After months of hype and incredulous speculation about how the hell it would work, Magicka: Vietnam is finally here. If you guys don’t remember, to say I liked the core game would be an understatement; it really was something special.
So it’s not a surprise that I’ve literally been counting down the days to the release of this wacky DLC. Did it live up to the hype?
Ehhhhhhh. If you’re curious to know what that means, read on.
Magicka: Vietnam isn’t an expansion, but DLC in the truest sense. For $5, you only get one mission, and one arena for the Challenge Mode. The price sounds a tad steep for just that much content, and when you consider the mission can be finished in under half an hour, there’s all the more reason to furrow your brow.
But hey, I’ve always been a proponent of value vs. worth, and I’d gladly pay $50 for an hour long game if it was freaking fantastic. Unfortunately, that’s not the case here. The mission is difficult enough, and Magicka at its very core, but there’s just something off about the DLC, to the point where it feels like the magic is gone. Supplanting the wizards and transferring them into a Vietnam War setting really seems to have sucked all the fun out of the game.
For one, the humor and charm that made Magicka such a, well, magical game for me isn’t really at the forefront of this one. Sure, you have Rambo references here and a We Were Soldiers reference there, but there’s no real sense of whimsy that made the core game truly enjoyable. There’s less things to interact with, and when you do, the humor isn’t really there. Instead, the bulk of it is combat and running away from Goblin-cong and their endless gunfire.
That right there is probably my biggest issue with Vietnam, and why the game simply doesn’t work: the guns. The addition of guns has actually shifted the intuitive, engaging gameplay into something that’s more frustrating than enjoyable. The gunfire is incessant and does its best to annoy the crap out of the player. It essentially turns Magicka into a cover-based shooter, which doesn’t exactly work because it doesn’t have any of the mechanics necessary for that.
That becomes abundantly clear when you’re in a firefight with three goblins, and they’re all nestled in cover behind a rock or some crates. They can somehow shoot over their cover, yet when you return fire, you can’t do anything of the sort; regardless of where you aim, you’ll be hitting whatever’s in front of the cover. During every conflict you end up taking a considerable amount of damage while trying to navigate around the enemies’ cover and attack them directly.
Of course, you could put on your shield and try to take things head on, except when you have a shield on and you get shot, you get knocked back every single time. Unless you want to be bounced around the screen like a pinball and die in seconds, that’s not advisable.
It gets even more frustrating when you’re fending off an entire group of soldiers and there’s enemies way off-screen that are attacking you as well. On three separate occasions, I was blown up or killed by a far off-screen enemy shooting his RPG or AK47 right at me. Correct me if I’m wrong, but that’s not fun at all.
In co-op, Vietnam is a bit more forgivable, but that lack of charm and humor still lingers over the entire game like a 500lb elephant in the room. I’ve played it twice in single player and once in co-op, and I don’t really care to play the DLC again. If anything, it made me pine for the core game. In fact, once I finished my second play-through, I started up the original, and that only confirmed my opinions; the difference in quality was night and day.
Ultimately, Magicka: Vietnam is yet another one of those unfortunate cases where the idea sounds better than the actual game, due the inherent flaws with the setting to begin with. It’s still worth a look, but be prepared for the novelty to wear off in record time. If they ever put out another DLC pack, it probably would be wise for them to set that in an era that isn’t so heavily iconified by guns.