Review: Magic 2015 (PC)
Every year I get excited about the next Duels of the Planeswalker game, which has now been simplified to just being called Magic 2015. Every year better features and decks are hoped for, as well as fun modes for playing against your friends. This would be the first time you can build your own deck, rather than just modifying the pre-built decks with 15 or so cards that you unlock by winning games with the deck. It sounds amazing, yes?
The issue with making big changes to the way a game works is the addition of a whole bunch of unforeseen problems. When you finish the tutorials (which do a rather good job of explaining the mechanics and processes that make Magic take place), you get to choose a deck from a list, rather than starting off with one deck and working to unlock others. The issue is that once you choose a deck, there is no going back and choosing one of the other decks. This means that if you decide you dislike the deck, or if the playstyle disagrees with your favourite favourite strategy, you are stuck with the deck you chose until you have won enough games to get other cards from boosters to build a new deck. (Previously, you would unlock decks by beating them in the singleplayer campaign, allowing you to swap between decks when one deck fails against a certain deck type).
MtG can be a fairly long game in itself, especially when watching two players with countermagic and other tricks that can pull them out of a pinch. The joy of playing with humans, though, is that as the decks and cards become familiar, the speed of the average game improves, allowing games to finish in a few minutes. This is not the case in Magic 2015. It seems the game designers have taken every effort to make sure that every phase in a turn takes as long as possible (with some silly lag, which is preposterous). Even once you disable the combat animations for every attack (they are pretty, but waste time) and pressing continue for every card your opponent casts, the phases just take too long. Every combat phase opens a red gulf between the two players to denote that combat could occur, just adding a few seconds to each round pointlessly. The PC also takes really long to decide who and when to block, which seems like something a computer should be able to work out quickly. While I understand that not everyone has amazing reflexes, why not have an option to reduce the amount of time between spells being put on the stack and their resolution. This is especially annoying if you are playing a deck which has few reactive spells, so you have nothing to do during those pauses between spells anyway (the same can be said of when you are tapped out and wouldn’t be able to cast spells in response).
Besides the slow, sluggish pace of the games, the premium cards that can only be obtained through purchases and the slow, random way to get cards to improve your deck, the biggest disappointment is the card drawing (I have played a single game where I didn’t mulligan because my hand was rubbish or unplayable) and the fact that the enemy doesn’t play fair. While it is nothing new for games to cheat to keep up with humans (old racing games). While certain challenge decks used to exist in previous titles, where the enemy would follow a set pattern of cards, it feels like every single player deck uses the exact same opening set of cards, regardless of how many times you play against it. It is cheap and annoying and I hope they patch it out to make the gameplay more like a real Magic game, and less like a string of random challenges while following a weak story of chasing down a cursed Garruk.
I have never before been so unhappy to play a digital version of Magic: The Gathering. The game is slow to play (not only in game speed, decided by decks, but also through a bloated interface with time wasting features during each round too). It is up to random chance to improve upon your deck and several features that were enjoyable (Archenemy) in previous versions are mysteriously absent. The collection of cards is lacklustre, with few cards worth grinding for. Magic 2015 is a massive step back not only in the design elements of the game, but in the gleeful acceptance of a sordid freemium money-grubbing scheme. To top this all off, Steam users have to pay $10 for the pleasure of playing this tablet port, which is free to play in its original format. If you are new to the game and want to learn Magic, rather go play one of the previous versions.