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Magicka: Wizard Wars turns a weak link into its strongest point

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Paradox fleshes out Magicka's PvP mode

Paradox North has taken what it describes as the weakest element of action adventure title Magicka, carefully balanced it and developed it into its own player versus player (PvP) strategy game, according to EVP John Hargelid.

Magicka: Wizard Wars was first announced in March of this year and was in part a response to the Magicka community's interest in a more flesh-out PvP game. The original Magicka shipped with a single-player mode where players played through a campaign with a detailed storyline. A PvP mode was later added. The response to the PvP mode was overwhelming, with some players spending more time in competitive multiplayer than in the single-player campaign. There was a problem, though — the PvP mode, by Paradox's own admission — was not very good.

"The experience that people were given in the PvP mode was unbalanced and, we have to be honest, unfortunately the network experience was not good. So we wanted to take the 'worst part' of the game and lift it up," Hargelid told Polygon.

"I like the tactical depth of the game...you always have to be on the lookout to understand if you have your spawn points secured or not."

What surprised the development team was that even though the PvP mode was the game's weakest link, it was also one of the most popular elements of the game. There was demand for a rock/paper/scissors-style multiplayer mode where players could jump in and have quick matches against opposing teams. Paradox North looked into what the community wanted, and the result is Magicka: Wizard Wars.

During a hands-on demo of the game, Hargelid explained that the original game's PvP mode was very unbalanced. The game had everyone starting on a level playing field, but it also gave everyone access to all the magicks. The problem with this was anyone could then endlessly spam the most powerful attacks, allowing them to either unfairly win using no skill at all, or causing a stalemate where both sides hide in corners of the map while they shower the game board with meteor strikes.

In Magicka: Wizard Wars, players have to fill a focus meter in order to access the more powerful magicks. One of the lower tiers is the power of haste, which allows a character to move quicker for a short burst of time. As players fill up their focus meter by killing enemies, they unlock the ability to summon Death — a NPC that will fight on the player's side for a short amount of time. The highest tier triggers a meteor shower, which can destroy almost everyone within the vicinity of a selected region, but it requires a full focus meter in order to be activated.

The highest tier triggers a meteor shower, which can destroy almost everyone.

According to Hargelid, the development team has made the game more strategic by introducing capture points that also act as spawn points. In the demo Polygon played, we had to ensure we always held at least one capture point, because if we lost them all to the enemy then our team members would not be able to respawn. This led to an often frantic experience where remaining players would rush to try to capture a spawn point to ensure their survival, while the enemies ganged up on survivors to try to take them out.

"I like the tactical depth of the game — you always have to be on the lookout to understand if you have your spawn points secured or not," Hargelid said. "That means you can turn the tide at any point."

During our time with the game, some matches were an on-going tug-of-war, with one side capturing all the spawn points, only to have the other side make a last-minute comeback. Other matches were over in less than five minutes when a team was wiped out and all its spawn points swiftly captured.

Magicka: Wizard Wars is due to launch this year on Windows PC and tablets. The game will be free-to-play, but the developers have not determined how players will be charged. Hargelid told Polygon that Paradox will talk to its community about what they're willing to pay for, but he assured us that the studio will not be pursuing a pay-to-win strategy.