Paradox' varied, frequently excellent catalogue of sims and strategy games is on sale on Steam this weekend. 

Highlights include the superb Cities: Skylines, true heir to SimCity's throne, which is 68 percent off. The gorgeous, evolving space 4X Stellaris is 40 percent off. Crusader Kings 2, actually one of the best games in the world, is 75 percent off. Glorious co-op wizard-'em'-up, Magicka, is also 75 percent off.

Also! The huge, excellent ode to cRPGs of old, Pillars of Eternity, is 60 percent off. The moody, challenging rop-down shooter Teleglitch is 80 percent off at £1.79 / $2.59. That's a lot of horror for the price of a coffee.

If you want to dig into Paradox' back catalogue you can grab Hearts of Iron 3 and the complete Crusader Kings 1 pack for cheap too.

Great sale. If you were short of something to sink your teeth into this weekend, any of the above will serve you well.

PC Gamer

The Humble Paradox Bundle is a military tour through history. There's the Crusades, the Second World War, the Colonial 19th Century, the War of the Roses, and, of course, Wizard Times. It's all potentially yours in a pay-what-you-want package.

The regular bundle includes first-person bludgeoner War of the Roses: Kingmaker, along with Magicka, some Magicka DLC packs, Victoria II, Knights of Pen & Paper +1 Edition, and a robe for Magicka: Wizard Wars.

Pay above the average—currently $5.11—and you'll also get Hearts of Iron III, Crusader Kings II, the Crusader Kings II expansion Sons of Abraham, Impire, and, for some reason, a soundtrack compilation from across Paradox's catalogue. More games are planned for the bundle, and will be announced next week.

It's certainly a broad selection from the publisher's catalogue. Assuming you don't already own them, Crusader Kings 2 and Magicka are particular highlights. As always in the Humble Bundle, you get to specify where the proceeds of your purchase are sent—be it Paradox, Humble, or the charities Extra Life and AbleGamers.

PC Gamer

Magicka 2 releases on May 26, so Paradox Interactive is hitting the promo treadmill hard. The above video, which reportedly shows a "110% unscripted round of Magicka 2's challenge mode", is almost certainly 100% scripted, but it's easy to overlook this small fact when Prolific Video Game Trailer Voiceover Guy (you know the guy) gets sneered at and vanquished towards the end.

If you'd prefer not to wait, pre-ordering will get you early access to the game's challenge mode. But if you'd prefer not to spend any money at all, a PvP spin on the Magicka formula released late last month in the form of Magicka: Wizard Wars. There's never been a better time for enthusiasts of magical carnage.

PC Gamer

Magicka 2 will release May 26, confirms the cheeky trailer above. The series' unique improvisational approach to attack combinations will arrive with a new artifact system, which introduces the ability to dramatically change the way the game plays. 

Artifacts can be used to make your wizards portly or to add canned applause, which is sure to inspire a boost of confidence as you kill things spectacularly. On the list of actually useful and not very funny things, you can tweak pretty much every gameplay element: enemy strength, magic types and much more can be customized, but artifacts are a finite source so you'll need to choose wisely.

Emanuel played Magicka 2 late last year and described it as "more, slightly prettier Magicka". You can already pre-order it on Steam, where a Linux version is promised later in the year.

PC Gamer

According to Paradox Producer Peter Cornelius, all Magicka fans want is more Magicka. Magicka 2 is certainly that, and I enjoyed the first game as well, but from the little I've played of it at a recent demo, it also has the same problems. Mainly, that its complicated controls lag behind its amazingly creative spellcasting system.

Magicka 2 doesn't do a whole lot to change the formula at all, though in Pieces Interactive's defense, it's a brilliant formula. It's a top-down shooter where you play as a wizard who can cast a staggering number of different spells by combining a handful of basic elements. Take Fire and Earth, cast it as a projectile, and you get a fireball. Take Ice and Arcane, and you get a freeze beam. Pick Fire instead of Heal by mistake and cast it on yourself and your three wizard friends, and you've committed a murder-suicide.

Such mistakes are common, even expected in Magicka. Friendly fire is always on, and while enemies get bigger and harder as you progress, the real challenge is always in improvising the right spells for the right situation without launching ice missiles at yourself in the process.

Ignoring the sheer amount of brain processing power this requires, the button inputs alone are confusing. 

My proudest moment during the demo (which barely redeemed me from numerous times I killed my partners), was after the rest of my team had died while exploring a large, damp cave. I was being chased by more goblins I could handle across a narrow bridge, and as I ran, I rained meteors on myself. As I stepped out of the area of effect, the enemies chasing me stepped into their deaths.

