Magic Duels Does Free Right
Free-to-play is always a dangerous proposition to make, but it can certainly be done the right way. Wizards of the Coast are very protective of Magic: The Gathering, and why shouldn’t they be, it’s one of the most popular games in the world. As such, they’ve put quite a bit of thought into bringing Magic Duels: Origins into the free-to-play TCG arena and are, at this point at least, saying all the right things to keep those red flags from popping up in my head.
The dreaded “energy mechanic” is the worst part of any free-to-play experience. So, when I asked if anything like that would be included with their game, their faces suddenly became very serious. Immediately, “We don’t ever want people to not be able to play Magic.” was their response. This is both the correct response and a very good sign as to the quality of their game. Coins are earned throughout play and can help you get new cards to play with, but you will never need to spend them, or any other currency, to play a game. Magic: The Gathering is a fun card game and not only have the kept the quality high, but included several ways to include new players on the experience.
Every time I play a new tabletop game, which is pretty frequently, there is always a period of short terror. I don’t know how to play and it seems like there’s way too much going on to figure out on the fly. I’m not going to pretend that Magic: The Gathering is a simple and easy game. Wizards of the Coast isn’t kidding themselves about this fact either and they want new people to play. In terms of playing, at any point in the game if you come across a rule you haven’t seen yet, they’ve included specific training scenarios to help players understand the mechanic. If you fail, it even gives you specific feedback as to what you did wrong. As a kinesthetic learner, I can really appreciate this method which offers contextual learning instead of just spoon-feeding you a rule.
The hardest thing, even for me now, is learning how to build a proper deck. There’s so much strategy that just goes into having the right cards in the right ratios and if something is off, you might just lose the match before it even starts. Thankfully, the deck-building helpers they’ve put into the game have been improved and might even improve your ability to build a deck yourself. The deck wizard allows you to pick what kind of deck you’d like to make and then it looks at the cards you currently own. It then offers up a selection of cards and lets you pick them one-by-one. After each pick, it checks again and updates what it’s showing you based on the cards you already have in your deck. You can also just have it do the whole process for you or you can choose any cards you like with the deck builder.
Creating a cinematic experience out of a TCG is a difficult prospect, but they’re trying some new things this year that have me excited. Aside from including cut-scenes at the end of each campaign, they wanted to add the story into the specific battles. To do this, they’ve stacked the decks in some of these matches so that the monsters the character fights in the story will come into play during the match. This is a great way to work in what happens to each character as you play through their origin story.
If you’re new to Magic: The Gathering, all of the teaching tools they’ve included here makes it a great time to start. For all the veterans out there, this game ends the yearly installments and it will simply be this game that will be updated as new card sets come out. Either way, I commend Wizards of the Coast on their effort to make this an enjoyable free-to-play experience. Look out for Magic Duels: Origins when it comes out this July for the iPad, Xbox One and PC. There will also be a PS4 version coming later in the year.