Magic: The Gathering is considered the big bang of the immensely successful analog trading card games. But the digital version Magic: Arena has also enjoyed great popularity for years. Cryptic Studios (Star Trek Online, Neverwinter) will soon be breaking new ground with the free-to-play title Magic: Legends and crossing the imaginative world of cards with the isometric gameplay of an action role-playing game à la Diablo. We were able to see what comes out of the interesting mix of genres in the run-up to the soon-to-be-launched open beta.
The adventure in Magic: Legends begins with a Planeswalker, one of five pre-designed character classes. We were allowed to play two short sections during our one-hour play session: a bright green jungle world, in which water sources had to be freed from poisonous spores, and a steampunk cemetery, on whose gloomy ways it was necessary to defend king-of-the-hill positions against hordes of zombies. Both levels, we were told, are only a fraction of Legends.
Welcome to the multiverse
In the finished game, a total of five worlds with numerous other areas await the players – the so-called multiverse. A hub in each of these worlds ensures easy fast travel between the worlds and serves as a social meeting point. The hunt for loot and monsters can be played from there with up to three players in co-op – a pleasure that we unfortunately had to do without during the short game time.
Magic veterans, however, will recognize some of the world and its characters. With a lot of love, Cryptic gives the ruins, wide plains and magical symbols from the map cosmos a stage. During our short playing time alone, the Magic heart beat faster with joy because so many nostalgic references to novels and background stories from the card world were revealed in the game environment. Stop and take a look around!
When we asked, the developers also told us that well-known lore veterans such as the magician Jace, the angel lady Serra or the corpse tinker Geralf are waiting for the players with one or the other task. Anyone who has always wanted to get up close and personal with the legends of the Magic world can easily fall into anticipation.
Trading-Card meets Action-RPG
But how do card games and Diablo gameplay fit together? Quite simply: What skills like teleport or fireball are in Diablo and Co., are simply cards in Magic: Legends. They work like skills, they just have a different name. A whopping 175 cards are waiting to be looted by resourceful planeswalkers or unlocked with found materials.
Each planeswalker selects twelve cards from the huge pool, the so-called deck. Four of them are immediately active, after using a card the hero automatically draws a new one from the deck. This happens randomly, so you never know which combination you will be holding in your hands next. Tadaa, that’s how easy it is to clone a Diablo card game. So far, so Magic.
Beat like in Diablo?
The turbulent fights from the isometric perspective play out amazingly exciting thanks to the random factor of the cards drawn. For example, if a single card freezes a whole horde of enemies, it feels extremely powerful. With a little luck with the drawing, the cards can sometimes come together to form interesting combinations that ensure a pleasant flow of the game and spectacular tactics.
This is how we conjure up a huge zombie that can be easily revived with the next card drawn after it dies. Another time, the Planeswalker lets the enemy go down in the crackling rain of fire before shock-freezing them with another card. The station wagons ignite with spectacular effects that cover the battlefield pretty quickly with fire, explosions and summoned monsters.
It all depends on the colors
When building decks, Cryptic adheres to the model of the trading card game. Five colors are available: red, blue, green, black and white. These decisively decide on the play style of the deck and thus of the planeswalker. From aggression to controlling the playing field, there should be plenty of room for creative ideas, just like with the real cards.
The two ready-made decks that Cryptic had provided for our gaming session each played completely differently. While the green and black beast reanimator deck relies on a few expensive giant monsters that can be constantly summoned and resuscitated, a red fire deck with many smaller spells set fire to the enemy hordes. Both decks made for satisfying combinations and could be learned quickly using their card texts.
By their very nature, trading card games are designed so that players regularly buy new cards. It should be clear to every trading card player from the outset: “free-to-play” in the sense of “free” and magic – they don’t go together. Magic: Legends is completely free to play, but if you leave a few euros for booster packs and accelerators in the in-game store, you should make much faster progress. However, Cryptic has assured that all cards can also be captured as loot or quest rewards in the game – but that should take time.
Because many players complained about a lack of loot variety in the course of the last closed beta, Cryptic has also added for additional equipment in the form of artifacts and five equipment slots that now have to be equipped. The valuable parts for it can be found either as loot from opponents or in chests after completing a series of quests. If you want to make faster progress, you can also pick up your credit card and buy accelerators.
On March 23, the open beta of the free-to-play action role-playing game will start in Cryptic’s in-house Arc Store and in the Epic Games Store. If you want to register, you can do so on the Developer homepage do.