Magic 2014: Review (XBLA, PSN)

written by Rob McKellar on 28.7.13 magic-2014

Several years ago a friend of mine tried to teach me to play Magic : The Gathering. This teaching session lasted for about 2 games. Not even time for a montage to show how much I’d learned. Fortunate really, because I don’t think I actually learned anything about the game.

It’s a good job then Magic 2014 has a good tutorial to show when to throw a goblin at someone or just make a wolf bigger. By the time you’ve gotten to Chandra (the main character of the story) and taken her fiery deck of fire from her, you should be able to stand toe to toe with Mages everywhere. That includes Harry Potter, Gandalf and Paul Daniels.

So I started with the single player campaign. The idea is simple. Work through a set of encounters then meet a boss. Beat him to add his deck into your collection and become even more wizardry. There is a story but somehow in the midst of all this, it doesn’t really feel important. My plan was to get all the cards I could before I go into the swirling mists of multiplayer land to hopefully not have my arse handed to me over and over again. The AI plays exactly the same cards over and over again.

So after a game or two you know which cards are coming next. I hit my own personal roadblock very early on, 2nd encounter in fact. Even on easy I was struggling with these Skirsdag cultists and their shadowborn apostles that they manage to bring into play far too often. He plays a land card, then one of those apostles. Then combat, then another apostle. Your turn. You can usually throw in 1 land card. And maybe a monster or a spell if you have enough untapped land cards already. And it works exactly like that. It couldn’t be more regular if it was a clockwork man eating all bran every day. If the opponents were to mix things up a little more often it’d make a world of difference. This main campaign can be incredibly frustrating before you manage to pull a rabbit out of the hat and walk through the opposition. Ironically I could only get past that 2nd encounter while I put the game on to check I had some card names right. It can be done with a little luck, some perseverance, a cudgel troll and 2 enlarge spells. Very little in life can stand up to a gargantuan troll. Even now though I think I’d rather be playing the multiplayer.

Another single player mode is the Sealed play option. Open a booster deck and use it to beat another planeswalker and you’ll get the chance of some nice rare cards to menace people with. Again it’s a very simple concept that plays well enough.

Magic : The Gathering however, at its core is a social game. It conjures up (see what I did there?) images of people sat around tables all over the world, fighting each other with unfeasibly large decks of doom. Magic 2014 is no exception here. The multiplayer is where it excels. It’s fair to say I’ve lost more games than I’ve won here. But that’s ok, I’m fine with it and not one of those games has been predictable. Both players are drawing random cards into their hands so the game is pretty much a level field. Anyone can beat anyone. You don’t need the extra decks and rare cards to win, even though they are quite nice to have. There’s also a nice tag team option, The Two Headed Giant. Play this and hope you’re partnered up with someone better than you who can teach you a few tricks.

Play the tutorial, steal the red deck from under Chandra’s fiery nose, mix the cards into some kind of crazy Frankendeck, get out there and challenge everyone in the world. Play Magic as it was meant to be and you won’t be disappointed here. Save the single player for when you feel you really need to earn those extra decks, and even then I’d suggest you play the sealed play option first. Fans of the original card game will love it I suspect. If you’re completely new to the franchise it might take a bit of playing to get fully comfortable with it but give it a blast. It won’t be long before curiosity takes over and you’ll be joining the Friday night Magic community.

4 stars
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