Magicka has replaced Team Fortress II as my go-to game for casual play on the PC. It took me a while to get the controls down, but once I had them, I felt that the game really took off.
Magicka has several really interesting characteristic that we don’t see enough of in games. The first of these is the leveling system, or lack thereof. The Diablo-esque model of constantly increasing your hit-points, armor, weapons, etc, have pretty much fallen by the wayside. With the exception of a few specific spell combos that you pick up along the way, your character ends the game with almost exactly the same number of hit points, powers, etc., that he/she had at the start of the game.
This is something that I’ve really come to appreciate because it makes me feel like I am the one that actually leveled up, and not my character. In Magicka, the need to grind has been taken away by a skill-based system. And when I say “skill based,” I’m talking about the actual skill of the player, and not the artificial skills acquired in the game.
In many ways, this was the thing that I liked about Guild Wars. You hit level 20 relatively quickly, and from that point on your effectiveness is measured by how well you use your skills, not how long you’ve played.
There’s one other thing that I like about Magicka: when you cast the more complex spells, it feels like you are using somatic components on the keyboard. As the muscle memory develops in the hands, it gives you a sense of what it might feel like to be a wizard casting spells in rapid succession.
Oh…you also get to shoot an M-60. Awesome!