Magicka Is Unplayably Unstable

Magicka is a game where you are a wizard and can combine different elements together into a spell. Cast fire by itself, and you spray a little gout of flame that will set enemies on fire. Cast lightning by itself and you shoot a bit of lightning that chains between enemies. Combine them, and you will cast lightning that sets enemies on fire. Casting arcane by itself creates a beam of deadly energy. Casting shield by itself creates a shield in front of you that absorbs all attacks from that specific direction while its health lasts. Casting arcane and shield together and you create a set of land mines that explode into deadly energy when someone moves across them (including you, so watch your step). And if you combine shield with life, you create healing mines that heal anyone who steps on them, which, it turns out, is one of the most time-efficient methods of healing in the game.

Some special “magicks” are castable from specific element combinations in exactly the right order, for example, arcane-lightning-arcane casts teleport, but arcane-arcane-lightning is just a laser beam with some lightning damage attached. Some element combinations aren’t a special magick, but are useful enough to be worth memorizing, like the aforementioned healing mines, the earth/shield stoneskin armor, or the highest single target DPR attack in the game, steam-steam-arcane-lightning-lightning, or as I like to call it, the death ray. Some elements don’t combine into a magick, but have synergistic status effects if you use one after the other rather than together. For example, make an enemy wet with a water blast, then freeze them solid with a cold blast, and now using an earth attack to launch a boulder at them will do massive damage.

The story is a satirical fantasy story about wizards sent on a quest to save the world from an evil rogue wizard who’s made a pact with a demon for supreme arcane knowledge and get revenge on the order for imprisoning him however many years ago. Your main mentor figure/quest ATM is Vlad, who is not a vampire. The king introduces one level by hoping he can find someone easily manipulated to throw at an army of orcs so he doesn’t have to lead his soldiers into the fight. At one point on an airship level, an NPC announces that they must depart to their home immediately and leaps off the side of the ship.

The game is quite difficult, partly because it’s intended for multiplayer play and I can never find more than one person to play with, and partly because the difficulty helps push people to explore the spell system and find out combos like the healing mines and death ray, rather than relying on the chaining power of the default lightning blast to kill everything (something which mostly works for the first two levels).

Except, unfortunately, it is extremely unstable. It crashes all the time, in different places for different people. Sometimes you have to try again another day and hope the crash has cleared up with time, which somehow actually works, at least some of the time. Sometimes you just have to try and beat the crash to the next checkpoint, killing the enemies before whatever memory leak is killing you can catch up and then loading the game from the next checkpoint, where hopefully the problem is fixed. Sometimes you have to start over from the beginning and hope that whatever weird combination of memory values caused the crash in your last playthrough doesn’t get locked into this one.

I got through about two-thirds of the game, and now I’m crashing consistently on a loading screen, which means it’s either restart or Regrets. I have chosen Regrets. Playing it from the beginning, I would constantly be anxious that the run might be ended by another unavoidable crash, and the game just wouldn’t be fun with that hanging over my head. Much like the Force Unleashed, this is a good game that I wish I could finish, but technical difficulties have gotten in the way. Worse, the technical difficulties arise not because my computer is too weak or even too powerful, but seem to afflict everyone, so there isn’t even a hope that I might be able to come back later with a stronger computer.

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