Magic 2014: The Gathering comes to Android and Apple
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When Magic: The Gathering (Magic) was first published in 1993, Richard Garfield and Wizards of the Coast found that they’ve tapped into an undiscovered goldmine. Established in the era of pen-and-paper and tabletop RPGs like Dungeons & Dragons, Magic’s combination of the elements of a tabletop game, a trading card game, and innovative new elements all enticed thousands upon thousands of gamers to try it out. Within months, the game grew to an international phenomenon, and in 2011 – 18 years after it was first established – Magic enjoyed a fan- and player-base of approximately 12 million people.
Much of Magic’s success comes from the game’s adaptability, and how Wizards of the Coast has continued to improve the game throughout the years. With thousands of cards released in expansion packs and new abilities developed every quarter, players of Magic are treated to an experience that’s constantly changing and evolving. And although the game had been developed as a tabletop trading card game, Wizards of the Coast has since adapted with technology, bringing the game to the virtual world with online version of Magic.
As further proof of Wizards of the Coast’s commitment to innovation, Magic 2014 was released in January of this year. With its full title being Magic 2014 – Duels of the Planeswalkers, the game puts you in control of a Planeswalker who traverses the Multiverse, playing various story-lines as you uncover new cards to power up your deck, defeating hordes of enemies and fellow Planeswalkers.
Magic is only one of the dozens of games that have begun porting tabletop RPGs and card games into the mobile industry. An award-winning indie game, Knights of Pen & Paper, has also brought traditional tabletop role-playing to mobile gamers, albeit adding their own twist. While the experience of playing Magic is understandably incomparable to most other trading card games, it’s best to still look at Magic 2014 with an objective eye.
As expected, the gameplay remains quite true to the actual trading card game – something that can be considered quite a feat, given how complicated some of the rules of the game are. When playing alone, players can choose to play a Campaign, which allows them to explore the story and areas of the Multiverse, unlocking decks and discovering cards.
Sealed Play, on the other hands, is more akin to the experience of building your own Magic deck in the real world. By opening booster packs, you are able to build our own deck and customize to your heart’s content, fighting many different enemies as you go along.
The Deck Manager is also quite straightforward, and it gives players the option to easily add or remove land cards, as well as rates the decks created according to Creature Size, Deck Speed, Deck Flexibility, and Synergy.
The battle system should be a breeze for any gamers who’ve already been introduced to Magic. For those who are less versed however, there are also step-by-step instructions throughout the battles – quite annoying if you forget to select “Never show this message again” after each prompt. These popups will continue to show up as you play more cards with varied abilities.
It’s also a great way to learn how to play the game, as throughout the battles, each card has a “More info” tab that explains what each ability or card type does. If there’s a downside to the battles, however, it’s that the AI could be improved. The AI opponents in both Sealed and Campaign modes only follow a strict set of moves, making the battles predictable.
Fret not, as the game also has a Multiplayer mode, which lets players connect with others via Bluetooth in order to put their skills to the test. Using the decks they've built throughout the game, they can fight and refine their own gaming styles. This feature of being able to play test your deck against another person is quite important in the game of Magic, as any experienced Planeswalkers will tell you. It’s learning from others that truly allows players to evolve their game, regardless of what game is being played. As Matt Ashton quotes, “Pay attention. Every bit of information you can take in is very valuable for the learning process. Watching every bet and thinking why each person is doing what they’re doing is great for considering how to play your own hands in future and for getting reads for the present.”
Does Magic 2014 do the franchise justice? Beyond a shadow of a doubt, it does, but for a price. While the base game comes for free to both Android and Apple users, upgrading to premium to unlock more decks, and even the multiplayer mode, costs $9.99 – a small price to pay.