I saw Magicka: Wizard Wars while I was at GDC, and it was the highlight of my week. Magicka was a fascinating oddity out of left-field, and enormously entertaining, but on seeing Wizard Wars I immediately sensed that the idea could find its mature, developed form in multiplayer. Anyway, it's taken a little while for assets to surface, and now they have I wanted to share them - and my enormous excitement about this game - with you.
You might recall that Magicka was based around the idea of combining a set of magic elements to produce spell effects. The result of this was an enormous generative set of possible outcomes, many of them random, poorly balanced, or just useless. The idea behind Wizard Wars is to take this same notion, but refine it and distill the effects until it becomes a rich PvP soup of possible spell-casting interactions. While Paradox's produces at GDC were super-keen to stress what they were showing me was "early" I was immediately taken with just how slick it seemed: teams of wizards duking it out across a luscious map. I'm looking forward to them releasing a video so that you can really see what I mean.
The crucial heart of the game is a set of spell-casting specialisations, which will give you certain tactical advantages and weaknesses, something like character classes in other games. That's not to say you aren't extremely versatile. I watched a really reactive wizard-duel with two players countering each others offensive abilities with their own defensive shields and barriers.
While it does seem reminiscent of the current trend for MOBAs based on the DOTA model, this is very much its own game, with a sort of territory capture mechanic where one team of wizards has to dominate the map and hold all the capture points to win. This conquest style game will mean that desperate comebacks will be possible, and what I sort of the game showed some blistering turnarounds with single wizards managing to pull a fast one with their powers on opposing enemies. The capture points are also the spawn points, so one player could survive, and recapture a point to bring his team back. It's a really elegant design that I am really impressed with.
The main game is going to be four versus four, but there will be some NPC and AI too. Again, this isn't like MOBA creeps, the vision for the AI there is tied to the characters. They say they are pre-alpha, but the Paradox team suggest that the players will each field a couple of minions which cannot be directly controlled, but will add to the dynamism of combat - support rabid minions? Use them as a distraction? And so on. Essentially a super pet class. Only fairly perishable. There's friendly fire, of course, as per Magicka, but they acknowledge that could become an issue.
The game just looks good too. The camera is closer in than Magicka was, and the customisations to the characters are clearly visible. There's a sort of painterly thing that harks to classic 2D games, while at the same time feeling thoroughly modern. The spell effects rip and roar about the map, and occasionally death gets released on to the map an everyone runs for their lives. It's just a lovely looking thing. In conclusion: watch this space, it's looking magic.