Posted in Magic Legends, Torchlight

Torchlight III and Magic Legends shows how early access can bite you in the butt

If you didn’t catch the news last week, Cryptic announced that Magic Legends — which hasn’t even officially launched yet — is shutting down on Halloween, of all days. For the unfamiliar, this was the studio’s newest title which drew upon the popular Magic the Gathering franchise and adapted it into a Diablo-style online RPG.

It’s the second blow to parent company Perfect World, which is still wiping copious amounts of egg off its face from Torchlight III, another online ARPG that debuted to a lackluster response, meandered about, and eventually jettisoned its entire developer.

It’s also shocking for Cryptic, which has been riding high on Neverwinter and Star Trek Online for years. We’ve never seen Cryptic fail this quickly this badly. The thing was, having played Magic Legends and speaking to many who also did, it wasn’t a terrible game. There was a lot of potential here and even the groundwork for a cult following. But it was messy, buggy, and devoid of meaningful content when it came out in early access, and not even the Magic IP could rope in the crowds it needed for long-term success.

Magic Legends (and Torchlight III) are the latest examples of how badly early access can go for a game. Sure, it gets a whole lot of excitement and press on Day One, but by Day Two, the playerbase realizes that they’re engaging with a half-baked game that needs a whole lot more work — and they’re not going to stick around to see it get finished. There’s too many other options, both current and upcoming, that is beckoning for attention.

The only early access games that I see really making it are the ones that come out already pretty much ready to go. They have the essentials down and they’re fun and not frustrating from the get-go. Games like RimWorld, Stardew Valley, and Valheim all land in this far more rare category.

“Early access” is not a magical talisman that guarantees a second chance down the road. As always, you only get one first impression, and now more than ever, it’s vital that it’s a great one — or you might as well pack it in. It feels like such a waste that Magic Legends and Torchlight III and other “had potential but failed to deliver” early access games are tossed out too soon to be chewed up and abandoned.

Posted in Magic Legends, Magic Online

Magic Legends has a long way to go to convince me

Hey, look at that. Cryptic released a new game. Whee.

Oh, I’m sorry, am I not being enthusiastic enough? WHEE. There. That took a year off of my life, but the lengths I will go for my readers.

I should be a whole lot more excited, I know. This is Cryptic, after all, and I’ve never met a Cryptic game that hasn’t become a guilty pleasure of some sort. And I have a lot of warm feelings toward the whole Magic the Gathering IP.

But I’m still sucking on that sour candy of Cryptic’s decision to downgrade Magic Legends from an MMO to… whatever this is. Multiplayer with a whole lot of crazy people shouting at me in zone chat. It’s so hard to get worked up over this game, also considering how little promotion Cryptic has done for it.

In any case, the open beta is here, and I dragged my reluctant attention into it. Sure, it had some hurtles to overcome to get me interested, but stranger things have happened. Right?

Made a Necromancer because I’ve always gone Black in MTG (and summons are my thing). I’ll give the game this: The spells are pretty punchy, varied, and interesting to use. I’m running around whipping things (?) while throwing down death fields, summoning zombies, and bringing caskets up to zap people. It’s weird, but I can dig that.

I haven’t really wrapped my head around how this game is structured, though. Just did a few tutorial zones, seeing as how the Lag Monster was oh so real in that first week. Is there gear? What do you do with the, like, 20 currencies this game offers? How do I get more cards?

Just in case I was in danger of forgetting that this was a Cryptic title, the trademark Cryptic jankiness was there. You know, where it’s functional but not polished. The cutscenes and voice acting in particular had me looking in vain for a “SKIP” button. Why doesn’t that exist? Why must I be subject to this?

I guess I’m still in a “dabble and see” mode right now. It hasn’t grabbed me yet — again, ARPGs always are at a disadvantage with me in the long run because I lose interest fast — but I’m curious enough to keep poking around. For now. For a while.

Posted in Magic Legends

Cryptic should be terrified for Magic Legends

If I were Cryptic, I would be terrified for Magic Legends right now. Like, all hands on deck, perhaps we should go back to the drawing board kind of terrified.

Why? First, there’s just no enthusiasm out there for it. Oh, there was a whole bunch of excitement — including some from me — when this MMOARPG was announced a year ago as Cryptic’s secret project. Hugely popular IP, experienced developers, an actual MMO… yup, it was checking off some good boxes there.

Then Cryptic quickly dropped the “MMO” portion altogether, downgrading this to a multiplayer Diablo clone, which was… fine, it’s their decision. Didn’t make me happy, nor MMO players looking for a massively multiplayer game from a studio that specializes in such things, but it’s their choice.

And then it spent a year haphazardly putting out underwhelming dev diaries and videos… just every once in a while. The result of this was to reinforce this notion that this is a substandard Diablo-esque game that doesn’t really have that Magic: The Gathering feel nor much in the way of a unique hook.

Finally, Cryptic should be scared after seeing the absolute lackluster performance of Torchlight III — another game under its wing that downgraded from an MMO to put out a multiplayer ARPG. And from where I’m sitting, Torchlight III had more in the way of personality and interesting hooks than anything we’re seeing from Magic Legends.

The proof is always in the pudding, of course. If Magic Legends is downright fun to play and offering a lot more than we suspect at this point, it could generate a wave of word-of-mouth publicity and establish it as a sleeper hit (or better) for the studio. But honestly, I do NOT see that happening. If Cryptic was more proud or sure of this game, we would have seen a lot more from it by now, but we haven’t. I’m guessing that there are a lot of hard talks going on in the office and that 2021 could see some major changes and/or delays for this title.

Your thoughts?

Posted in Magic Legends

Cryptic springs forth with Magic Legends

For a couple of years now, Cryptic has tantalized us with the knowledge that it was working on some sort of Magic MMORPG, but other than a vague initial announcement, it clammed up for a good while there. That silence was broken last week with the official reveal of Magic Legends and a cinematic teaser.

So what do we actually know about this upcoming title? Not very much, unfortunately. Other than its name, the only useful info I’ve gleaned is:

  • Cryptic’s standing behind this as an “MMO action RPG”
  • The studio’s been working on it since 2017
  • It’s set in the Magic Planeswalker universe, across its “iconic planes”
  • Players will get to pick one of five classes (presumably one for each classic Magic color) but can swap between them as they play
  • It’s coming out for PC, PS4, and Xbox One
  • Former Star Trek Online producer Stephen Ricossa is helming this project
  • Beta signups are live, with more details will be revealed in January 2020

Me? I’m pumped about this. I love me some Cryptic MMOs, and between this and Torchlight Frontiers, the studio is expanding its library offerings for a strong future. I used to dabble in Magic the Gathering for a while and was always intrigued by the card art, so I’m intrigued what exploring such a game universe would be like.

I am curious what it’s going to be like, since in my mind there are two big differences here between this and other fantasy MMOs. The first is that since there are many different planes (settings) in Magic, then Legends might offer players the ability to jump between them instead of mostly adventuring in the same game world. Maybe one zone per plane?

The second is about the class structure. Assuming that it is one class per color (red, black, white, blue, and green) and you can swap between them, then it sounds like there’s potential for a lot of flexibility in playstyles. I’d love to see a skill collection system as a way to give homage to the card game, but I guess I’ll have to wait to find out more next month.

The teaser trailer is a bit dorky — I’m not a fan of the visuals here — but I’m so happy that this is actually happening that I won’t quibble about slow-mo angry people casting spells. Next year will be very interesting indeed!