Once again I find myself sitting in front of a new Magic game. As a Magic The Gathering card player I have a soft spot for the game. I love the artwork and complexity of the game but these days I struggle to find an opponent to spa with. So the video games are my way of getting my Magic fix, or at least in theory. So far I have been rather disappointed by the series but still get excited every time to see if they’ve got it right.
Rather than creating your own deck or being forced to use a single deck the first thing you will do in Magic 2015 is choose your colours, and therefore your deck. I’ve always been a fan of white so that was my first choice but then for some reason you are required to pick another colour. Not such a problem as I don’t mind a White/Blue mixed deck but for some reason you have to use a mixed colour deck.
So with my White/Blue deck I proceeded to work through the tutorial. It does a very good job of teaching you everything there is to know and lucky for those who know the game, either from previous video games or the card game, can skip it. Oh rejoice! I don’t have to spend an hour learning how to play a game I already know very well. If you skip you go straight to your first duel which you must first pass in order to proceed. You can also reselect your deck colours so it functions well as a testing duel to make sure you’ve got the right deck for you.
As ever with Magic it’s a tough fight. Especially as you have no options to edit your deck at this point. It can be slightly frustrating as Magic is so heavily reliant on deck building and you’re left against a superior deck with very few options but to retry and strive on.
But as you fight and defeat opponents you earn booster packs with cards to improve your deck. It’s a simple but effective reward system that ensures you deck keeps improving. One of the biggest problems I’ve had with previous Magic games is the lack of new cards to keep altering your deck with. It seems easy to give you a way to grind out for cards and improve you deck but for some reason the Magic games always seem to resist it.
When you get past the tutorial to the main campaign map you will have a series of Planeswalkers to duel with. Each time you defeat one you unlock another until you finish the zone and move onto the next. But Magic 2015 provides you with a repeatable area for each zone that you can grind out to acquire more cards. There’s a small selection of enemies you may fight but you can keep coming back, getting more booster packs and ultimately improving your deck to take on the real threats. This does make Magic 2015 quite ‘grindy’ but I like that.
It also means that eventually you can craft yourself a single colour deck if that’s what you want. I don’t really understand the focus on mixed decks. Sure they’re good but I don’t really want a mixed deck as I always find single colours more effective. I wonder if the game knows this and makes you wait but either way after a couple of hours you’ll have a decent handful of cards to properly make your deck with. The selection of cards is reasonable and there’s just enough to keep you altering and shifting your deck to take down your often superiorly equipped opponents.
But even though the card selection is enough to craft a reasonably potent deck the overall selection is disappointing. Mainly because you’ll need to pay to access some cards. They’re not attainable in game at all. And while you don’t need them it makes online play a tricky concept. If you pay you’ll have a better chance to win. That’s called pay to win. Also for some reason certain cards that your single player opponents use are not attainable either, regardless of if you pay or not.
There’s also not much in the way of game modes either. I usually play the core game single player anyway so it wasn’t too much of a problem but those who enjoyed the challenge modes will be disappointed. Even though I didn’t play them much I still enjoyed them every now and again and the option would be nice. Especially the clever puzzle style modes.
It’s impossible to finish this review without pointing out how irritating the menu is. It’s 100% focused on mobile platforms and it’s obvious. I fumbled around for ages before I understood how to properly use it and the transition animation every time you select something is just plain annoying. If I click something I want a response as quick as possible, not a fancy animation.
I enjoy the grind. I enjoy the single player. But the pay wall is just unnecessary, even though it wouldn’t cost you that much to acquire all the cards, it’s not what the game should be about. I don’t understand why the game modes are missing. I can’t think of a single reason to remove something that people enjoyed. And while the single player is great I want more cards. Why aren’t there more? WHY?! There’s a lot of different cards in Magic and the relatively small selection in Magic 2015 seems arbitrary. I haven’t collected new cards in years but I probably own more actual cards than are in this game.
However, I am really enjoying Magic 2015 and will be playing it long after this review. But I’d rather pay more for the game and have access to all the cards, even if I’d have to grind out for hours to get one. Those who enjoyed the other game modes will be disappointed with Magic 2015. Some of the negative reviews out there are, I think, overly harsh but it really depends what you want out of Magic. I wasn’t a fan of 2014 and actually prefer this one, despite its flaws. Either way, yet again, so close yet so far.