Review: Magic 2015, by Wizards of the Coast
Magic 2015, by Wizards of the Coast
Free (sort of), ****
• Make your own decks!
• More tightly integrated story
• Some cards only available through booster purchase
• No more sealed deck
• Deck building is not as robust as it could be (must choose colors to start)
Magic has come again! Starting in 2012, Wizards of the Coast has released an iPad app each year to play Magic the Gathering. In short, Magic the Gathering is a collectible card game (CCG) where you fight against one (or more) enemy Wizards for supremacy. After getting magical energy from land (different land types produce different colors of magical energy), you can your spells to conquer an opponent. Each of the five colors have specifics “flavors” or styles of spells. Green, for example, is focused on nature, life, and large creatures. White, on the other hand, is focused on law, order, protection, healing, etc. Once you bring your enemy does to 0 life, you win the duel.
Figure 1 - The familiar Magic game interface, a little bit cleaner in this iteration.
So that’s Magic in a nutshell. One of the big components of the game is building a deck out of your card library. What spells do you use, what card combinations will work – these are the kinds of questions that can take a significant portion of the planning of the game. In the iPad version of the game, you progress through various planned combat stages, unlocking more cards you win. In both the 2012 and 2013 version of the game, you started with a pre-made deck of your choice, and could modify it based on cards you have unlocked. In 2013, they added a “sealed deck” option, where you could get seemingly random cards, and try to put your own deck together. However, this was limited to an in-game campaign, and you couldn’t use your own decks for regular play, or against other people. This problem changes in 2014. The big “feature” of the new game is that you can build your own deck to use within the game.
Figure 2 - A more robust storyline awaits, with familiar realms and cards from recent expansion sets.
When you start to play, you choose a color combination (limited to two colors) and get assigned a deck from a pre-designed set of those colors (Blue/White, for example, is the “Freezing Winds” deck). As you play (and win) you unlock additional cards through booster packs, and can modify your deck as needed. If you want to add a little red (fire/energy mana) to your deck (once you unlock some red cards) you can do so. If you unlock enough cards, you can even go back and create a new deck from scratch. So there is a lot of flexibility in the deck design option. In case you are new at it, there is even an “autocomplete” option, where the game will finish the deck for you.
Figure 3 - Increased deck building options mean the game is more customized to the player.
There are multiple pre-made decks that it seems you can unlock, but I haven’t found any way to do this (maybe it happens through gameplay). According to the game, you can reset your initial deck colors, but I suspect if you do so, you will lose all the decks from the old color combination that you had selected. That brings us to the cards you can unlock. Every time you win a battle, you unlock a booster pack containing new cards that can be used to create a deck. You can get multiples of the same cards (which is good for deck building) so it may take a while to unlock all the cards. In addition to those, you can also purchase “premium” booster packs – these include 10 cards that you can’t obtain unless you buy a premium booster pack. There are 43 premium cards, so you will need to buy at least 5 packs to get all the cards (and even then, it is unlikely you will get them all, since you may get duplicates). The premium booster packs are $1.99 each.
Figure 4 - You card list increased, and any unlocked card can be used in your deckbuilding, even if they aren't the colors you choose initially.
Speaking of price, the game is free to download and try (you can even play a few games) but to unlock the full game costs $9.99 (in-app purchase). You also have the option of unlocking levels individually, purchasing “foil” versions of cards, and paying to unlock all the cards right away. The complete unlock (with everything – all levels, cards, and foils) is $29.99 – you save some money by buying the bundle, but the cards will be unlocked through playing, and the ultimate unlock doesn’t include the premium boosters (as I found out when I tried it). In previous versions of the game, new levels and new decks became available with in-app purchases after the game had been out for a while, so I suspect there will be similar options in the future with this 2014 release.
Figure 4 - Boosters (that can be purchased or won through gameplay) increase your cards options for deckbuilding.
The user interface has changed in this version – it is a little “cleaner” to play the game, although the user menus are now multiple layers deep, which can take some time to navigate. Honestly, the menu and background graphics do not seem as good to me as the 2014 release. Like always, it is pretty slow to run, even on an iPad air. I honestly can’t imagine playing it on an iPad 2. There is multiplayer support (via Gamecenter) but no local wifi option. They have done away with the sealed deck options, and I can’t find any sort of “custom game” option for two-headed giant or multiple players (which I enjoyed in the 2013 version, although those may become available if I complete the entire campaign). While the game is also being released on other platforms, to the best of my knowledge this is no a cross-platform game. Whatever you buy on the iPad version is only found on the iPad version.
All in all, Magic 2015 is a big step forward in the series. With the expanded deck building options (and an autobuilder in case you need help) you have much more control over the game. Unfortunately it appears they have done away with some features – premade decks to unlock and the sealed deck option – to make room for the deck building. The game play is the same as previous version, and the inclusion of “premium boosters” ($1.99 each) for special cards means that you may feel tempted to pay for more than just the unlocked version of the game. While it is free to download, the unlocked game costs a minimum of $9.99, with other unlock options that include more content (although the additional content can be unlocked through gameplay). If deck building is a key desire (and for most players it is) this version will be a welcome improvement. Four out of five stars.
* = No redeeming qualities or features, probably not worth it even if it is free
** = Few redeeming qualities, or is simply isn't worth the price
*** = Some good features but also some clear flaws.
**** = A solid app, worth the money if interested, a few flaws or problems or slightly overpriced
***** = Top of the line app, no problems or drawbacks.Price is factored into the ratings.
Ratings are lowered if I feel the price of the app outweighs the benefits/enjoyment/features it provides. Likewise, an app that is a good value for the money will have a higher rating. Please comment on these reviews. All opinions expressed in this review are precisely that – opinions. You may agree or disagree. If you own the app, tell me what your opinion is. If the review prompted you to buy (or not buy) the app, let me know why. If you want more information about the app, go ahead and ask.