Magic: Legends Gameplay Impressions – Card Game Diablo?

Magic: Legends Gameplay Impressions

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Welcome to one of the first highlights of 2021, or at least we thought so – Magic: Legends, the new game from the guys at Cryptic Studio. The team behind Neverwinter and Star Trek Online had this one in the making for so many years, but we’re finally seeing how it’s shaping up. It’s quite a detour from their traditional MMORPG history, instead opting for a hack-and-slash Diablo-like approach after a midway change of development plans. How did that turn out, eh? Our Magic: Legends gameplay impressions will tell you all about it.

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Let me start by addressing the elephant in the plane – optimization, or lack thereof. It’s truly bad. You need a beast of a computer to run the game on ultra settings, and even so you may be subject to severe frame drops and incessant lag and stuttering – at times, it’s barely playable. You press the spell keys and then have to hammer them like crazy because nothing seems to register at first, and frustration quickly sets in. Your mileage may vary, but I know for a fact that this is happening to many players. Not the greatest open beta experience I’ve ever had.

And that chat… Wow, that chat! Will everyone please just shut up? There’s no free pack, no free money, no free lunch, no free whatsoever to claim over there. Stop spamming and play the game. It seems that the chat is now hidden, but for a couple of days it was outrageous seeing all those silly messages pop up while playing.

Optimization is bound to be fixed further down the road, but first impressions matter and this isn’t the best ever. But what else is there to Magic: Legends? Well, it’s a hack-and-slash with a twist, and that twist is the spellcasting mechanic. Before we get to that, let’s check the available classes.

You start as a new Planeswalker and get to pick from Beastcaller, Sanctifier, Mind Mage, Geomancer, and Necromancer. Each class is based on the five schools or colors from Magic The Gathering, giving them different abilities. I went for the Beastcaller, a class that is joined by its fox pet, and has a knack for melee combat, with its massive ax.

As you evolve, you unlock spell cards, but the thing is that you can only choose between four cards at a time, randomly selected from a deck of 12. When you start mixing cards from other schools, you must carefully check the mana colors and the way that you can combine different spells to create powerful and surprising combinations. You need to strike a nice balance between defensive and offensive spells, base abilities, summons, and so on, while completing quests to earn gold and equipment. The unpredictability is welcome, mimicking the physical game, and it teases you as you hope for a specific set of cards to create your favorite combo, but they fail to show up when needed.

Magic: Legends Gameplay Impressions

Spells are the indisputable highlight of the game, and fans of the physical card game will enjoy the most of this system. But that isn’t enough to make an action RPG stand out from the crowd, and sadly it seems to be lacking in some departments besides optimization. The slow movement and combat feel unexciting, at odds with the thought of having tons of strategies to use via spell cards. The quests are extremely linear and repetitive, involving a lot of walking from A to B, to the point where you don’t care anymore about the mobs that try to hit you and just run past them. Fast travel is a godsend, but even that is unnecessarily cumbersome to use. If I find one more quest where I have to align another Hedron, I’ll go crazy.

Teaming up with other players does contribute to a chaotic display of spells and summoned creatures, and will come in handy against some fierce bosses. However, I never felt like I was playing a role in any part of a strategy; we were all just throwing everything that we had into the battlefield, hoping that all of our summons would be enough to beat our enemies. Strength in numbers seems to be the motto here, but perhaps I failed to grasp the tactical aspect of it due to all the stuttering and mediocre combat.

Level design is another aspect where I’m not too convinced. I could understand the uninspiring nature of the maps if they were procedurally generated, but that’s not the case; as it happens, the planes just feel repetitive, with no actual landmarks to guide you or even make you feel like you’re exploring a different area. It just feels samey, bland, very few locations really stand out and make you go “wow, this bit looks quite impressive.” Some burning wheat fields throw some decent particle effects into the mix, but the overall feel of it is that there was a lot, and I mean a lot of asset reuse.

I may sound a bit harsh, but the truth is that I had high hopes for Magic Legends. Its shift from fully-fledged MMORPG to action RPG raised eyebrows, and it seems the naysayers were right. The game does get better as you go and unlock new mechanics, but it’s hard to say at this point if it will ever be a match for rivals such as Path of Exile. There’s room to grow and I hope that it quickly improves in areas such as optimization and combat, but the first Magic: Legends gameplay impressions are somewhat underwhelming.

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