Magic: The Gathering surely needs no introduction. A trading card game that has been going strong now for twenty years, MtG has reached millions of fans the world over and until recently was the most played TCG in history (Yu-Gi-Oh has now taken that throne). With the 2014 set being pre-released this month, this game is the first chance for most people to get their hands on the new cards and use them before they see them in their local tournaments, which immediately makes it worth it for any die-hard Magic player to give this game a go – but how is the game for a newcomer to the TCG? Is it useful for getting into the game, learning the ropes and eventually building your own deck? Or is it completely overwhelming and confusing for novices?
As someone who has had at least one brief introduction to the game, having a gentle grasp on at least the basics, I’m at a slight advantage but I’m definitely no professional. As such, I would be a good gauge of how easily you can learn while playing. The first thing the game gives you when beginning is a multiple choice question of ‘have you played Magic before’ with the answers being ‘none’, ‘a little’ or ‘a lot’. These options would seem to dictate the intensity of the tutorial dialogue and how many tutorial stages you have to play to get through to the main campaign. As it stands, I picked ‘a little’ and jumped straight in. Even choosing this option, the game ensures you’re up to scratch with five stages in a tutorial that attempts to teach you in a hands-on approach all major facets of the game, from summoning and attacking or blocking, to artifacts and enchantment cards. It’s a fairly decent way of doing things as, while it allows some freedom in your moves (something which almost cost me in one game) it still does a good job of holding your hand enough to ensure victory is all but guaranteed.
In terms of teaching you the finer arts of strategy and timing, the game falls a little bit flat. It does a great job of showing you which ‘phase’ of the turn you’re in but sometimes the constantly moving bar that whisks you through each stage of a turn, coupled with the sheer amount of moves being played, can become a tad overwhelming at times. However, with enough practice this soon becomes a non-issue and you’re constantly checking your cards to see if you can stop said timer to activate responses and get in cheeky little shots at your opponent when they least expect it. The strategy side of things is obviously something that develops with repeated play and this is where existing Magic players are going to have a major edge – the game does give you some basic ideas for combos which emerge in the opening tutorial stages. One in particular sees you given a card that can use mana to summon multiple low-strength tokens, then giving you a way to easily summon a creature that can use an ability that buffs one of your creatures to a very decent level of toughness. Couple this with your field-swarming summoner card and you have achieved victory in what the game wants you to think was a creative manner.
Overall, the game is presented well – the menus and graphical touches are all very ‘Magic’ and have the unique flavour fans have come to know and expect from the franchise. It’s not a far cry from last year’s iteration of the series but returning players probably aren’t in the least bit interested in the aesthetic side of things. That said, the visual flourishes that occur whenever a certain type of effect is activated are well done and clearly represent what they are supposed to be. The music is great and atmospheric but sometimes became stuck on the menus which was a tad iresome but nothing that can really ruin the experience. On the artwork, not much can really be said that hasn’t already been said a hundred times before – Magic has some of the best artwork of any trading card game and the character portraits and new 2013 cards are no exception to this.
So is it worth a go? I’d say if you’re already a Magic player and you don’t already have this, it’s definitely worth the price of admission – the deck building has reportedly been improved upon since 2012′s offering and this will obviously allow you to test out all your new strategies before formally using them in real, local play. Not only that, but if you’re ever away from Friday Night Magic and you fancy playing someone, this is always an option. If you’re new to Magic and maybe interested in learning to play, there really isn’t a better starting point short of getting yourself down to your local card shop and jumping right in – but even then, this game still comes out on top as it won’t let you perform illegal actions and, as mentioned, it does an adequate job of teaching you what you can and can’t do. All in all, definitely a worthy package for experienced MtG players and newcomers alike – however, if you have no interest in Magic or card games in general, probably not your cup of tea.
This review was done using a review code provided by Plan of Attack, A PR group representing Stainless Games
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