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Magic: The Gathering—Tactics Hands-On Preview

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Continuing the coverage from last week's visit to Sony Online Entertainment, here's a rundown of the upcoming Magic: The Gathering—Tactics for the PlayStation and PC.

Background: I have a hard time imagining that there are people reading this blog who have by some strange circumstance never heard of Magic: The Gathering. I mean, it's been a runaway success since 1993 and claims several million players all across the globe. However, in the odd event you have no idea what I'm referring to, it's a collectible Fantasy-themed trading-card game where two (or more) players square off against each other using spells and creatures. For more information, click here.

Sony Online has taken this extremely popular property and now transformed it into something slightly different. Magic: The Gathering—Tactics still uses the same basic premise of using cards to do battle, but now everything plays out in full 3D using a turn-based, grid-based system similar to what you might find in a standard strategy role-playing game.

The game: This might get a little nerd-intensive. Bear with me.

In Tactics, players start out by making a deck just as they would with the standard card game. The big difference is that now players have an actual avatar and combat happens in maps complete with various pieces of architecture. In the match I saw, two characters were doing battle in a swamp where fallen logs needed to be navigated around, and line of sight had to be taken into account.

That last sentence may have utterly confused Magic players, but let me explain...

Certain rules of Magic have been tweaked and interpreted in ways that make sense for a standard RPG, but have never been seen before in the card game. For example, when a Serra Angel is summoned, she must be navigated around the map and her life does not replenish at the beginning of each round. When Elvish Archers attack an enemy, they must actually be able to see what they are shooting at. Even more mindblowing? There are no Land cards in a player's deck—Mana (the game's "currency" used to play cards) is awarded to the player every turn in colors based on the ratio of their cards.

It would take a huge amount of time and effort to go into every nuance that's different between the standard game and Tactics, but let me just say that as someone who is more than familiar with the subject material, Sony's efforts to implement it in a totally different way were extremely interesting and creative. I have a feeling a lot of players are going to be quite shocked when they see how the game has been reworked from top to bottom.

Final Impressions: I haven't played Magic in years, but seeing it in this new context had me seriously considering jumping back in. Taking a card game I've spent a big chunk of my life playing and extrapolating it into a strategy RPG (one of my favorite genres) is like the old peanut butter/chocolate thing taken to an entirely new level.

Other important bits of info:

  • Players will be able to buy virtual cards (for real money, of course) as either singles or packs.
  • Some cards in Tactics were created especially by Sony for this game, and have never been seen before in any traditional Magic set or expansion.
  • Players who want to buy or sell cards will have access to an online bazaar that functions similar to eBay. Player-to-player buying/trading will not be allowed as a way of cutting down on fraud and reducing any potential game-breaking issues.
  • There will be a variety of online events take part in, offering a range of prizes and coming in several different formats.
  • The game will be free to play (at least on PC) and will offer a basic set of cards and the first campaign for no cost. Additional campaigns and additional cards will (of course!) be available for purchase. At the time of this preview, campaigns were priced at $5 each. The price of cards varied, but the lowest increment was (I believe) thirty cents.

That's all the info I have on the game for now. Special thanks to @ThiefOfHearts for contributing some questions, and I'll have further impressions on the game if and when a review beta becomes available.

Category Tags
Platform(s): PS3   PC  
Developer(s): Sony Online  
Publisher: Sony Online  
Series: Magic: The Gathering  
Genre(s): Strategy/Sim   Online/Multiplayer  
ESRB Rating: Teen (13+)  
Articles: Previews  

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Haven't played Magic in five years

I haven't played Magic in five years, but I've started to miss it. However, my collection has rotated out and no longer legal for standard or extended tournaments, and I don't have the cash to build a competitive deck right now. So.....

1) Is the game so different from the source material that it doesn't feel like playing a TCG at all, or does it play just like the TCG, but you move characters around?

2) Do you know if the game supports the new sets?

3) How are the deck editing options?

Also, I think that having players buy cards and packs with real money was a bad idea (well when it comes to attracting players in my situation anyway) because if I have to buy cards with money, I might as well just start playing Magic online or go to the hobby shop.

Hey COyls! >>1) Is the game

Hey COyls!

>>1) Is the game so different from the source material that it doesn't feel like playing a TCG at all, or does it play just like the TCG, but you move characters around?

Hard to describe. Much is the same (mana, turns, drawing cards) but 3D space is used now, life/attacking is different, line-of-sight is important, etc...

>>2) Do you know if the game supports the new sets?

the cards are custom-selected for the game, and include some brand-new cards as well. that's all I can say for sure. plenty of opportunities to add/buy/expand more cards, tho.

3) How are the deck editing options?

very generous. = )

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