A Fizzle Not a Spark: Magic Legends First Impressions
Posted by Raphael Leynes March 30, 2021

As a fan of the collectible card game Magic: The Gathering, when the beta for Magic: Legends opened up last week, I was ecstatic to get a crack at it. The free-to-play, isometric, online action RPG based on MTG Multiverse had all sorts of potential to be something truly unique and enjoyable. However, after playing a few hours of the Beta, it’s clear that Magic: Legends needs more than its fair share of mana-fixing– like a LOT more. 


A Spark of Hope


On paper, Magic: Legends sounds quite appealing, especially to fans of Magic the Gathering. You get to play an isometric RPG set in the MTG multiverse, explore classic locales like Zendikar, Dominaria, and Innistrad, interact with your favorite spells, cards, and planeswalkers, fully realized into a three-dimensional game world. In practice, however, while there is still some of that appeal, it all quickly falls stale when you realize that the world feels so generic despite being draped in your favorite MTG lore.  


The world and the narrative feel very bog-standard as you can easily swap out plot specifics, characters, and locales with anything else from a different franchise and it wouldn’t make much of a difference. Nothing about its tone, atmosphere, world-building, or story-telling is distinctively Magic.


The plane of Zendikar feels like just about any nature-themed fantasy world in your favorite RPG, riddled with wild beasts, insects, and with warring elvish factions. Innistrad’s Gavony, with its drab, ghoulish colors, prowling werewolves and restless spirits feels like a souless clone of Diablo’s Sanctuary or Tristram. There’s a severe lack of that unique Magic flavor that I find disappointing.


Combat Step

The combat, as of the moment, is possibly the game’s brightest spot. However, that comes with a caveat. Whichever character class/color you roll with, you’ll have a basic attack and two cooldown-based utility skills. Most interestingly enough though, echoing the collectible card game it was based on, you’ll also earn spell cards that you “draw” from your deck into one of your 4 available hands’ slots and cast as additional skills and summons. Just like in proper Magic when you cast these spells they leave your hand and you randomly draw another one. 


This is the one mechanic that gives me hope that Magic: Legends can be something special. Card-based combat systems are few and far in between, but if done right they can make a good game become great. Its implementation here, given the source material makes sense so it already has that to its advantage. As it stands, Magic: Legends combat system has the potential to get there but not in its current state. The cards I played with using Necromancer were still pretty rudimentary, ranging from ghastly summons, zombies and skeletons, or various forms of damage in cone, column, or radial variety.


It’s still missing the key essential element of strategy brought about interaction and combination of spells. As a magic player, the thing I find most appealing about the game is seeing how one card can interact with another to achieve a cool effect. There are barely any of these in our experience of the game, at least in the first 5-6 hours that we playedーwhich is a shame, since a mechanic like this I feel should be front and center of the show, considering the property it’s based on. 


I feel like the game would benefit if they had more cards that trigger and react to each other in fun combinations. That way we have an excuse to keep cards in our hand slots just waiting to draw its perfect pair so we can pop off, instead of what is right now where for the most part we just activate the spells we draw Willy Nilly and get away with it.


Fizzling Out


Perhaps the most frustrating part of our experience with Magic: Legends is the horrible performance issues. From the very second you jump into the game, you are treated to horrible framerates which drop whenever you’d simply walk around and/or adjusted the camera angle. I was playing a decent mid-range laptop but it was still a struggle to run the game, even on its lowest settings. I don’t know if this is attributed to poor optimization or server issues or maybe a bit of both


Graphically the game isn’t anything to write home about as well. Its humble visuals, dry color palette, and samey-looking spell effects are serviceable but are more comparable to the quality found in the latest mobile MOBAs than a full-fledged Console/PC MMORPG. 


The isometric view is also a bit limiting. Interacting with iconic planeswalkers such as Nissa Revane or Ral Zarek would have been a lot cooler if we were able to get an up-close look at their character design via a zoom-in function rather than squinting at them and trying to pick up details from above in the static high angle view. 


You Gotta Crawl Before You Planeswalk


With our experience in the beta, this legend feels more like a common. Aside from the unbearable performance issues, its uninspired take on an otherwise rich and lore-filled world is a little disheartening. However, its combat system maintains a spark of potential that if harnessed correctly might return this back to our libraries ready to be drawn again. Considering that the game is still in its beta stage, there’s plenty of time to course-correct and address the issues but as of the moment Magic: Legends is still a long way from mythic.  

Have you tried out Magic: Legends yet? Do you want to? Let us know in the comments below! For more Magic the Gathering stuff check out Let’s Talk About that Heart-Wrenching Trailer for Magic the Gathering: War of the Spark and Re-igniting the Spark: Magic the Gathering Arena Early Impressions

And while you’re at it leave us a like on the GG Network Facebook Page so we can keep you entertained with more videogames and geek stuff! Take care and stay safe out there!

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