Magic: Legends Hands-on Preview – Saving the Planes, One Card at the Time
Despite having been launched so many years ago, Magic: The Gathering continues to be one of the most popular trading card games, thanks not only to the mechanics that power the game but also thanks to the universe that has been created by Wizards of the Coast. And it's this deep world that will be at the center of the Magic: Legends experience. The online action RPG in development by Cryptic Studios will delve deep into the Multiverse, letting players explore multiple locations of the Magic universe while fighting all sorts of dangerous creatures with their fully customized characters.
On paper, Magic: Legends seems to offer pretty much everything that Magic: The Gathering fans would look for in an action RPG based on the franchise, especially in regards to customization possibilities. But will it deliver? There's a very good chance it will, based on the hands-on session we had prior to the launch of the open beta.
At first glance, Magic: Legends doesn't seem too different from the countless action RPGs that have been released since the days of the original Diablo. Controlling your character from a top-down perspective, you will have to navigate different locations based on the Magic: The Gathering multiverse, defeating enemies with regular attacks and tons of different abilities and spells, and complete different objectives. The experience is enjoyable enough, but it's nothing groundbreaking.This basic action RPG experience, however, gets shaken up quite a bit by the customization possibilities that the game will offer. For starters, Magic: Legends will feature five different classes, each belonging to five Mana colors - Red, Green, Blue, Black, and White. During my hands-on session, I had the chance to try out the Necromancer, belonging to the Black Mana, and the Geomancer, belonging to the Red Mana. Both classes played quite differently from one another: the Necromancer's basic attack has decent range, which is perfect for attacking safely from a distance while letting the summoned undead do all the dirty work; the Geomancer, on the other hand, is a more close-range oriented class, so the basic attacks were powerful, but lacked in range, forcing the character to get more up close and personal with the enemy. All classes also come with some unique abilities as well as a temporary powered-up state that requires a gauge to be filled to activate.
Alongside the unique class abilities, players will be able to unleash a variety of spells via cards. At any time outside missions, players have the chance to put together their deck, and the included cards heavily influence how their character will play. The best thing about this system is its flexibility, as players are not limited by the Mana color of their character, and they can put together any deck they want. This level of freedom is definitely going to make Magic: Legends the perfect game for all min-maxers out there, also considering that further customization is made possible by different gear and Artifacts.
While the customization features are surely going to be the star of the show in Magic: Legends, mission design seems to have received a lot of love as well. During the hands-on session, I played two different story missions that were quite different. The first mission had me exploring a bigger location, moving from one objective to another to reach the chaotic boss battle at the end. The second had a completely different vibe, as I had to activate and then defend for a set amount of time different generators to power a much bigger one. Things got quite hectic in both missions, and it was only the creatures that I was summoning via cards that prevented them from getting ugly. I was playing solo, however, so it's likely that well-oiled teams of Planeswalkers will have far fewer troubles.
Magic: Legends isn't just going to be about story missions and co-op, however. Magic: The Gathering is all about competitive play, and the action role-playing game by Cryptic Studios will indeed come with PvP modes. I have been told that these modes are still in Alpha, compared to the rest of the features, so it may take some time for the team to show them to the public.
Magic: Legends may not be the most innovative action-role playing game ever, but its solid gameplay design and the countless customization options will surely make it a popular title among Magic: The Gathering fans who love the franchise's lore. The open beta testing will begin on March 23rd, so it's just a few more days until the gates to the Multiverse are open for every player around the world.