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    Default Review: Magic 2013, by Wizards of the Coast (iPad)

    Magic 2013, by Wizards of the Coast
    Free ($9.99 to unlock all play options), ****1/2


    • Magic the Gathering for the iPad!
    • Online multiplayer!
    • Beautiful artwork and gameplay


    • Some glitches with online play (maybe)
    • Limited deck building features

    Back in 1993 I bought my first Magic the Gathering (MtG) deck – an unlimited deck from a local comic store. For the next 9 years I collected cards, played in games, won (and lost) a few tournaments, and really enjoyed it (as a side note, I also like other card playing game – Illuminati and Star Wars come to mind). But in 2003 I sold all my cards to buy a couple Handspring Visor Prisms (which got me started on the whole PDA/Smartphone thing!). But besides playing a game here or there, I didn’t play much MtG, although I did miss it.

    So it was with great excitement that I saw the Wizards of the Coast was releasing an iPad MtG game that included online play. Of course, as soon as it came out I had to buy it, and it has been my go to game of choice since then.

    For the uninitiated, Magic the Gathering is a card based game, where you duel with an opposing wizard (or more than one) using magical energy (mana) you gather from the land to cast spells, summon creatures, and try to defeat your opponent. The idea is that you build a deck using one or more of the five colors of magic (red, blue, white, black, green), each of which has it’s own style of play and general types of cards. You start with a certain number of life points, and if you get knocked to 0, you lose. I am not going to go into the detail of play, although the game does allow for difficult settings and has a tutorial that you can follow for the unexperienced.

    In the Magic 2013 game, you have a number of different play options. You can play in one of four campaign modes, where you try to defeat successive enemies. The campaign mode also includes certain challenges, which give you a specific situation and hand of cards, and you try to win using your knowledge of how to play the game. In addition to campaign modes, there is a custom game mode, where you can play free-for-all (you versus an opponent), planechase (which I will explain later), or two-headed giant (basically team play). Lastly, there is multiplayer mode, where you can play with an online opponent via free for all or multiple online opponents in planechase.

    Planechase is a new game style (at least new to me) where you fight your opponents in different planes of reality – each of which alters the game play and the laws of the realm somewhat. For example, in one plane you may not be able to attack, but in another all attacking creatures may get a bonus. This adds a level of uncertainty to any game play, and I have found it enjoyable.

    The game play itself works very well with magic, although I have found a few hiccups. The turn based play is very regimented and structured, and you can follow along the various game stages while playing. Since any “wizard” can cast certain spells at any time, you have the ability to pause and cast a spell even if it is your opponents turn. However, you have limited time to do so – the game doesn’t ask “do you want to make a move” or something like that. It is up to you to take the initiative.

    The online game play is lots of fun, although I wish there was a way to choose the rank of someone you play (rather than just randomly pairing you with someone). You can challenge friends via Gamecenter, but unfortunately none of my Gamecenter friends play (yet). A few times with online play (via wifi) the game has kicked the opponent out and replaced them with an AI opponent. I don’t know if this is a glitch, or perhaps they opponent quit (or maybe lost their internet connection). The graphics are great, and the cut-scene art (from the MtG cards) is really nice.

    This doesn’t mean there aren’t any issues. The first is deck design. One of the things I liked most about MtG was designing, building, and then playing with my own decks. The challenge of building a viable deck using limited cards (or even close to unlimited cards) is half the fun of the game. Unfortunately, the game only lets you play with pre-designed decks, although you can modify them somewhat based on cards you unlock as you win various levels of the game. But there is no option to completely build a deck from scratch – even with the cards that are being used in the pre-made decks.

    The pricing seems a little off as well. While the price of $9.99 to unlock the full game (you can play some portions with the free version), the game itself seems tailor made to allowing for in-app purchases of different card sets (especially if you can then use those sets to build a deck on your own). I personally would have probably spent much more than $9.99 to buy some different cards and build my own deck. So in a way I guess I should be happy – I saved some money.

    One other concern I have is the name of the game – Magic 2013. I hope this doesn’t mean they will come out with a new version (also costing $9.99) next year, and the year after, and the year after, etc.

    All in all, as a former MtG junkie, I love this game.
    The graphics, the game play, the “feel” are all superb. While the game doesn’t allow for the deck building options I love, there is some customization available of the per-fabricated decks, so I guess that will have to do. The free version allows you to try the game (including the tutorial), and you can unlock all play modes for $9.99. If you like strategy games, turn games, or any collectible card game, you will probably enjoy this. Four and a half out of five stars. Oh yes, and feel free to add me to your GameCenter and challenge me.

    * = 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.

    *To all who are awaiting reviews – I apologize about the lack of reviews recently, but I hope to post a steady stream of app reviews of the next few weeks. If you have contact me regarding an app review, I will try to get back to you as soon as possible. Please note that contacting me (even sending a promo code) does not guarantee a review. If you have not heard from me within the next week or so, please send me another PM*

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