Wanna know a secret? I’m a terrible person. Even worse: I’m a hypocrite, and my excitement about the release of Magic 2014 is proof for that. Everytime one of my “bro friends” gets hyped about the release of a new FIFA, NBA, NFL or other generic sports title, my reply to their enthusiastic talk is: “isn’t it just the same game every year, with somewhat better graphics?” My friends hate me for that, but it gives me a feeling of superiority. I’m better than these simple-minded part-time gamers, who can be satisfied by playing the same game over and over again. My refined tastes long for new, innovative gameplay, daring plots and rich worlds, stimulating all my senses to–
BAM! MAGIC 2014 ANNOUNCED! NOW WITH SEALED PLAY! BUY THIS GAME!
Whaaat?! Magic 2014 will be the exact same game than the previous editions, but now it has a limited deck-building functionality through Sealed Play? BEST GAME OF 2014!
Okay, the reaction above is somewhat exaggerated, but it shows the hypocrisy that I feel ashamed of. I have become a victim of whatever mind tricks my FIFA-playing friends have fallen for, and I do not even mind! Magic is Magic, so you can’t change the game that much. Why would you even bother buying Magic 2014 then, if you own any of the previous versions? In order to answer that question, and to proof to myself that there’s more new things in this game than in any future NBA title, I’ve spent my last night playing it for you. Spoiler alert: I’ll still be a hypocrite by the end of this review.
For those who have never heard of Magic, let me help you out from under that rock sum it up for your. Magic: the Gathering is the mother of all trading card games, boasting about twelve million players worldwide who invest money in cards, building decks and battling each other with them. The game has evolved a lot since its humble beginnings, and is still the number one trading card game. Since 2009, Wizards of the Coast publishs Duels of the Planeswalkers, video games that capture parts of what the game is about, offering a good start for new and great pastime for veteran players. There’s no fancy visual representations for the battles, focusing on the visualization of the “real”, physical card game. So if you’re looking for epic battles in the style of Yu-Gi-Oh, you better pass up on this one. If you are an experienced player or want to learn what Magic is about, Magic 2014 is a good place to start.
The game plays like, well, Magic. You pit your deck of choice against that of your enemy, unlocking cards and new decks along the way. The cards are a mix from recent sets, along with a few reprints and new cards from the upcoming Magic 2014 set. Experienced players will enjoy this as a way to preview those cards, while returning players will recognize a few cards from back in the days (though they might wonder why Serra Angel is now an uncommon card). I always liked that the video games focus on the classic and “timeless” cards, leaving possibly confusing and very set-specific mechanics and synergies out of the game. Veteran players will get a chance to revel in nostalgia, while new players will not be confused by a deluge of keywords and complicated strategies.
This brings me to my gripe with this game. It is clear to see that M14 (yeah, that’s what we’re gonna call it from now on) focuses on the beginning player. Cranking up the difficulty helps a lot when it comes to the AI, but veteran players will be bothered by the biggest problem of the game: there’s no real deckbuilding. Sure, there’s a bunch of different decks to unlock, and you can customize them within their assigned card pools, but you can’t mix and match decks. The reason for this is simply to draw players to the real game, which is where Wizards of the Coast earns its money. It’s that one limit that has always annoyed me in previous games, and this one is no exception. Luckily, the developers gave us Sealed Play, which is in my opinion the coolest feature of M14.
Sealed Play has you build a deck from the content of six booster packs, and field that deck against your opponents. Next to the fact that Sealed Play allows you to create entirely unique decks, it also teaches you valuable lessons about the fine art of deck construction. This is an essential skill if you plan to play the “real” game, and it’s also one of the coolest parts of Magic. When playing a Sealed Play campaign, you will earn new boosters along the way to fine-tune your deck, giving you more possibilities to crush your opponents and see them driven before you. What, if I can make a Conan reference, I’ll make one.
Next to this big addition, M14 boasts dozens of tiny changes. Multiplayer hasn’t changed that much (though you can also use your Sealed deck online), and the different singleplayer modes are also unchanged. In that sense, M14 is just like, say, FIFA 2014: the same game as last year, with a few changes.
Still, I enjoy the gameplay very much, will probably spend too much time with Sealed Play and ask myself in the end why Magic is still such an awesome game. I can’t wait until my FIFA-playing bud watches me playing, and simply says: “isn’t it just the same game every year?” A sigh will leave my mouth, and I will meditate on the contradictions in my life…right after I’ve finished another match.
+ Great introduction for beginners, entertaining game for veterans
+ Sealed Play adds tons of replay value
+ For ten bucks, you get a lot!
– It’s like Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013, but with Sealed Play
– Still no real deckbuilding
– It reminds me of my hypocrite statements, giving me a bad feeling in my tummy.