This is where Maglcka 2 begins: at a lovely, folksy festival. And this is where you learn to burn things. Blacken trees. Set someone’s tent aflame. Spew fire at a horse and prompt its owner to run around screaming, “Nooo, my wife! We just bought a house together!” But flame is just one of eight strains of sorcery you can conjure. See. it’s all about mastering the elements: fire, water, ice, earth, lightning, healing, shield, and lasers. Shut up. the last three are totally elements.Up ahead, somebody’s picnic is on fire Try helping with a jet of water and you’ll send the soaking spread flying, causing the nearby couple to glumly remark, “Well, at least there’s no more fire..”. While this village gathering is a good demonstrator of Magicka 2’s irreverence, it mainly functions as a spell playground, a place for you to experiment with mad combinations of conjurings.Against enemies is when the game dicks. Playing on PC with an Xbox One controller. ? ?. X. and Y queue up to live spells, and the right stick fires them. That queue is entirely down to you: line up two lightning attacks, then a rock, then two water, and that’s the order in which you’ll launch them. And It goes deeper. If these elements don’t cancel each other out like, say. fire and water, they’ll pool effects.Cast earth with lightning and watch sparky, jagged bolts emanate from your fingers. Mix ice with lasers to turn the stream sub-zero. Just as important as your spells, though, is the manner in which you use them. Along with the right stick for burst fire – hold it down to unleash continuous streams, or flick back then forward to fling projectiles such as rocks – you can hit LT for a broad, area-of-effect blastUse a healing spell with this and you’ll summon an emerald green bubble around yourself, for instance; use rocks and they’ll spring from the ground in a crusty protective circle. You can also self-cast with RB. and while setting yourself on fire isn’t terribly useful for the most part, it helps to thaw you from the speed-sapping effect of ice damage, just as self-casting water will douse flames.Then there’s shield casting, which allows you to create reversed effects. Coat yourself in lightning, and when you take a stray bolt from a mate you’ll actually heal instead; self-cast rock and you’ll don a set of boulder shoulder pads, reducing earth damage.Finally, you can buff your sword. Cast with RT this time, then hit RT again to slice up foes at dose range. Blue electric in conjunction with crackling red lasers? Congratulations, you’ve got a lightsaber.Although you can play alone and sad, you can also invite up to three others in seamless hot-join action, both online and split-screen This is where Magicka 2 lives, and it’s manic Use the right stick to direct soothing streams ?f healthbar-filling goodness at teammates: cast the area-of-effect shield spell with LT to provide a sturdy protective barrier: when friends are wet and vulnerable to lightning, use a bit of flame to dry them out. Spells are designed to work offensively, defensively, and constructively.So busy is the action when four spell-tossing mages cram into a single screen it’s almost a cruel joke that Pieces Interactive has provided no way to turn off friendly fire The reason the developer says, is because it offers incentive to prank, a recipe for ‘hilarious disasters’. Freeze a deep body of water to cross it then melt it with flames and watch them fall in! Trap them within a ring of fire! Push them off a bridge! Then watch everyone leave your game because they’re annoyed with you.While such potential for mirth effectively demonstrates the depths of Magicka 2’s dynamic spellcasting, it’s possible you’ll spend large portions of the game apologising. You’ll struggle to see what’s happening when you’re charged by a frost maiden, two werewolves, and an army of goblins, and someone is going to get caught in the crossfire, watching helplessly through the flashes and sparks as their energy meter shrinks.These unforeseeable, unintentional, often unpredictable deaths are exacerbated on PC by that classic: the unskippable cutscene (though strangely the problem Is averted on PS4). Die after some bloke’s long soliloquy and you’ll have to listen to the whole thing again upon restarting. Forget about mid-fight checkpoints: begin a battle and you have to see it through to the bitter end. And with punishing difficulty, and no easy mode’, frustration sets in especially If you’re alone. One particularly brutal bridge fight against waves of goat men and taurus monsters swarming from both sides feels plain unfair.This is why it pays to prepare for battle. On later levels – winter battlegrounds, bleak forests – Magicka 2 plays more like a beat-’em-up than the traditional adion-RPG it appears, players needing to lodge long combo strings in their mind and commit them to muscle memory in their fingers or else, in the heat of battle helplessly attempt to pick from their eight-pronged attack radial. Quick, you need some fire beams: AAA, YYY, RS. Now you want to thaw yourself: LB+X, RB. Now you want to conjure a fiery, icy, electric, healing rock wall for some reason: LB+B, A, X, Y, LT.While the game has the pace of a top-down shooter, thinking on your feet Isn’t advised. This means you do tend to fall back on the same spell combos. Fire bursts and chain lightning are particularly potent and often you feel like you’re just hammering out the same sequences. Letting players dodge and parry might have alleviated the problem, adding more layers to combat.With a frightening number of spell combinations, there’s no doubting Magicka 2s depth, but once the thrill of experimenting fades, the difficulty ramps up and you start to fall back on reliable tricks, some of the magic wears off.