Paradox’s first console game is an action RPG custom-made for couch co-op

Swedish publisher Paradox Interactive brought an alpha build of Magicka 2 to GDC this year, and Polygon spent a solid hour playing with the hands-on demo. This will be the publisher’s first title on the PlayStation 4. Paradox is hoping the game, which earned a solid fanbase on the PC, will be able to explode into the mainstream thanks to a healthy dose of local multiplayer support and a clever adaptation of the game’s inputs to the DualShock 4 controller.

Magicka 2, like the original Magicka, is a comedic action role-playing game starring four bumbling wizards. Players use elemental magic like fire, electricity and frost to make up powerful spells on the fly. Combine fire and electrical magic, for instance, to create a flame spell that chains between nearby enemies. Friendly fire is always on, so your spells can be just as dangerous to your allies as your enemies.

The game supports up to four players, either together in the same room or across the internet, and will even allow a mix of local and online players in the same session. The final game will also allow for players to drop in and out at will, and intelligently balance the difficulty accordingly.

Magicka 2 will support a mix of local and online multiplayer

The game will ship with a story-driven adventure mode that will run around six to eight hours in length. Additionally it will have a set of challenge modes, where players have to stand up to increasingly more difficult waves of enemies. By succeeding in the adventure mode and the challenge modes, players will be able to unlock artifacts, powerful items that will make the game more difficult or simply change the look.

One set of artifacts that Polygon tried out removed frost spells from the game entirely, doubled player speed to make them more mobile, and turned the entire game into a greenish monochrome that looked suspiciously like the Nintendo Game Boy.

It turns out that Sony has been courting Paradox for some time, initially to bring some of their games to the PlayStation 3. Mattias Wiking, studio manager and acting executive producer on Magicka 2, said that when they first started talking, the process for building and maintaining a game on the PlayStation platform was too difficult.

“The process for releasing games would be too complicated for us,” Wiking told Polygon. “We told them that well, maybe not right now. We’ll continue with our PC work. And then Sony came back to us … before the PS4 was even announced and [told us what they were going to do differently this time around]. This suited us very well, and we said OK. Let’s do it. Let’s try it. Magicka, of course, is a perfect fit for a console game.”

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What surprised Polygon most of all was just how natural it felt on the DS4 controller. The four buttons on the right of the controller, with the help of a shoulder button toggle, let us mix and match the eight different elemental magics. The other controls worked very much like a dual-stick shooter, with movement on the left stick and spellcasting on the right. The directional buttons allowed us to cast more powerful spells, like haste to boost our movement speed for a short time or revive to bring our allies back to life. The right trigger even allowed us to swing our sword, which could likewise be charged up with elemental magic for a short time.

Magicka 2 is bright and colorful, but also very self-aware and pretty funny. It’s perfectly happy to make fun of itself one moment, and the next to send up some of the classics of the sword and sorcery genre. Case in point is the overworld map, which seems to take many cues from Game of Thrones with its simple, geometric shapes, a very short depth of field and even a huge white mountain range in the north. Paradox hinted that there might just be a trailer based on Game of Thrones in the future.

Paradox expects to have Magicka 2 out for PC and PS4 in the second quarter. It will be priced along the same lines as the original title was on PC — around $10.