As always, never enough time to go into great depth, but after a morning's play I reckon this will be a love/hate relationship :/
Love the fact spells can vary in ability now, really cannot emphasise how much of a positive I think this is! I can't wait to see what else Keith has up his sleeves here.
Getting spells as loot - the occasional "epic" spell as a reward sounds great (although the rarity orbs are better there, as they allow you to customise your line-up how you like (even if in a RNG-controlled way ), but I feel that removing the emphasis on crafting your tools (spells) as you need them isn't as fun as it was previously.
Just wondering what anyone else's brainfarts are?
Hm, on the note of the crafting, if you think about it, the previous version didnt have THAT much of an emphasis on it. You could often get everything you needed for a spell by doing just one or two missions of the right type..... which isnt much different from a mission just outright giving you a spell in this version. The only difference is lack of using the crafting table.
Going even further, you could often get enough stuff from ONE mission, that you might not need to worry about a certain spell's crafting cost for the rest of the continent. I often found that for some arcane ingredients, I'd do like, 2 or three missions to get them, and I'd end up with enough stuff to do FIVE full tiers of the spell in question.
Not to mention that in this current version, missions ONLY give you the most common (aka, weakest) versions of the spells for a given tier. If you want better ones..... you have to craft them, there's no other way to do it.
And, even further than THAT..... just because you already have, say, common Fireball..... doesnt mean that crafting another common fireball (if you find you have the ingredients to do so) is a bad idea. As each one will end up with a different procedural effect. And as you said, I too am finding these actually very important. I'm finding myself making more interesting choices in terms of what spell to use for boss fights. Example, I had a rather nasty encounter with a giant blue amoeba; the room it was in, and the particular enemies that were there, and the thing's high rate of fire due to the difficulty level, meant it actually got really nasty, really fast. To deal with it, instead of using a spell it was weak against, I used one that had the negative-haste effect; it weakened the attack pattern by slowing it down quite a good bit, and was probably the only thing that kept me from getting wrecked. This alone means that getting multiples of some spells might not be a bad idea at all, as their use can suddenly change entirely based on these effects. This of course needs experimentation, but I think it added even more to the game than it looks like it did.
And finally, getting the arcane stuffs from stashes/exploring and all that..... SO much better than the previous way. I also like that secret missions really matter now.
All in all, I havent really found anything to dislike about this update, aside from starting on continent 2 without Storm Dash (argh).