At this point, if you're a frequent visitor of Arcade Sushi you probably have some idea of what Magic the Gathering is, but for those of you who don't, know that it's an incredibly addictive card game that will chew up the unwary and spit them out sans their wallets if they're not careful. Using their scrying orbs, Magic's developers, Wizards of the Coast, have looked far into the future and seen that this whole "video games" thing is here to stay, so they've decided to jump into the fray by converting their popular tabletop card game series into something a bit more digital. Magic 2015 is the latest in their series, and it's just as complex and addictive as ever.
The basic game structure pits two players against each other as sorcerers using magical lands as mana to summon monsters and cast spells while trying to deplete the life points of the other. There are five colors of decks to choose from, each with their own distinct playstyle and sub-playstyles based on what color combination you might choose. Magic 2015 can seem pretty daunting for the uninitiated, but the robust tutorial does a good job of helping newbies understand everything from the difference between tapped and untapped to what Undying or Vigilant creatures do.
The physical card game of Magic is, at this point, famous for the epic number of different cards, abilities, spells, and artifacts at a players disposal, and while Magic 2015 obviously doesn't have everything, the number of cards in here are pretty staggering. You could play a long time before ever seeing two opponents using the same cards. While having so many cards for you and your foes to fight with makes for unpredictable and varied play, it also can be a bit overwhelming at times. There's a fine balance between making a game deep, meaning that you can continue to discover new elements of the game as you play, and complex, meaning that there are a lot of gears and mechanisms to memorize. Magic 2015 is definitely deep, but it's also pretty complex making certain aspects of the game feel sluggish when compared to modern card games like Blizzard's Hearthstone. For example, Magic's setup often rewards defensive play over active play, so expect there to be many turns where you and your opponent act like hoarders and do nothing other than stock up on monsters and toilet paper. Strategic? Yes. Dull? At times.
Outside of the robust tutorial is an equally-robust campaign mode featuring countless AI opponents to defeat and booster packs of cards to unlock. With each foe you fell, you'll earn new cards with which you can customize your deck. These cards are randomized, meaning that you and a friend may each start the campaign using the same deck, but will have very different decks by the end of it. There's also online multiplayer for those of you who prefer a flesh-and-blood opponent to throw down against. Magic 2015's pricing seems pretty generous initially, as you get a nice selection of content right off the bat, but once you’ve played for a while roadblocks will begin to pop up asking you to plunk down some real cash if you wish to continue. The prices of additional content such as extra single-player battles, booster packs, and “foil” upgrades to make your cards all nice and shiny, are all fairly reasonable, but still a bit more than you’d pay in most non-free-to-play titles.
Magic's visuals communicate what's happening clearly, albeit without much flare, and its music fits the action without being particularly exciting or distracting. The touch controls, however, can be a bit finicky at times, and aren't always intuitive. There are situations when you'll be trying to select an ability, or back out of a card description, and you'll accidentally skip the rest of your turn or select the wrong card because the you weren't exactly sure where you were supposed to be touching the screen. Issues like these probably won't happen too often, but in a game as strategic (and unforgiving) as Magic 2015, little booboos like these will stick in your craw.
Few games, let alone free-to-play games, offer as much quality, thoughtful content as Magic 2015. Thanks to the high complexity, massive depth, and occasional sluggish pacing, this card battle game probably isn't for everyone. However, for those fans who don't mind chewing through some tough hide to get to the good meat, Magic 2015's a meal they won't want to pass up.
This review was based on a downloaded copy of Magic 2015 for iOS.