|System: Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC*|
|Dev: Stainless Games|
|Pub: Wizards of the Coast|
|Release: July 16, 2014|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood, Violence, Suggestive Themes|
The storyline of you trailing a maddened Planeswalker named Garruk Wildspeaker is nothing more than brief flavor paragraphs before each battle, linked in a linear series until you reach the final battle in five different planes. You can continue collecting booster packs by "Exploring" a particular plane. Every match plays out the same, with each opponent sporting a specific strategy based on their deck configuration. Some enemies have decks filled with vampires, minotaurs, soldiers with high toughness, or they play with a specific tactics such as trying to empty your deck, large quantities of counter cards, and the like.
What's severely lacking in Magic 2015 are modes beyond the standard campaign matches and free-for-all multiplayer. There's no Sealed play, Challenges, or Archenemy single-player modes, nor Two-Headed Giant co-op or Planechase multiplayer modes from previous years. The bare-bones, minimalist approach offers little variety to test your deck building skills.
The visuals follow suit, employing the dominant white with grey accents that makes up the color swatch for this year's Core Set. Apart from the vivid artwork on the cards, the rest of game is a bland whitewash that strains the eyes more than anything. The metallic quality of the playing field is cold and lifeless, oddly breaching in the center to reveal a red core during the combat phase. Unlockable backdrops are the least that could have been offered to spice up the palette. Animations run silky smooth, though many are recycled from last year's title. As are the sound effects and music. Nearly everything in the audio department is completely pulled from Magic 2014's folder, and nothing packs a punch like what I've been treated to after hundreds of matches Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft.
Bringing Blizzard's digital CCG in as a comparison, it's hard to justify the steep cost of Magic 2015 when Hearthstone can be played completely free. The iPad version of Magic displays a free price tag, but that only gets you through the tutorial and Innistrad. Ten dollars is the minimum to open the full campaign and multiplayer, with a whopping thirty-five smackers required to complete your card collection outright. Premium booster packs can also be purchased, offering powerful cards to those willing to fork over the cash. It borders on a pay-to-win system, although smart deck builders can still take down premium card holders if they play their cards right.
When it comes to the complexity of gameplay and strategic versatility in a collectible card game, nothing comes close to Magic: The Gathering. While the digital version of the series is considered by most fans as a utility to test various deck builds and aid newcomers, it's still more than a little disappointing to see the focus aimed completely at the deck building process, while stripping away game modes we have enjoyed from past versions. Though it's still fun to battle opponents without having to fray my cards, dish out game night snacks, or use up gas to go where the in-person action is, I'll likely return to my Magic 2014 stock, and hope next year's entry provides more sustenance.
Date: July 22, 2014