Thursday, September 3, 2015

Magic 2014 - 20/20 hours

Well, I really enjoyed myself with this game. I love playing Magic: the Gathering. I love looking at the cards. I love sorting through them looking for synergies. I love laying down overpowered combos that reverse the course of the game at the drop of a hat. If this game had a more thorough deck-building system, it would be perfect.

I think the part of the game I enjoyed the most was examining the preconstruct decks in the deck manager. A lot of the cards I'd never seen before, and it was fun to see how the professionals design a competitive deck, outside the constraints of having to release something to the mass market. I think, if I were trying to get some of these decks in card form, they'd cost something like hundreds of dollars, so for real Magic nerd like myself, it's a little like being able to test drive a swanky automobile.

But aside from sheer card-nerdery, the part of the actual gameplay that most appealed to me was the challenges. Bascially, you're given a board position and you have to try and win in one turn. It was a neat way to see some tricky combos. I finished all but one. I figured it out in principle, but when I tried it, I managed to fall 2 life short of victory (the opponent started with 65, and a normal magic game has you starting with 20). Formally finishing it would have meant going back and mapping it out with a flow chart to get the absolute most from my mana and card pool, and it simply wasn't worth it just for an achievement.

Here's the solution, so you can see what I mean:

It's fun, but you have to disappear into the rabbit hole of MtG mechanics minutiae to reach the solution. I decided I'd rather look at cards.

Overall, I went into this expecting a weak-tea substitute for "real" Magic: the Gathering. What I got was . . . well, a weak-tea substitute for real Magic: the Gathering, but it turns out that even absent the ability to look through my 20 year collection or the social interaction of a face-to-face game, the fundamentals of Magic so strongly appeal to me that this was one of my better video game experiences.

I'm not sure how much of this I can attribute to nostalgia. There's no denying that part of the fun for me was judging virtual cards in the context of my experience with the physical game. I could look at a combo and say "whoa, that's neat," and not just be referring to a particular game mechanic, but to a nuance of a broader real-world hobby. I feel like if I were a total Magic novice, a lot of this game would have been wasted on me (plus, it's been so long since I learned the game that I can't say anything about how good an introduction it might be to the rules).

However, I'm not sure whether I should count this as a negative. I can't be anything but what I am, so it would be absurd to judge a game by the hypothetical experience of an alternate me. So let me just say, despite the fact that I am overburdened by games due to a series of impulsive and foolish purchases, I do not count Magic 2014 among them. I would have wanted to buy this game even if I were forced to play it for a hundred hours or more.

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