Magic 2015 gets rids of some of the best aspects of its predecessor and replaces them with questionable design decisions which totally ruin the experience.
For most games it would be difficult to justify the release a new entry in the series every single year. But up to now, the virtual version of Magic: The Gathering had managed to succeed in this regard because the TCG added new mechanics, cards, modes and features on each subsequent entry. Sadly, Magic 2015 destroys what previous games in the series had built. There’s unnecessary monetization, modes that were in previous games are nowhere to be found here and building decks takes more time than it should because you have to grind for specific cards. Underneath all those issues, there’s still the Magic: The Gathering we know and love, but it’s hard to ignore some of its problems.
The latest entry in the series, Magic 2014, was a solid iteration because it featured a variety of cards, the mechanics were well-explained, the UI was slick and fast, there was a multiplayer mode, puzzle mode, intuitive deck editor that although limited, was great to manage your deck. Unfortunately, Magic 2015 gets rids of some of the best aspects of its predecessor and replaces them with questionable design decisions which totally ruins the experience.
But before moving on, maybe you’ve never head of Magic: The Gathering, so here’s what you should know. In the game, you and your opponent assume the roles of planeswalkers, powerful wizards that have the ability to control creatures and spells. Both players start with 20 life and the main objective involves reducing the opponent’s life to 0 using cards from your deck. There are different types of cards to take into account: lands give you energy to conjure up spells and summon creatures, creatures are useful to attack and defend and finally, spells grant you additional effects. It’s worth mentioning that cards come in different colors that represent both elemental and mechanic changes. Red, for instance, is used to make direct damage to players, which used for healing, green is used to summon large creatures and so on.
Naturally, a significant part of the game involves carefully choosing the cards to create a specific strategy to defeat your opponent in a concise manner. Since there are hundreds of cards to choose from and each of those cards has different effects, Magic: The Gathering is, without a doubt, one of the deepest and most strategic trading card games available in the market, both digital and physical. As soon as you understand the mechanics and concepts surrounding the game, it’s easy to see why people from all ages have been hooked to Magic for such a long time and why they’re so passionate about the game. Unfortunately, Magic 2015 has its fair share of problems and the worst part about them is that they could have easily been avoided.
For whatever reason, the developer thought it would be a good idea to introduce microtransactions (maybe to compete with Blizzard’s Hearthstone,) but this idea completely backfired, since it completely ruined the experience for anyone who wants to play the game. In order to unlock cards, players need to play the single-player campaign over and over or purchase cards with real money. The former is a tedious and painfully slow process and while you can unlock the entire collection by just playing the campaign, it’ll take you dozens of hours to do so. Alternatively, you can buy booster packs, card collections and foil cards to accelerate the process and here’s where the entire proposition becomes sleazy.
Premium boosters cost $1.99 and they include 10 cards you can use in the campaign and PVP modes. The complete card collection cost $19.99 and features every card from every plane. Alternatively, every card from a specific plane (“planes” is the name given to the different settings) costs $4.99. Finally, foils lets you convert the cards you already own into premium foil cards which is just a cosmetic change. The shop is integrated right into the game’s main menu and while I never felt the need to buy cards, players who have specific strategies or decks in mind will probably have to shell out some money or they will have to spend a lot of time playing the main campaign until they unlock the cards they need. Either way, the way in which unlocking cards works is terrible, mainly because microtransactions feel completely unnecessary and the alternative seems like a waste of time.
Apart from the traditional campaign, Magic 2015 features a multiplayer component. The multiplayer portion of the game’s still terrific, but due to the presence of microtransactions, some matches feel woefully unbalanced. There were definitely cases when my opponent had spent money on cards because their decks were more solid and cohesive than mine.
Apart from the traditional PVP, you can participate in two, three or four-player matches and while these are hard to recommend to newcomers, seasoned players will have a terrific time trying to defeat more than one opponent at the same time. The game’s extremely strategic and making a single mistake in these matches is the difference between winning or losing, since you have more than one opponent to worry about.
For the first time, creating and customizing new decks is a possibility and while this works as well as you’d expect, getting the cards you need takes so much time or money that only avid fans of the game will make use of this feature. Unfortunately, modes that appeared in previous games in the series (such as puzzle, two-headed giant and sealed play) are nowhere to be found in this iteration and that’s a shame because they added variety to the experience.
Underneath the microtransactions and anemic number of modes, there’s still the Magic: The Gathering we know and love, but it’s hard to ignore some of the game’s problems. Magic 2015 could have been another exceptional entry in the series, but some questionable design decisions make the game feel like a way of promoting the card game and little else.