Magicka 101: Beyond Your Robe and Wizard Hat
For anyone who prefers the arcane aspects of fantasy games over the arms and armor, Magicka is a treat that's sure to keep you and your friends going from start to finish. Though Magicka's element-based gameplay may seem simple – combine elements into powerful spells with multiple effects – the actual implimentation and the resulting depth is far more than one would expect, and understanding the basics of spellcasting in Magicka is vital for success.
Spells in Magicka are based upon eight seperate elements, each of which has their own properties and effects. Each element also has one or more opposite elements, and crossing spells with opposing elements can lead to catastrophic results.
- Water: Does little direct damage, but can push enemies back and leave them sopping wet, making them more vulnerable against Lightning spells. Water fires in a short cone, is nullified by Lightning and is selected with the Q key.
- Life: Restores health to both you and non-undead enemies and is absolutly vital for your survival. Life fires as a straight beam, is nullified by Arcane and is selected with the W key.
- Shield: Can create a powerful barries that absorbs enemy attacks, ranging from personal shields and walls to enclosing spheres. Nullified by Shield and is selected with the E key.
- Cold: Chills and slows targets and can be used to freeze bodies of water. Fires in a short cone, is nullified by Fire and is selected with the R key.
- Lightning: Fires in an arc that can jump to multiple targets, inflicts 1.5 times the normal damage against armored enemies and inflicts double damage against wet targets, including yourself and other players. Nullified by Earth and Water and is selected with the A key.
- Arcane: The opposite of Life, Arcane damages regular enemies and heals undead enemies and is a powerful base component for complex spells. Arcane fires as a straight beam, is nullified by Life and is selected with the S key.
- Earth: Powerful but slow, Earth spells launch a solid projectile at your target. Earth is nullified by Lightning and is selected with the D key.
- Fire: Burning enemies to a crisp, Fire can ignite enemies, damage them over several seconds and cause them to panic. Fire fires in a short cone, is nullified by Cold and is selected with the F key.
Besides the eight main elements, you can also create two special elements by combining certain spells.
- Steam: Combining Water and Fire will allow you to generate a powerful spray of Steam that inflicts severe damage and leave enemies woaking wet. Nullified by Cold.
- Ice: Combining Water and Cold will allow you to shoot ice projectiles capable of piercing through enemies. Nullified by Fire.
Elements can be cast as individual spells, but Magicka's spellcasting power comes from the ability to combine and stack different elements into devestating combinations. You can combine up to five elements into a single spell, and each element will contribute its unique properties to the created spell in proportion to their presence in the spell: combining Lightning, Arcane and Fire, for example, allows you to create a devestating Lightning-Arcane-Fire beam that can inflict massive amounts of damage in a short time. Though powerful, spells with lots of elements will cause your character to move very slowly as long as they're selected, so only select the elements when you absolutly need them.
A spell's form is determined by the elements and commands you use to cast the spell. The standard spell form is a beam, cone or projectile that you can aim and fire with the right mouse button, and each form has its own particular set of attributes: beams have long ranges and continuously apply damage, but are slow to aim; cones have short ranges, but can be quickly swung from target to target to cover a large area; and projectiles are single-shot attacks with considerable range and can be fired as-is or charged to a more powerful form. While clicking the right mouse button will fire a spell in the direction you are currently facing, clicking the center mouse button will cast the spell on yourself. Clicking the right mouse button while holding Shift results in an area-of-effect spell that affects an area in proportion to the number of elements in the spell, and performing a melee attack with a spell selected will channel the spell's effect into your attack. Note that channelling a spell through a ranged weapon will result in a melee strike instead.
Some spells are extremily effective in certain situations and when compared to other spells in general, and learning what element combinations and spell forms to use can make your Magicka experience much more enjoyable and exciting. While each spell only needs two to three basic elements, stacking elements will increase the element's influence over the spell and its final effect on the target.
