White the MicroProse-made computer game Magic: The Gathering is the first true digital Magic: The Gathering experience, what if we told you that it's predated by another game inspired by the collectible card game? It only released a handful of months before the iconic PC game and (would you believe it), it wasn't a card game. Rather, it was a real-time strategy game.
That game? It's Magic: The Gathering - Battlemage, an early 1997 release by Acclaim -- the same company that would bring coin-op arcades the famed NFL Blitz franchise later that very same year as well as the ill-fated Magic: The Gathering - Armageddon coin-op video game a year earlier -- and it's a Magic: The Gathering experience unlike any other. Of course, that isn't exactly a good thing.
Want to learn more? Check out the video below to hear about the game's history, our thoughts, and see some gameplay of this long-forgotten video game.
Released in 1997 by video game publisher Acclaim, Magic: The Gathering - Battlemage brought the collectible card game not only to PC, but also (and for the first time) to home video game consoles by way of the original Sony PlayStation. It was also supposed to come out on Sega Saturn, but it was cancelled at some point in mid-’97.
Unlike the Magic: The Gathering computer game from MicroProse (also a 1997 release), BattleMage was not looking to be a digital recreation of the paper game. Rather, Magic: The Gathering - Battlemage is a real-time strategy game that comes off as more “inspired” by the collectible card game rather than actually being a digital Magic: The Gathering experience.
The game is set on Corondor, a large island north of mainland Jamuraa on the plane of Dominaria where a mad planeswalker known as Ravidel forces other powerful mages into infighting so that he can eventually destroy them and conquer the land. For those who are big into Magic lore, by the way, this would be the same Ravidel who orchestrated the great Planeswalker War, though it’s unclear if the events of the video game are considered canon to the actual overall Magic: The Gathering story.
Magic: The Gathering - Battlemage is playable in both single- and two-player and features more than 200 creatures and spells from the card game along with varying levels of action and strategy difficulties.
Despite the excellent source material, however, BattleMage just isn’t a very good game – especially when you compare it to similar games of the time such as Warcraft 2 (which came out two years prior) and Age of Empires, which came out the same year as BattleMage.
While the game does use artwork from the original paper game, the actual top-down in-game graphics are horrid to say the least. On-screen icons were small and looked clumsy. Furthermore, maps are uninteresting and less than a joy to navigate. And it doesn’t help that the game isn’t easy to play.
In fact, it there’s nothing easy about it.
Because of all that is wrong with it from its poor graphics, unfair AI, unbalanced gameplay, and poorly-designed user interface, it’s not surprising that Magic: The Gathering - BattleMage was poorly received with outlets such as GameSpot and IGN giving the game ratings of 3.6 and 4 out of 10 (respectively).
For those who want to slog through it and test their planeswalker prowess, the game can be found used from used video game sellers and online from vendors such as Amazon where it sells for $30. As for whether it’s worth the asking price? As my father always reminded me when looking up the value of my baseball cards when I was a kid, “Things are only worth what a person is willing to pay.”
Have you played Magic: The Gathering - BattleMage? What are your thoughts on the game? Feel free to tell us about it in the comment section below.
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