Magic: Legends Successfully Captures The Card Game's Charm

Published: March 4, 2020 1:00 PM /

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Magic: Legends Beastcaller Gameplay

It's strange to think that, at one point, the only representation of Magic: The Gathering in video games was a Clash Royale clone that somehow came out two decades early. Since then, we've got plenty of translations of the famous card game, but Magic is so much more than that. There's a whole multiverse of characters, creatures, and locations just begging for exploration. Magic: Legends is the first game to really take advantage of that deep lore, using it as the backdrop for a Diablo-style MMO Action RPG that brings a lot of unique mechanics to the table.

Picking A Class In Magic: Legends

Starting off my demo, I had the choice between two planeswalker classes. There was a Geomancer wielding a red deck and a Mind Mage sporting a blue one. Each class has Overwatch-style hero abilities, and they're not locked into using a single color deck. If you want to fling rocks and fire while summoning forest beasts, Magic Legends isn't going to stop you. However, it did seem like classes had a "recommended" group of spells to use. The Geomancer's abilities made enemies burn, with naturally synergizes with red magic. You can mix and match, but it's likely that the five starting classes are going to lean heavily into a predetermined playstyle.

Just like in the card game, you bring a group of spells into every encounter, and they range from direct damage to battlefield manipulation to summoning creatures. Some come over directly from the card game, while others are new spells that work similarly to what's come before. The team at Cryptic made it clear that they wanted to translate everything they could accurately from the card game. If something needed to be tweaked to fit the game, it wasn't going to bear the same name as an existing card.

How does Magic: Legends compare to the card game?

Magic Legends Mind Mage
Island is still the most powerful card, isn't it?

For longtime Magic players, that means a lot of nostalgic fun. My Geomancer could summon a Flametongue Kavu, a creature that serves as both a lasting aid in battle and a direct damage spell, just like in the card game. If you want to focus on creatures, you can roll around with tons of minions and use them a shield, picking off enemies from afar. That's how the Mind Mage played, just with the added benefit of mind control spells that gave you even more minions to boss around. The green Beastcaller also focuses on tons of creatures, although their skills give buffs rather than produce walls. Yes, you can cast stuff like Giant Growth on your jungle cats and overwhelm whatever Goblin horde you're facing down.

No matter what class you choose, you'll have to take note of what spells you bring along with you. Magic: Legends brings over a bit of randomness from its inspiration, having players draw four spells from their deck at any given time. That means that you'll have to measure which spells work well together and try to build in a way that you're avoiding impossible situations. Although I didn't get to build a deck myself, the setup looks analogous to Magic: Arena's deckbuilding screen, and I can't wait to see what unique builds people come up with.

Gathering Lore For Magic: Legends

Magic Legends Geomancer
Burn baby!

It all works surprisingly well, feeling familiar to genre tropes while also distinctly Magic. The missions in the demo saw me trekking through familiar Magic locations in the city of Ravnica and facing down legendary creatures I vaguely remembered from lunchroom duels gone by. Since Magic: Legends is a live game, there's plenty of room for expansion, and I imagine that it'll hit up every plane in Magic's multiverse before too long. Well, maybe not Mercadia, unless the developers really want a real-money auction house.

The live game element also means that they'll be a steady stream of new classes and spells to try out. With almost three decades of history to mine from, there's certainly lots of room for expansion. In the end, the game reminds me of Marvel Heroes, and I can only hope that Legends can explore every aspect of Magic in the same way that Heroes did with the Marvel Universe.

TechRaptor previewed Magic: Legends at PAX East 2020. The game plans on starting its test phase later this year with a planned 2021 free to play launch on PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4. 

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Alex Santa Maria TechRaptor
| Staff Writer

Alex Santa Maria is TechRaptor's former Reviews Editor (2015-2020) and current occasional critic. Joining the site early in its life, Alex grew the review… More about Alex

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