Cornelius said he's never seen that move before. He said there's a lot of combinations and strategies that won't emerge until the game is out in the wild, which is part of what makes it so much fun. There are near endless possibilities open to you from the moment the game starts, and it's just a matter of discovering and mastering them.

Central casting

It's not easy. Demos often make me feel like I suck at games—it's just a result of playing something I've never played before in front of an audience, but I don't think I've ever embarrassed myself by looking down at the controller to make sure I'm pressing the right buttons. Magicka 2 was so confusing at first, everyone who was playing was looking down, bewildered.

It will doubtless get easier with more time, but I'm disappointed Pieces Interactive has seemingly done nothing to teach, encourage, and in general make the whole learning process easier. I didn't play the first level, so I don't yet know how the game introduces itself to new players, but even if it took the time to walk me through a few example spells and what they're good for, casting accurately and consistently is still difficult.

Each spell can take five out of eight elements in different combinations, and be cast on yourself or others in different methods. Even ignoring the sheer amount of brain processing power this requires, the button inputs alone are confusing.

In the first Magicka, different elements were mapped to different directions of the right joystick, unless you were playing with a mouse and keyboard, in which case every element was mapped to a different key. In Magicka 2, the elements are mapped to the face buttons, with two elements for each button that you can alternate between by pressing a shoulder button.

At best, this is a slight improvement which ignores the real issue. It's something that modern character action games have figured out in recent years. Pressing the buttons in the right order is not as interesting as choosing the right move at the right time. In the first Magicka, you could learn a special spell, and look at the combination of elements you needed to choose in order to execute it. It's silly and tedious to bother dialing in these elements every single time for every single spell.

What I wanted to see in Magicka 2 but haven't yet is some kind of method to not only look at special spell recipes, but save them, map them to different buttons or keys, and cast them without having to press five or seven buttons. That would allow me to focus on the the twin-stick shooting, and, more importantly, the creative aspect of crafting spells without frantically pressing buttons and making mistakes.

Without some kind of spell casting refinement, Magicka 2 is just more, slightly prettier Magicka. Maybe it's what fans what, but to me it's not enough of an evolution.

PC Gamer
humble jumbo bundle

Humble Jumbo Bundle. That's quite a mouthful, and if you say it ten times fast it will summon both Beetlejuice and Candyman and open a portal to the underworld. So, y'know, it's probably best to avoid that. However, it's also the name of the Humble Bundle's latest pay-what-you-want sale, which this time discounts Sanctum 2, Magicka with two bits of DLC, and Natural Selection 2. Beat the average and you'll also get Orcs Must Die 2, Garry's Mod and Serious Sam 3: BFE throw in too. If your bank account wasn't summarily emptied during the course of the Steam sale, it might be worth a look.

That average, at the time of writing, stands at $4.10, so you won't have to fork out much of your pay packet/poker winnings/pocket money to get your hands on those six games. The charities receiving some or all or none of your money this time are Watsi and Child's Play, and there will of course be more games added to the deal over time.

The Humble Jumbo Bundle ends in a little over 13 days.
PC Gamer
Magicka Wizard Wars

Magicka Wizard Wars, the free-to-play game I once described as a game of Dota 2 in which everyone on both teams is playing Invoker, is now available on Steam Early Access. You can claim your spot as a founder in this arcane altercation with three different tiers, starting at $13. Jumping in at the $20 tier gets you a free copy of Crusader Kings II, which is half of that game's current Steam price.

Other founders rewards include unique robes and weapons, forum avatars, and at the highest tier, some in-game currency and the ability to name your personal imp minion. If you're a little light on cash, possibly because you kinda sorta accidentally lit a public institution on fire while practicing your wizarding last weekend, you can still sign up free for alpha access, and if selected, you'll get a cool staff and weapon for your trouble.

If you're on the fence about Wizard Wars, go back and check out what Tom Senior, Craig Owens, and I had to say about it
PC Gamer

And so it was that August 30th, 2013 did come to be known as the Day of The Deals. Internet denizens bravely descended on their stores, dodging pay-what-you-want here, and 75% off there. Could any make it through this budgetary gauntlet with their wallets unharmed? That, dear reader, is for you to find out...

Look, basically what I'm saying is there are a lot of cheap games today. The first of which is a staggeringly good Humble Weekly Sale featuring entrées from the Paradox plate.

