Game Reviews

Magic 2014

Star onStar onStar onStar onStar half
Magic 2014

Magic 2014 is a game about chance. For all of your strategies and bright ideas, if the cards don't fall right you're going to take a beating. That's why you need a plan B, and a plan C. You need a whole alphabet of plans if you want to be the best.

Once the simple deck-building foundations click you'll find yourself staring up at a tower of possibilities, each one provided by a game that reveals itself slowly and precisely. This is chess meets poker with magical creatures thrown in for good measure.

Best of all, this is an update that's full of new options and features, bringing the digital game of Magic that little bit closer to its physical counterpart. For newcomers and veterans alike there's something to enjoy in this card-laying gem.

Just like that

The basic rules of the game are pretty easy to follow. You play a Planeswalker - a magician who can traverse the planes of existence. You're going to scrap against other Planeswalkers using magical powers, terrifying creatures, and special weapons.

This all takes place with cards. You've got a deck of these, and to begin with you don't have much say about what's in it. It's shuffled and delivered to you at random as you play. To begin with you'll have a hand of seven different cards.

All the items, characters, and spells you can play cost mana. This mana is generated by laying area cards. There are different kinds of mana generated by different types of cards, and some spells or creatures require you to spend a specific type to play them.

There's a turn order that's repeated each round you play, so you'll throw down a land, play one of your spells, then scrap it out to try and take a chunk of health off your opponent. You each have 20 hit points and when you drop down to zero it's Game Over.

But you can block attacks with other creatures, and toughen up your side with special artefacts that confer various boosts and buffs when you play them. And all this is before you get the chance to design your own deck.

Is that your card?

Building your own deck requires a level of understanding about what each card does that you're not going to have to begin with. But as you play and get a feel for the game you'll start seeing gaps in your arsenal and breaks in your opponent's armour that you're not able to exploit.

The deck you start with in single-player is heavy on damage, but it lacks any finesse. There are no flying creatures, who can bypass blocks by swooping over them, and the sorcery options are mainly about making big beasts bigger.

Polishing your deck can become an obsession, as you tease out every possibility and percentage so that you end up with the sort of hand that will make any opponent quake in fear. Pulling the right card at the right time, even though it's a stroke of luck, still makes you feel like a genius commander.

The big addition this time around is Sealed Play. This is a game for true masters only, and sees you generating a pool of 100 random cards and then building a deck of 40 out of them. It takes careful consideration and a strong understanding of the mechanics of the game to build anything even half worthwhile.

Card tricks

But that's part of the joy of Magic 2014. It's a game that's open enough for newcomers to enjoy, but wide enough to allow any veteran to plunge into a quagmire of stats, mana types, and percentages.

If you want to lose yourself in Magic's world then there's more than enough here to keep you immersed until the next iteration arrives. Throw in a suite of multiplayer options that let you play online in the iOS version and take on friends in the same room on both, and you're left with a game that oozes replayability from its magically enhanced pores.

Magic first-timers and old hands alike should snap this up at the first possible opportunity.

Magic 2014

A brilliant digital version of a brilliant card game, Magic 2014 is every bit as impressive as its predecessor and adds more to the mix, too
Harry Slater
Harry Slater
Harry used to be really good at Snake on the Nokia 5110. Apparently though, digital snake wrangling isn't a proper job, so now he writes words about games instead.