It’s another month in 2013 and, as any Xbox fan should know by now, that means a new free game! Last month’s choice of Dead Rising 2 and Dead Rising: Case Zero proved a popular offer, especially as society seems zombie crazy nowadays. This month’s title brings a real change of pace in the form of Magic – The Gathering. ‘Magic’ is a popular trading card game created in the 90’s which has now been digitized for Xbox Live Arcade, Steam and the PlayStation Network, and, well, it’s different – that’s for sure.
Magic 2013 isn’t the kind of game that I’d usually play. I like to think that I’m relatively open minded when it comes to gaming, but I’ve always seen trading card games as something that I played when I was a kid (thanks Pokémon for the best years of my childhood). That’s what Magic is, in essence, it’s kind of like Pokémon, and Yu-Gi-Oh and Digimon, but with its own twist, of course. You know, I could sit here and try to explain what Magic is and how it works, but I’d be here forever. Instead, I’m going to cheat and quote Wikipedia … something that I was told never to do in essays. But hey, I’m not being marked on this one.
“Each player has a deck of cards consisting of lands and spells. Lands are used to generate “mana”, the resource needed to cast spells. Mana comes in five colors, and cards may require colored or generic (mana of any color) to be cast. Spells come in many varieties, from sorceries and instants which have one-time effects, to summoned creatures which can attack and defend from opponents. Players alternate turns playing land cards, casting spells, and attacking opponents until all but one player’s life total is reduced to 0” – Wikipedia: ‘Magic – The Gathering’
Ahhh, Wikipedia. The source of all knowledge, saviour of many an essay, thesis and dissertation. Confused? It is a little confusing, I guess. It has a pretty steep learning curve, but once you’ve got your head around it, it’s well worth the effort. At times it brings back those childhood memories of opening my new pack of Pokémon cards to see if I’ve finally found a shiny Charizard. That feeling that you got when you beat your friend’s best Pokémon and that overwhelming sense of joy in the moment that they handed it over to you. That’s what Magic is to me; it reminds me of a simpler time. A time when we still received pocket money, and there were no exams, or deadlines or work – just fun and games, and greedy corporations fleecing your parents of their hard earned wages.
Magic is beautifully designed. Clearly there are no need for sophisticated game graphics, as most of the game is based on cut scenes and incredibly detailed artwork. Really, the developers bring the world to life with the artwork through their incredibly talented designers, and that’s what makes this game so unique. Rather than creating a game world with RPG elements, like certain franchises have managed in various handheld consoles, Magic has stuck to its roots and replicated the experience point for point. The animation during the game is basic, but that’s all that is necessary – there’s no need for a massive game engine here.
In truth, people have been complaining about the choice of game for this months ‘Games with Gold’, but I personally think it’s a good idea to include odd games that are more niche than the usual mainstream titles. It gives gamers the opportunity to experience a genre of game that they wouldn’t usually try (due to the price tag) and opens them up to a new experience of gaming. Why spend your life stuck on FIFA or Call of Duty, there’s so much more out there – why not give Magic a try? It’s free, for starts, which is why it’s this month’s Pay Day Play.