Here's what's inside:

War of the Roses: Kingmaker
Warlock: Master of the Arcane
Leviathan: Warships
The Showdown Effect
Europa Universalis III Complete

And, if you beat the average (currently at $5.80):

Crusader Kings II

Taken as a full bundle, it's an absurdly good deal. Of the games that I've spent much time with: Crusader Kings II is an excellent strategy centred on lineage and intrigue, Magicka is a satisfying and funny co-op wizard-'em-up, and Warlock is a quick 'n light action-focused 4X. All of the others have reviewed reasonably well, too.

Alternatively, you could get "The Big Kahuna", which costs a flat $125, but comes with 48 games - essentially, all of the publisher's games, with the exception of Europa Universalis IV. The downside of that deal is that you also get Gettysburg: Armored Warfare, but it's okay, you can just ignore it.

The sale runs for another six and a bit days.
PC Gamer

Imagine a game of Dota 2 in which everyone on both teams is playing Invoker, set on League of Legends' Dominion map, and you'll have a rough idea of the general PvP insanity that is Magicka: Wizard Wars. Combining a handful of arcane elements in three-key invocations, the object is to work with your team to secure all three of the radially-placed control points on the map, preventing the enemy from respawning. I found myself thrust into the middle of it all, a simple country skull-basher with little in the way of magical education, to blast, soak, and zap my way through a 4v4 with a few other journalists and some of the game's developers. It took less than 10 minutes to become terminally on fire.
Wizard Wars eschews enough of the standard fare to dodge the "MOBA" label—minions don't play much of a role, and towers, in-game shops, and ability leveling are nonexistent. What it has in common with the Dota-likes, however, is the fact that I found myself calculating odds and planning ahead to the next potential team fight every time I wasn't actively engaged in freezing or burning an enemy conjurer's non-face off. As a matter of fact, Wizard Wars is probably one of the most cognitive games of its kind I've ever played.
Magicka's elements interact realistically with one another, allowing you to designate a team-mate as "Fire Extinguisher Guy."
Among the spells your wizard can cast is a shield that can give you 50 percent resistance to two different elements, or make you immune to one. I found that a large part of winning the game was anticipating what elements I was most likely to get hit with from which players, and tuning my shield accordingly before the first shot was fired. An enemy's active shield is displayed by colored rings around his feet, meaning that one-on-one fights often become a dance of juggling attack and defense elements until somebody's rock bashes up the other's scissors. Things get even more complicated when you factor in attacks using multiple elements, as well as special combos that can create area effects, impede movement, or block enemy projectiles altogether.
Outside of a match, you can customize your wizard's gear (Staff, Robes, Melee Weapon, and a trinket of some sort), as well as his roster of Magicks. Magicks are non-elemental special skills which can be used once you've built up a fighting game-esque super meter—the devs cited Street Fighter as a big inspiration for Wizard Wars' combat. Magicks become progressively more powerful as you fill more of the bar, culminating in being able to drop a meteor storm that can (and in one match, did) kill the entire enemy team in one shot. Or, you know, your entire team. This is Magicka, after all. Friendly fire is enabled in all of its rage-inducing glory, adding one more element you need to keep track of in big teamfights.
Holding these glowy circles depletes your enemies' respawn tickets. Holding them all prevents respawning entirely.
With all of its layers of complexity, Paradox North is taking a surprisingly simple framework and building a tactically complex and fairly unique PvP experience. More of your important decisions are moved out of the item shop and ability bar, and onto the battlefield, creating a meta that has more to do with intuition and mind games than optimization and spreadsheets. If you'd like to leap into the cloak-clothed fray yourself, sign-ups for the alpha have already begun. According to Paradox, the game will "probably" launch free-to-play, and a founder's program is under consideration.
PC Gamer
Magicka: Wizard Wars

After the hilarious, Game of Thrones-spoofing live action trailer this year and the screenshots that came a couple of months afterwards, the Video Game Marketing Formula dictates that the next stop on Magicka: Wizard Wars' press tour is a gameplay trailer, which you'll find neatly packaged behind the cut. Paradox is on a roll with these.

This—and the constant threat of getting scorched by friendly fire—is looking to be super fun. There's just something so delightful about the possibility of unleashing all those ground-shaking powers upon otherwise tranquil fantasy meadows dotted with asparagus farms and quaint wagons, you know? (And I fully expect the dance moves at 0:52 to have devastating effect upon one's foes.)

Though the 4v4 MOBA-inspired PvP game is not due for release till 2014, you can sign up for alpha-testing funtimes on the Magicka: Wizard Wars site now. Gosh, Billy. I swear the ice blast I just aimed squarely at your face was an accident!


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