We really enjoy RPGs, so were thrilled when we were asked to try this game! Based on the incredible Magic: The Gathering trading card game, it offers people a chance to learn and play the game who may not be able to attend any organised card games, for whatever reason.
Magic: The Gathering is a longstanding collectable trading card game that has been running for eleven years; and this computer adaptation is the latest online edition that attempts to replicate the tabletop experience. The player has a deck of cards; choosing from different coloured suits that represent various kinds of magic. The deck consists of lands, monsters and spells that are used in combat against your opponent. The lands give you magic to summon the monsters and cast the spells, which in turn give you the option to attack or block your opponent.
This version includes a basic deck of cards, unlocking more as you complete the single player game. It also has an option to purchase more from their online store. It features a multiplayer option to challenge friends and opponents online.
In the single player game, a Planeswalker has been cursed, and is now attacking his own kind. You have to find and stop him; defeating others along the way. A very simple storyline, presented in full motion graphic cut scenes; that, although visually impressive, are clearly designed for a smaller screen. This is an issue that plagues the entire game.
As novice players of online Magic, we thought that the tutorial levels would be a perfect introduction to the game; and they were wonderful for explaining the roles of different cards, magic etc. However, they were far too drawn out, with each card choice taking an agonisingly long time to be played. Thankfully, for the most part, they were skippable. But the last tutorial level is a requirement to access the main game; and we found its difficulty to be very much a matter of luck. On our first playthrough, we completed the tutorial with ease; but subsequently it took multiple attempts to defeat the opponent. This was due to the appalling deck handed to you by the computer. Obviously as a card game, you rely on the luck of the draw, but often the result is decided before you even play the first card, because of the way the computer has stacked the decks. This becomes very discouraging, particularly when it is supposed to be a tutorial. That being said, the opponents in the main game don’t seem as impossible to defeat. They aren’t easy, it occasionally takes more than one attempt; but the challenge level feels right.
There were various issues with playing this game – clicks were often not registered by the computer, everything felt very slow to resolve for no apparent reason and occasionally the graphics would freeze. Many of these problems we put down to the fact that it is clearly a game that was originally built for a mobile platform, (you can see this in the menu most prominently: it is obviously built for a touchscreen device). Being designed for a small screen means that it is necessary to zoom in on each card you play to figure out what it does, even if you were very familiar with the card actions you would still have to pause to zoom in and read the name of the card. This slows each round down considerably, removing any element of suspense or drama that you would normally expect from a combat game. You need to be exceedingly patient to play this game.
Overall we felt that this game would be much better if it were faster paced. In its current incarnation it is full of pauses and laboured game sequences that seem intended to promote suspense in an otherwise tame gaming experience but just serve to make it even more tedious to play. That said, it has huge potential; the story behind the game itself is very good, MTG is arguably the best trading card game around, but the execution in this incarnation is sorely lacking. We are quite disappointed to say that we really wouldn’t recommend this game to anybody.