Review – Magic: the Gathering for XBLA


Release: June 17th
Genre: Card
Developer: Stainless Games/ Wizards of the Coast
Available Platforms: XBLA
Players: 1-4 (online)
MSRP: $10.00
ESRB Rating: Teen

Magic: The Gathering was released on Xbox live arcade earlier this month. This ten dollar game packs in a fair amount of game-play hours. Magic is not for everyone, but if you are a fan of the card game, you definitely will want to check it out.

If you’re not familiar with the card game, it consists of character, spells and artifact cards that you play against your opponent in an attempt to deplete each others health points to 0. First one to eradicate their opponent’s points to zero wins. Standard RPG/ fantasy rules apply. Decks are built with colored themes, water, fire, dark, light and forest. The real beauty of the game is derived from the complexity within the interaction of these themes. Better cards are unlocked though playing the one player campaign and 2-4 duel and co-op player matches are available online.

This video game is a fairly good representation of what the card game is like in real life. It is a much more convenient form of the game. This game is plagued by a huge number of rules and scorekeeping, all of which is perfectly regulated by the software. The tutorial within the game is a great help to anyone who is a beginner or seasoned veteran who needs a refresher course. The biggest convenience is, of course, the ability to play someone instantly without having to be physically with them, and there doesn’t currently seem to be any lack of players.

The game was a little buggy in parts. I’ve experienced one game lockup and one system crash so far. Computer players start out fairly hard, but once you unlock some of the better cards, things get a bit easier. It could just be me, but the campaign games seem to be oddly stacked against you when it comes to the luck of the draw. Many games felt as if I was consistently waiting for my card to appear while the AI never fell ill to the same malady. Game flow is regulated by a series of timers, so playing instant cards (a card that can be played at any time) can be a little tricky. The biggest woe of the game is a simple technical shortcoming. The screen resolution is painfully low. This baby needs to be rendered in 1080p. I found myself consistently straining to read and identify cards on the fly, but without zooming in (this feature is available, but wastes time) the cards appear muddy at best.

If you are a fan of the card game, this is a must-have. The game is simple, random and highly addicting. Online multiplayer provides a constant stream of entertainment with its varied game play and multiplayer modes. If you’re not a fan of the card game, you might want to check it out; it might be your only opportunity to do so without receiving reprimand for deviating so far from the social norms.

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  • Interesting review. As a fan of the card game, I won’t be buying this until they come out with DLC so I can customize my own deck.

    I would dare say they made this game with people who aren’t familiar with how to play, as it holds your hand through everything (not to sound like I’m complaining, as I think the fact that all the rules are kept in tact by the computer is awesome, its like playing a video game version of Monopoly, you don’t have to worry about cheaters).

    No customized decks though = no sale.. that was the whole fun of the actual card game.