Saturday, 14 December 2019 10:14

Reaction: 'Magic: Legends' could be a great new foray for the franchise

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'Magic Legends' logo. 'Magic Legends' logo. PERFECT WORLD

Whenever Wizards of the Coast releases a new MtG set, they accompany it with an action-packed, cinematic CGI trailer. Most recently, this was the trailer for Theros: Beyond Death, which was shown at The Game Awards 2019, but one of my favorites was the trailer for War of the Spark from earlier this year (inexplicably set to a cover of "In the End" by Linkin Park).

Whenever I see one of these trailers, with its heaping handful of lore and characters, and the occasional large-scale battle, I can't help but feel that there's a lot of untapped action potential in the property, which just can't be captured in a card game. With the release of the new Magic: Legends trailer, it seems that Wizards of the Coast agrees.

It's only a teaser trailer, with no gameplay, which has been a disappointment to some. Really, the video doesn't establish much beyond "this is a game that exists, and it's called Magic: Legends." However, I still think we can find plenty of things to get excited for, just by virtue of the game existing.

First, and most obvious: Magic is a series with an enormous amount of lore, stretching back decades to the creation of the game. There are a number of persistent mythical characters (Urza, Jace, Nicol Bolas, Niv-Mizzet and more), established locations, common fan-favorite creatures, and even storylines with climaxes and resolutions of their own. There's no shortage of content to mine here, not just to create a large, varied world, but to create new expansions with storylines and events that will keep players coming back. Imagine living in the world of Ravnica while the planeswalkers battle against Nicol Bolas.

Second: the publisher is billing the game as an "action RPG", which is a genre that has a wide latitude. The basic idea is that the player has more control over combat than a traditional RPG, and the movement of your character and the timing of your attacks is important. This is a broad definition that could encompass games all the way from Ys (where you run into enemies to damage them) to Dark Souls (where you have to intricately move, dodge, block, parry, and time your attacks). While we probably aren't going to see Souls-level combat depth, I think we can expect something more engaging than the click-to-attack gameplay of something like World of Warcraft. Games like Destiny have shown that compelling moment-to-moment gameplay goes a long way in keeping players engaged.

Third: the developer of this game is one with a notable pedigree. The game is being published by Perfect World, which is one of the largest MMORPG publishers in the world, but the actual development is being handled by Cryptic Studios. Cryptic is probably best known for the first video games they ever made, City of Heroes and City of Villains, both of which were definitely a big deal in the online gaming space; right from the start of their existence, they were creating popular and innovative MMORPG titles. Their credits also include Star Trek Online and the recent Neverwinter, the latter of which boasted 18 million players in 2018. It's hard to find a company with more experience developing these sorts of titles, which gives me hope that we're going to have a solid, well-made experience.

What would I like to see from this game? For me, I would like to see the player character not as a fully-fledged planeswalker (as players are in the card game) but as an aspiring planeswalker. They would start out as a standard RPG class (warrior, bandit, wizard, rogue, etc.) so that the game retains the "action" part of its action RPG trappings; I still want to be able to parry, dodge and swing my sword around or fire my bow. As the game progressed, however, they would slowly become more skilled in casting spells, and would be able to use one or two creatures at a time as familiars; this would contrast them with the mythic planeswalkers of Magic, who would be capable of commanding full armies. Having the ability to command a large number of creatures at once would be a bit too unwieldy, and the game would eventually collapse into either a strategy game or a better-looking version of the card game itself. My ideal version of the game would show the world of Magic from a different perspective, as players traversed the land as weaker entities, fighting off creatures and attempting to reckon with powerful forces far beyond their control.

Overall, while we don't have a lot to go on with this title, the little information we do have leaves me optimistic. Hopefully we'll get a good look at gameplay sooner rather than later. In the meantime, Magic: Legends is allowing sign-ups for their closed beta, so anyone who's interested can try to get a slot and hopefully experience the game for themselves.

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