: Get your coat.
Peter: I suppose we should give some sort of final verdict.
Tim: It’s typical Magicka, in one sense – lots of possibilities at any given time, most of which will end with your painful and humiliating death, and plenty of humour too. But it does feel a bit different too, possibly because of the predominance of ranged weapons. I love the idea of a replayable map, though, and I’m going to end up buying it anyway.
Peter: Putting wizards in Vietnam is a bold, stupid thing to do and something I’d love to see lots more of (not just from Magicka.)

Magicka: Vietnam is available now for $5.00 USD/£3.50 GBP. A copy of the original Magicka is required.


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