- Cold Ball: Useful for freezing large groups of enemies in a single shot, Cold Ball can buy you precious time needed to set up other spells. Combine Cold and Earth and fire with the right mouse button, but make sure to charge the spell for maximum effect.
- Fire Ball: Rather than slow enemies, a well-placed Fire Ball can cause discord in the enemy's ranks and eat away at their health, leaving them in a weaker state for your next attack. Combine Earth and Fire and fire with the right mouse button, but make sure to charge the spell for maximum effect.
- Cold-Lightning-Arcane Beam: Combining three of Magicka's most powerful and effective elements creates a beam spell with damage few other spells can beat. Cold locks the enemy in place while Lightning and Arcane pile on the damage, and focusing on Lightning will give you an incredible punch. Best used in situations where enemies are funneled through small areas like bridges and walkways, though the C-L-A beam is also excellent when facing humongous enemies. Swap out Cold for Fire if you're interested in damage versus immobilization.
- Steam-Lightning Spray: Nothing outside of a select few Magicks can beat the Steam-Lightning combination for sheer damage output. Steam itself is a highly-damaging element, but the introduction of Lightning adds considerable punch by working in tandum with Steam's wetness. This high damage comes at the cost of extremily short range, however, so consider adding Arcane to the mix to give the spell a long-range beam form.
- Mines: Created by pairing Shield with an element, mines are useful for laying traps and giving you a bit of breathing room, as mines will oftentimes send enemies flying. Life mines are also a great way to recover party health, as a group of mines with a full load of Life elements can restore in excess of 2,000 health. You can create four mines in an arc in front of you with the right mouse button and create a circle of mines around you with Shift and the right mouse button.
In addition to the spells you can create on the fly by combining elements, you can also cast special spells called Magicks that allow you to perform great and unusual feats, such as increasing your speed, resurrecting the dead or slowing the passing rate of time. While some Magicks are easy to find or are given as part of the main campaign, others can only be found with a bit of exploration. Magicks require that you find their respective books first before you can cast them, but you can scroll through your list of available Magicks with the mouse wheel to display the elemental template for the Magick. Once you've selected the necessary elements, press the Spacebar and you'll perform the spell.
While there are a variety of Magicks you can obtain, several stand out in particular and can make the difference between success and failure if properly – or improperly – utilized.
- Haste: Though Haste is the very first Magick you'll learn, do not underestimate its value: Haste will be, without a doubt, your single-most used Magick. Doubling your movement speed, Haste will allow you to maneuver between and around your enemies and to get enough breathing room to cast whatever other spells you need. Cast with Lightning, Arcane and Fire.
- Time Warp: Slows the passage of time, giving you and other players more time to react to enemies and other threats. Found in Chapter 5 in the small side-area north-west of your starting location. Cast with Cold and Shield. Combine with Haste to offset your own speed loss.
- Thunder Bolt: The single most powerful Magicka available, you'll find the Thunder Bolt book in Chapter 3 in the forest clearing you'll pass through near the end of the chapter. Though extremily powerful (5,000 damage against normal enemies, 10,000 against wet enemies) Thunder Bolt can't be directly controlled: it attacks the nearest enemy or ally, so a miscast could prove disasterous if the spell should target one of your friends. The high number of elements required for the spell also makes it a bit harder to cast if you haven't sufficiently practiced, and slow enemies with powerful attacks become even more dangerous due to the speed loss from preparing the spell. Cast with Steam, Lightning, Arcane and Lightning.
- Teleport: Instantly warps you to the nearest solid surface and is invaluable for escaping grips and death from falling. Found on the broken walkway left of your starting position in Chapter 7, but it's also possible to obtain in Chapter 1 by launching yourself to the walkway with the a low-power mine. Cast with Lightning, Arcane and Lightning.
- Charm: Temporarily convincing an enemy to fight for you, Charm can be incredibly effective if you manage to charm a powerful enemy. You can find Charm in the room to the right after entering the castle in Chapter 9. Cast with Life, Shield and Earth.
All information in this article is based on the author's experiences, observations and opinions.
All screenshots are from Magicka.