Magic: The Gathering is as old as I am. A card game with millions of fans worldwide with a unique set of rules and characters has created it’s own universe of which stories can be found within the cards for each character and creature. The game always looked quite complicated from a distance and I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I first started playing the game. As my first time playing Magic on the PC or as the actual card game, I was really interested to get into the world, as complicated as the card game appears. The PC version of the game features various modes including an online multiplayer mode and single player stories, with expansions, such as Garruk’s Revenge available to purchase in order to expand your own personal collection of cards.
The first thing that sticks out the most has nothing to do with the card game itself. The menu is easy enough to understand and is nicely present, but it’s the blinding white light colour scheme that could easily become a great desk lamp replacement that had the biggest impact on me. From loading screen to cut scenes, to menus and in game, the white bright colour scheme stands strong through the whole game and becomes a little tiresome. I soon realised how it actually does help to highlight the cards and characters in the game more than anything else but I still think the white is a little bit over the top, especially as it fills the screen in card duels too. There isn’t a unique game board, just the white background to play on.
I tried quite hard to immerse myself into the game through the tutorial. As it’s quite a complicated game to just jump into, the tutorial needed to be super easy to understand, so it was slightly difficult to get everything stuck in my head when text on the screen and the voice speaking to me didn’t match up. Occasionally I found myself waiting for the voice to finish talking, and then I would re-read the text, in order for it all to sink in. While this process took a little longer for everything to sync in, it was still very effective in teaching me how to play, and what’s important during the game.
My experience with PC interpretations of card games spans as far as Hearthstone and not much further. Considering this was a game you have to pay for, instead of being free like Hearthstone, I entered the game hoping for smooth animations with detailed sounds, interesting and exciting extras on the board to mess around with. Maybe even a little bit of humour, but I quickly found out that Magic was almost completely the opposite of that.
So let’s talk about gameplay of the game as a whole; the card game as a card game and the PC interpretation of the game. Each set of matches you play are put into little stories. While the card game will always stay the same, the stories that you get to read into while waiting for the match to load are a nice touch and definitely a great way to stop yourself from getting bored of the card game itself quickly. The board you have in front of you is very simple and leaves a bit to be desired in terms of things to look at and notice. The game presents you with 7 cards, with few or little to none sometimes of the ‘lands’ cards needed to actually cast spells and play a wide variety of cards. This is where I first found myself getting slightly annoyed and soon discovered that pulling a new set of cards and discarding my old ones gave me one less card than the last time. This was an annoyance based on nothing but the luck of the draw that became easily fixable by resetting the match all together; an abuse of the system by all means. However, I saved myself from getting terribly frustrated at the about of luck you have to have in order to get a good hand and early game draw which can be essential to win the game.
As you play the game the cards animate quite slick, but occasionally you see the cards snap instead of smoothly animating into place. There’s also quite well thought out audio and there are interesting sounds that help the immersion, but occasionally you hear the same sound effects over and over again without variation. When combining both the animation and sound together you get a good amount of immersion with actions like attacks that stand out well, but nothing out of the ordinary or game enhancing.
The great part about Magic 2015 is that it can get pretty challenging but the game allows you to look at every card being played carefully as a new player while they’re being put down on the board. New players like myself have a great chance to get stuck in the game and start to really learn the cards properly, which is a great advantage to owning this game even if you’re just a fan of the game and would love to learn more about the cards professional players play.
The matches very quickly get more natural and easy to play through once you really know what you’re doing. The game gives enough breathing space for new players, as well as quick game progression for the more experienced players.
To me personally, stacking in the card game is the most interesting and not enough used part of the game. This ability gives players the chance to stop an action the opponent is activating with their card, and counter it with one of your own before it gets activated. It’s quite a unique part of the game from my own experience, and as the name ‘stack’ implies, it could potentially get really crazy if both players had countering card that stacked up on top of each other until one player is left without the power to stop his enemy.
The expansion Garruk’s Revenge is a great way for players to dig deeper into the lore of the Magic universe by offering a new interesting story, playing as Garruk. While giving players the opportunity to expand their deck with access to the new cards that lie untapped within them, the expansion is definitely more difficult than what I experienced in the standard game. I assume that the expansions are aimed at people who have a lot of experience and are actually really good at the game. In terms of the format of the game, nothing really changes. There’s a bit of story and a nice loading screen before you enter the field and you get to face a new opponent. The game board is the same and the only difference is the cards you play with and against. In some way this is a good thing, because you immediately get to play with Garruk’s deck, so you can start learning all about his cards straight away. The pay off for winning the matches is of course some cards from his deck to use in your own and for many players who buy the expansion, potentially the only reason to own it. The scenery that builds up the story before the matches really helps the characters not just become one off throw away characters and Garruk becomes a staple part of the Magic game once you’ve unlocked the cards and you connect with him as a character through the story that plays out between the matches. The enemies are interesting with mysterious motives and the expansion opens the enemies up as new characters to learn more about as well.
It seems that if you are a big Magic fan, or want to really grow your repertoire of cards to play online with, the expansion is a great way to do that. It seems like a dedicated players go to add on choice and as the game allows players to dig deep into looking and learning about the cards as you play them, it could be proven very useful if you were to collect the cards outside of the PC version of the game too, as picking up the expansion is a great way to see what this deck is all about. Unfortunately it appears that this is the only huge benefit that this expansion has to offer, as the game never changes in it’s format or in it’s visuals. There isn’t much more to it that reading into the story of Garruk, battling against his enemies and picking up his cards to use as your own. Depending what kind of Magic player you are and what you’re expecting and wanting out of this expansion, you may be left either very happy, or disappointed if you were looking for the game to change in some way. However I still feel that the majority of people that would want to pick this up, are looking for just the expansion of their deck, and as an expansion, Garruk’s Revenge challenges the players to earn the cards and step into the shoes of a great Magic character and is worth checking out if you’re the kind of player to want to explore all the possible cards and decks out there.
Overall, Magic 2015 – Duels of the Planeswalker is a very well balanced interpretation of the card game. With clearly a lot more about the universe and the game to explore and learn about than I have been able to dig into so far. Although it has a very large amount of newcomer training and features that would help a new player such as myself to start to get into the world of Magic quickly with it’s great card inspection features, I still feel like the PC interpretation aims heavily towards people who aren’t new to the game at all, and that has made the game a little harder to play than I expected. Garruk’s Revenge takes this to a whole new level; the enemies definitely treating me as fresh meat and throwing me out before I get a chance to gain enough life cards. The expansion itself has its focus on the developed players and opens up the lore of Magic even deeper, which is great for long time players of the franchise, which there is plenty of for sure. If you’re long term Magic player the expansion pack is a great add on to pick up as it has more than just the extra cards to collect, but the challenge and story to fight through as well. However, if you’re brand new it’s still going to be a good game if you want to delve deep into the Magic universe and really spend the time on learning the cards using the game. It might be worth holding off from the expansion pack until you know exactly what you’re doing, have a great deck on the way and already have finished the rest of the main games story. If you’re looking for a more casual card game for the PC, this perhaps isn’t the game for you as competitors like Hearthstone have an arcade style light hearted and more polished format. I do feel however Magic has a unique market and this addition to the series lets players far and wide get much more out of their love for the Magic world, or perhaps even be opened up to it with enough time spent with the game.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.