It could be said that Magicka is a large departure from the normal Paradox released title. The standard Paradox game often involves the grand strategy genre, so it's refreshing that they have tackled the hack and slash genre. Although it suffered through a bumpy development and surprised the world with a stealth release, players can finally band together and experiment with a wide variety of spells.
One look at Magicka and you might confuse it with a Diablo clone, but this could not be further from the truth. Unlike Diablo, Magicka's appeal relies on its innovative spell system. Instead of running around and slashing your enemies, you have a set of eight spells; Water, Fire, Earth, Cold, Lighting, Shield, Arcane, and Life are at your disposal to mix and match to create even more powerful spells.
Having no Mana to worry about, each spell can be stacked five times, or combined to varying effect. Each spell can be cast as projectile or do damage in an area. You're also able to cast spells on yourself to cancel out certain hazards such as being on fire or when in need of healing. For example, stacking five fires on top of each other unleashes a massive flamethrower on your enemies. Combine a rock with a fire spell and you just made a projectile fireball. Certain elements such as lightning and water cancel each other out when stacked, however you're able to drench your surrounding enemies and then cause maximum damage by unleashing a massive chain lightning.
Besides stacking attack spells, spell books that you find on your quest contain helpful and often very powerful spells call Magicks. Haste for example is cast by stacking lightning, arcane, and fire and then using that on yourself to give yourself a speed boost. Other Magicks of which there are 21 in total include Rainfall, Grease, and Thunderbolt. Exploration is encouraged as certain spells can be used to access hidden areas, such as being able to freeze the lake and crossing it to find a hidden spell book, or dousing fires with water to access sealed off areas.
This amount of experimentation will no doubt lead to some mishaps. I found that the monsters didn't really put up that much of a challenge, outside of a few bosses, but I found myself dying more because of accidental spell casting. Sending off a chain lightning while soaked or in a body of water will kill you, same with accidentally stepping into grease that has been lit up with fire.
Multiplayer is another major component of the game, but getting online was a pain. Not only were there only a scarce amount of games, but almost all of them timed out before letting me join. Once you've connected however, it's an absolute blast. The game becomes much easier since now you can coordinate attacks and combine spells to maximum effect. The game contains a few graphical and sound bugs but it has been patched numerous times since launch which shows the developers are at least working to fix these problems.
The biggest issue I had however were the controls. The mouse and keyboard setting is the best for spell casting as each of the eight spells are mapped to QWER and ASDF. This setup makes for quickest spell combining and execution. However sending off these spells is another thing. The right mouse button shoots the spell as a projectile while Shift and RMB cast it as an area spell. Middle mouse button casts it on yourself and the Space bar activates Magicks. On the other hand, playing with a 360 controller completely reverses this. Casting, whether its projectile, area or self is easily mapped to the triggers and Y button, but the process of spell stacking is an issue. The right stick has to first be pointed in a direction, Up, Down, Left or Right which reveals two spells, and then slightly tilted to select that certain spell. This makes stacking and especially executing Magicks a tedious process not to mention it takes quite a toll on your thumb.
Besides Adventure mode, the Challenge mode tasks players to defend themselves against waves of increasingly harder enemies. Unless you're super proficient and a master spell stacker, I'd avoid trying to do these solo, as these are meant to be enjoyed with multiple people.
Though it has some hurdles to overcome, some bugs to exterminate, and a fairly inconvenient control scheme, Magicka is a thoroughly charming and entertaining tongue in cheek adventure.