The latest iteration in the casual-friendly Planeswalkers series, Magic 2015 is an attempt to widen the audience of Magic: The Gathering – the great grand-daddy of collectable card games. Presented here in videogame form, the idea is that what you’ll experience virtually will translate one-to-one with an actual Magic game at your local comic book shop.
Magic, if you’re unaware of it, is about building a set of 60 cards and going head-to-head with someone else and their set of cards. By choosing a smart collection of spells, creatures, and resources, the idea is that you’ll increase your chances of winning – but you’ll still need to face off against the luck of the draw and how well your opponent plays their hand.
This year’s iteration of the videogame brings with it some features that fans have been clamouring for, like deep deck-building tools, while inexplicably taking away some that those familiar with the series are sure to miss.
Most notably, the modes have been stripped down to the bare minimum; there’s singleplayer, multiplayer, and...that’s all. Where Hearthstone offers Arena mode – itself similar to a previous Magic mode called Sealed Play – Magic 2015 allows you to play against random monsters in an attempt to unlock booster packs.
Fortunately, deck building itself is robust; you can build anything you like (assuming you have the cards, of course), and there are plenty of tools to help you balance your creations or even suggest extra cards should you be unsure how to complete your dastardly creation.
However, the game’s interface is clunky and slow to use – it’s obvious from the outset that the PC was not the lead development platform.
Figuring out how to choose between menu items took me way longer than I expected, for example (tip: you scroll with your mouse wheel). The game is then very slow to transition from screen to screen, which makes getting in and out of a game a tedious chore.
The flow of the game has changed too. The generous might suggest that’s so it is more in-line with the real Magic experience. The cynical, however, will say that the structure is designed to extract the maximum amount of money from its players, and nothing else.
After beating the tutorial, you unlock a starter deck. Beating opponents with that deck, however, will take more luck than skill. Beefing it up necessitates unlocking more cards, which you can do in an instant with your credit card should you not be that excited about grinding against AI opponents.
Another bizarre design decision for a multi-platform game of this type released in 2014 is the lack of a unified account so that your purchases and progress can follow you from your iPad to your PC to your console. There’s no concept of that – let alone cross-platform multiplayer – which means you’ll have to choose one platform to play the game on should you choose to play it at all.
If you do, don’t choose the PC version. Magic 2015 performs much better, although still not particularly well, on a tablet.
It also looks better on a tablet – even a non-HD one – but there are no options to change the resolution settings. As such, you can’t read text on cards without zooming in, and it’s so chunky the feeling you get is that you’re playing a retro title from GoG.com.
Ultimately, it’s hard to recommend Magic 2015 on PC to all but the Magic-curious. If you want to find out more about how Magic works and are keen to learn the mechanics before you brave your first Friday Night Magic event, this is an adequate way to achieve that goal. Beyond that, however, Magic 2015 falls short in all important ways, and all but hands the videogame CCG crown to Hearthstone.