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At long last. A game about arcane manipulations of the creator of Deus Ex. It's what we've all been waiting... actually, sorry. Misread. It's a computer-based uncollectable card game by the maker of Astral Tournament, along with Mr Magic The Gathering and Mr Magic The Gathering Expansion. And while my soul still cries out for a way to create my own demonic Warren Spector, from my time with the freely available Beta, Spectromancer goes a long way to soothing the pain of that perpetual disappointment.

And a little about why the work of Messrs Stankevich, Garfield and Elias is pretty neat beneath the cut.

Well, it's free for a start in its Beta state, which helps. The full game's should be available in April, but the Beta includes about a third of the campaign with one of the six classes of Wizards to play (The Cleric!). Apparently they'll be a later Beta with the multiplayer working, but I still wasted an afternoon with it on Monday, waiting for Sins of a Solar Empire to be released.

The cards are actually a little deceptive - fundamentally, they just act like spells (i.e. You can cast each one as many times as you like as long as you have the magical energy to power it). It's fundamentally a magical duel. You don't have any deck-building per se, and the cards you're given for any mission are drawn from your selection pretty much at random (You gain more cards as you work your way across the campaign map, so you can plan to have unlocked a certain card by taking out a certain wizard which will be handy if it turns up when fighting another wizard). The aim of the game is to use the spells you have to defeat the wizard you're facing, either directly (using your magical energy to zap 'im) or indirectly (using your magical energy to summon monsters to zap 'im).

What's fun about the campaign is that each challenge is exactly that - the wizard you're facing clearly has certain strengths and weaknesses, and you have to work out how to get around that. Most of the time, there's cards on the board already which have to be considered carefully. How you go up against the wizard with almost four times as many hit-points is very different from how you'll approach someone with half the usual one, but with a series of weird healing stones on the map. So, yes, fun. You may find the lack of the ability to select what you're going with grating - it certainly increases the sense of the game being random, but - at least in my time with it - it worked for me. Improvising with what I've got is a fundamentally different sort of game than one where you sit back and consider going in.

The card art's also really cute, which in the afterglow of Armageddon Empires, is always a good thing for me.

Spectromancer's Beta is a couple of Peggle's in size and can be got from following a link on Rock Paper Shotgun, the PC gaming blog.

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