Magic: The Gathering - Tactics Preview: Building Your Digital DeckBy Christopher Monfette - Posted Dec 09, 2010
Tear open your latest pack, Magic fans, because the universe of one of card gaming’s most iconic franchises is making the jump to computer screens everywhere. Or at least into the basements of many a fantasy nerd…Enter Magic: The Gathering - Tactics, an immersive, free-to-play game from the folks over at SOE that translates the world of Magic into the strategic, 3D realm of the tactical RPG. We recently sat down with the title and conjured up a few quick impressions.
The title consists of four main modes of play: Solo Single-Player, Pick-up Games, Tutorials and Tournaments. Each type plays roughly the same, though the five-chapter, single-player story unfolds a relatively simple narrative via the loading screens between battlefields and missions. You can play this mode entirely by yourself, but don’t come looking for some sprawling, epic campaign. Additional campaign modes will become available after release, but it’s fairly clear that the focus here will be on the community experience. As it should be. This is Magic after all.
The battlefields are separated into environments of varying terrains, the features of which can obscure your line of sight or combat options. A colored grid will let you know where your player can move on the screen and how far your spells will penetrate into the gameworld. An interactive bar on the left-hand side of the screen shows the turn-order and your spellbar and four-colored Mana wheel populate the bottom. Right-clicking on enemies will bring up a status and bio menu, giving you details on your opponents, and given the tactical element of the game, your position on the field will be incredibly important as well. A well executed flanking maneuver, for example, can result in a guaranteed critical hit.
Players will have a starter spellbook of 40 spells with the entire library of spells consisting of 40% new content created specifically for the game and 60% cards culled directly from the existing Magic pantheon. There are roughly 100 spells and 80 individually 3D-modeled figures in the game. Every completed mission will offer rewards, as will victories in the various pick-up games and tournaments. In addition to the cards you’ll earn and purchase through Magic’s Bazaar system, you’ll also be leveling up your character and building out individual skill trees for each color of magic featured in the game.
Your main currency will be tickets. Rather than trading individual cards – as you would in the physical card game – you can put elements of your deck up for auction in the Bazaar. You’ll both earn and bid with tickets during the auction process, transitioning these tickets into the entry fees for particular tournaments. These competitions are outlined in a detailed calendar on the Tournaments page. You can also purchase additional cards and campaign missions with real-life currency in the store.
Other interesting features include a tremendously complex status screen that’ll no doubt become a huge advantage for the truly hardcore players that’d benefit from a detailed breakdown of their spellbook. Also, a 3D-model viewer will allow players to admire the creatures created exclusively for the game, as well as those familiar to the diehard players.
While not all the rules of the card game carry over – and considering that some of the tactics, cards and spells have been altered or invented to suit the interactive medium – the game feels remarkably true to the world of Magic. We’d anticipate that fans of the franchise will embrace this addition, but grumble that they’ll now be purchasing decks both real and virtual.