Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Developer: Arrowhead Game Studios
System requirements: Windows XP/Vista/Win 7, 2.4 GHz Pentium IV or AMD 3500+ or better CPU, 2 GB RAM, Nvidia GeForce 8800/ATI Radeon X1900 or better graphics card, DirectX-compatible sound card, DirectX 9, 2 GB hard-drive space; Magicka base game must be installed
ESRB rating: Teen
Release date: Available now
Riding the success of their game Magicka, Arrowhead Game Studios has released DLC for it that takes the plucky wizards of the original game and drops them into the jungles of Southeast Asia to fight the Vietnam War. Magicka: Vietnam gives you a new complete mission to play, a new arena fight to survive, a new soundtrack that sounds like it borrows from every rock-and-roll band from the Rolling Stones to the Jimi Hendrix Experience, new weapons (including a wizard-staff version of the American flag), and a new appearance for your wizard that alludes to half a dozen movies set in the war. It’s an absurd premise for a spell-casting game; since its Arrowhead, it’s not surprising that they make it work.
First, let me say that I was initially very skeptical about the theme of this expansion. The Vietnam War still carries with it very painful memories for everyone involved, whether they be Americans, Vietnamese, or even the French. Treating such a serious subject with campy levity could’ve been a recipe for tasteless and offensive gameplay. Instead, I found that Arrowhead didn’t make a humorous game about wizards in Vietnam so much as they made a hilarious game that sends up the entire Hollywood tradition of Vietnam War films. Clever players can find allusions to a dozen different movies, whether it’s the behind-enemy-lines rescue of POWs or the unused surfboards to be found scattered around the enemy camp (I guess goblins, much like Charlie, don’t surf). Careful reading of enemy names in the survival battles reveals that the black-clothed goblins are the Goblin Cong, and the soldiers are, to be precise, the NGA, making the game less about fighting a particular ideological or ethnic enemy, and more about flinging spells in a bizarre setting. Thus, Magicka: Vietnam is not a game about Vietnam; it’s about pop culture surrounding the conflict being juxtaposed with neo-medieval elements. And the jokes work without being offensive.
That being said, both wizards and your enemies have gotten some upgrades. Weapons such as M16s, AK-47s and RPGs are now available for either side to use alongside the classic M60, of which players have fond memories. For those who love the smell of napalm in the morning, popping smoke to target your enemies for flaming death is now a possibility. Because the goblins and trolls are now armed with a variety of ranged weapons, the mission and survival modes are a very different game experience. Tactics to which you are accustomed must be modified to suit these enemies. Also, since you are in Vietnam, there are plenty of rice paddies and streams, making the environment as tricky as ever. I found that the new content is very challenging, but that it still relies upon the same kind of experimentation I praised in the initial release. Blindly casting spells will not help. You need to pick and choose spell effects to counter your enemies’ strengths. It also means that multiplayer co-op is quite rewarding. Note that the mission comes with no save or checkpoints, so if you die, you have to start again.
I really enjoyed Magicka: Vietnam, and I don’t normally bother with DLC content. It made me laugh, and it gave me something exciting to do in a game I already enjoyed. Priced at $4.99, any fan of Magicka should pick up a copy.