Great Game Tour Day 3: Magic Arena

Considering that I used to play Magic Online quite a lot and have a soft spot for both digital card games and this franchise, I felt I was pretty prime to at least appreciate the Hearthstone’d version of Magic the Gathering for today’s GGT excursion. It’s certainly been on my list for a while now, so I downloaded the PC edition to give it a go.

And… yeah, it’s Hearthstone. Of course that’s not a BAD thing — Hearthstone had a good presentation and an easy-to-understand design. Arena pretty much copies that, swapping in Magic cards and table design, but it’s still the same type of flashy card combat that is far more interesting than Magic Online ever was. There’s a whole lot of emphasis on special effects and arrows going every which way to explain card interactions and the like.

Other than a slower-than-expected presentation (the whole client feels sluggish to me, that’s the only way I can put it), Magic Arena gets top marks in its presentation. It looks and sounds good and has those same kind of meaty Hearthstone-like sound effects for hits. It’s been a good while since I last played a game of Magic the Gathering, but that all came back to me really quickly here.

I did like the tutorial, which started small and kept adding more cards and mechanics the further you go. MTG has so many keywords at this point that it’s hard to keep track of them all, but here we saw a lot of the staples like flying and haste. I loved seeing the art again — Magic’s art always stirred the imagination — but I have to admit that I think Hearthstone is far more colorful and full of personality.

And that’s what it comes down to, really. If I wanted to play this sort of game, I already have a beefy Hearthstone portfolio. For Magic Arena to pull me into its corner, it has to offer something better — and I don’t think it does. It offers the Magic brand, but the in-game store, the solo progression tracks, the slow way to grind out currency to buy new packs… that’s all the same.

It’s nice. It’s pretty. But my Magic days are more behind than in front of me, I fear, and I’m going to uninstall this after a couple hours with it. You’re fine, Magic Arena — you just weren’t anything special.

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