The cardboard fantasy world of Magic: The Gathering has become the foundation for free-to-play action-RPG Magic: Legends, now available in open beta for everyone to try. I say "open beta" because that's officially its status, but it's basically out now. Magic: Legends looks like Diablo with deckbuilding. I like Diablo, I like deckbuilding, and I like Magic too much for my own damn good, so sure, I'll give it a go.
The action-RPG foundations seem fairly straightfoward, doing that ARPG monster-mashing, so let's check out a trailer from January on deckbuilding in Legends:
So, cards represent the spells our wizard can cast and the critters they can summon. We have a deck of 12 cards and get access to a hand of four at a time, with new ones randomly drawn to replace ones we cast. And while we start with a preconstructed deck representing one of the five schools of Magic's magic, we can pick up cards from other colours to build multicolour decks and outright swap colours. That sounds interesting. Somewhere between Magic: The Gathering and Guild Wars.
Magic: Legends is made by Cryptic Studios, the gang behind City Of Heroes and Star Trek Online, and published by Perfect World. The full launch is due later this year (on PS4 and Xbone too), though the devs say "this is considered a 'soft launch'" and they don't plan to wipe the servers. Basically out, just potentially not fully polished.
I adore Magic: The Gathering. I have played so very much Magic in my life, tournaments and all, until I had to stop because it was out of hand. I still hugely admire how Wizards Of The Coast have refreshed and tweaked it with new cards and stories across 28 years. A staggering accomplishment. My adoration of the tabletop game does make me less interested in this, though. To me, a Magic deck tells a story about a wizard's masterplan, establishing everything from the landscape to plot twists as you try to foil a rival wizard with their own arcane masterplan. The Magic I know and love can't be boiled down to an action-RPG. But it's fine, this is fine, it's a licensed game with familiar places and people and critters and a broad concept of cards, that's fine. If I want my decks of wizard stories, I can just play Magic. I mean, if I don't mind kissing goodbye another decade of my life.