DARPA for Jawas

Arrowhead Game Studios

Magick has always been a paradox. It's a science of the supernatural, a consistent manipulation of inconsistencies, a simulation of a fantasy. Often game designs dealing with the magickal err on the side of suspension of disbelief in being a mage while neglecting the visceral side of becoming a mage -- how exciting is memorizing spells every night only to exhaust them in the heat of the moment, or to pick spells off a menu in expense of MP? Arrowhead Game Studio is composed of a bunch of folks from Skelleftea in northern Sweden, at a latitude on par with Macbeth's weird sisters or The Once and Future King's Orkney Isles from whence hailed Morgan le Fay. Apparently, the further north you go, the more magickal things get, Dustin can fill in the details. These people said, hey, forget all the nonsense, we're going to pull the magick of creating game dev jobs in a place where none have existed since initial settlement 8000 years ago, and then we're going to make a game with production values on par with a AAA game circa 2003, and we're going to do a completely fresh spell-casting system that will do what no fantasy game has ever done before in terms of blasting the player with a sense of imminent empowerment.

And then they did it.

Magicka hits you with pre-rendered backgrounds reminiscent of a Baldur's Gate sequel (sounds Swedish already), layers on satirical writing that revels in the wasteland of cliches we've all come to know, making compost out of them, and tops it off with voice acting in a made-up language, which to foreign ears might sound Scandinavian, until you hear the words "super durka durka" and whatnot. I sat down with a game designer friend currently working on a Facebook game (aren't we all) and took control of a little hooded scamp somewhere between Tatooine's scrap scavengers, Final Fantasy's archetypal mages, and the spectral denizens of my early nightmares. A character claiming to not be a vampire gave me some instructions; I turn to my friend and say "hey, you know what? I bet that guy's a vampire? Do you think?" Then I started learning the magick system.

The game has eight elements that you combine with the key board, aim with the mouse, and project in three ways: toward yourself, toward other objects, or in an area. You can load up to five of these elements in a row, duplicates just power up the effect so that, for example, five heals will heal you up proper, five fires creates a more powerful flame, and so on. Some of these elements are opposites and cancel out, while some are complements and recombine to create new elements, such as steam or ice. The result is key-mashing origami where you make art out of the spin of your hands in real-time. The system is predicated on the same logic as chemistry, at once seeming occult and logical, which would surely make your head explode if you weren't so busy blowing up your character. Get yourself wet, cast fire on yourself to dry off, freeze the water to walk over it. Learn the Rain magicka -- one of the more complex recipes you can weave as if the basic combinations weren't complex enough -- and then combine arcane and lighting to blast electricity onto the suddenly wet denizens of the screen. If you wanted to be more efficient, use steam and lightening and arcane in a beam to simultaneously wet and fry the unlucky targets. Explode goblins, a gib reminiscent of the original Quake, but with a home brewed rocket.

The content of the game is mostly linear, but that's ok, because the solutions to the problem of each set of enemies is non-linear. Do you throw a shield? What kind of shield? Pure energy? Rocks with fire? Just fire? Why not ice? Go nuts! It's like a puzzle game... within an action game... within an RPG... within your dream!

Then there's co-op. Another game developer friend hit us up over Steam and asked to play, we got on Skype with the head-set, fired up the Arena mode, and covered each other, playing decoy, luring the ogres over with self-sacrifice. Remember to revive me dude! I wasn't very good at the game relative to my wing man, but I was a useful idiot. I'm told four-player just turns into a friendly-fire fiesta with playful revenge marking the pauses between each NPC melee.

This is a game that has the potential to become a sort of lifestyle, the way Halo multiplayer was, and mark the fortune for its developer. It has already grossed a couple million bucks, selling out over 200k copies at $10 a pop. Contrary to Greg's admonition, downloading Steam is integral to this game, perhaps to support multiplayer rather than as a DRM solution. I've never had a single good user experience with Steam in its entire history, since 2005, but lots of my friends have so I defer to my respect of alternative lifestyles. The game is estimated to have cost about 300k to develop, so I'm estimating after Steam's cut Paradox made back their investment four or five times over, before doling out some royalties to the developer that sets them up to support this game as a single-franchise publisher for quite some time.

This is no plea to buy a game because you're supporting starving artists, this is a simple pointer to something that is unique and awesome and definitely worth $10.


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The link

The link doesn't lead to the demo (or anything useful). It just says "You haven't purchased this product." in balck letters on white. There is no link to the game's page, or even the Gamer's Gate website itself.



Sorry, tried to link

Sorry, tried to link directly to the download button.


First off: this game is super cool; there is every reason to give the demo a go, and no reason not to. It's pretty much guaranteed enjoyment. It's a fun, cool mechanic, and the game is well made.

That said: I wish there was a way to bind full spells to keys or something (and I do mean "or something" - I'm not sure binding full spells to keys would be a positive change, I'm just throwing stuff out). There's a lot of fun to be had in experimenting with different combinations, but in play I end up doing just a couple ones that are fast to type and generally useful (my usual: cold AOE to crowd control, run a bit away, then death beam).

Things are usually happening so fast that I don't have time to enjoy the options open to me. Instead, I'm just casting the same few spells and doing so with what is effectively a crazy interface (repeatedly doing ffff-shift-right-click or something like that). If I could take a moment, play with possibilities, I'd love to tailor out some better moves for the situation at hand - but when I try to get fancy I die.

Being better at the game would certainly help, but I also wonder if there couldn't be some way to maintain the real time game, with the multiplayer possibility, but also let you "explore the space" of possible spells in battle a little easier. And again, I say this only because this is a game discussion board and I think maybe there's a possibility there - certainly not because I don't think this is a fun game worth playing (and worth playing through the demo even if you're sure you won't buy - the demo is good entertainment).

I Seem to have rolled a natural 1

I feel incredibly stupid at this point, but I can't find the demo. I've been to Gamers Gate, and the game's own site, but I just can't seem to find it. A little help?


It's shareware, therefore unlockable; just download and play. No separate 'demo' link.