It’s finally here. After it was first announced way back in 2017 with a few trailers, we finally have access to the open beta for the new game based on the Magic universe! And a full release is supposed to be coming pretty soon too.
So what do we know so far and what can we expect from Magic: Legends? Well, let’s dive into it.
What is Magic: Legends?
Magic: Legends is the new massive multiplayer online action RPG (or MMOARPG for “short”) set in the Magic: The Gathering multiverse. It just had its open beta for PC go live on March 23. It’s being developed by Cryptic Studios and published through Perfect World Entertainment.
The premise of the game is simple: make your own planeswalker, choose the spells that go into your library, and traverse some of the different planes of the multiverse in fun adventures while meeting other planeswalkers and iconic characters from each different world.
The Open Beta
As I mentioned before, the open beta is now free for you to download and start playing on PC. Keep in mind though that this also means that you’ll be playing an unfinished version of the game, so you’ll almost definitely run into some bugs and rough edges along the way.
For as long as the game remains in the beta stage, you’ll only be able to download it for PC, but the full game has been announced to also release for Xbox One and PS4.
In addition to trying the game before its official release, signing up for the beta either through Arc or Epic Games comes with a few gifts.
If you sign up through Arc, you’ll get the following exclusives:
- Ogre Mortar ‘Bruiser’ Skin
- Vigilante Costume
- 2x Drop Boosts
- 2x Mission Reward Boosts
With the Epic sign up you’ll get:
- Moorland Ranger Costume
- Moorland Ranger Werewolf Summon Skin
- 2x Drop Boosts
The Mind Mage
Along with these exclusives there also come some issues, given the game is still in progress. One of the biggest bumps on the road right now is performance, with a very prominent frame rate problem as soon as you start the game. The developers say they’re working on it, so hopefully this’ll stop being a real issue soon enough.
The game also feels quite empty sometimes. There isn’t much background noise and the enemies and NPCs you meet don’t seem to have a lot of variety. Add onto that the lack of voice acting for some secondary characters and overall lack of polish to the game. We’re still in beta, so it’s just a matter of waiting for now and hoping all these issues get fixed for the full official release.
With all that said, we don’t really know much about the previous alpha version. We do know that the developers have listened to the players’ complaints and suggestions which is always a good sign.
The World and Lore of Magic: Legends
According to the developers, the game will take place sometime after the Great Mending of Dominaria and before Amonkhet
’s Hour of Devastation. Since the game starts in Zendikar and the plane isn’t being violently ravaged by Eldrazi, we can easily assume it takes place after the Gatewatch defeats the titans during the battle at the Seagate.
Apart from this, the developers haven’t given out much info about the story. You start the game as a new planeswalker on a quest through various planes to stop the machinations of a mysterious evil force that lurks in the shadows.
As of now the game gives us access to four of the known planes of the Multiverse, aside from places that are introduced in the game. The worlds we’ll be stepping into are Zendikar, Innistrad, Dominaria, and the Meditation Plane. The area we can explore in each of these planes is pretty limited for now.
The first plane we visit is Zendikar. We get to explore the forests of Tazeem where we also meet Nissa Revane.
On Innistrad we explore the gothic horror of the Gavony Province, where we have to meet with the necromancer twins Geralf and Gisa Cecani.
The Dominarian regions of Shiv, Benalia and Tolaria
, are the final places we can explore. Dominaria is the plane we can explore the most which makes perfect sense given how important it’s been to Magic since the beginning. There we’ll work with some iconic characters from way back in the story like Squee and Darigaaz. Some other flavorful encounters include characters like Josu Vess, some of the Capashen family members like Danitha, and the archmage Jodah.
In the Meditation Realm, also called “Personal Realm,” you use various workstations to produce upgrades for your character.
We also have the areas that serve a more game-specific purpose. The Sanctum is the first of these locations and serves as the main hub of the game. You gain access to it after finishing the tutorial. Here you can find other players and interact with them. You can also visit The Sanctum to change your appearance, go into PvP, or sell items you have no use for.
Second and last in the list of the places introduced in the game are the Shattered Reliquaries. They’re secret dungeons that can be found throughout the game’s maps and can be cleared for rewards like equipment and artifacts.
The Magic: Legends Gameplay
The game has an isometric view in a strategy-action style. It focuses more on the action than the strategy, but it still plays into some strategic-centered ideas. Its strongest aspect is probably the way it integrates the idea of Magic cards.
From the start of the game, you have a basic attack and two skills that are always available. Beyond those, you have to build yourself a deck with various spells that will rotate in and out of your skill-list as you use them. This way you have to think quickly and always be on your feet when fighting your enemies. You only have four spells at any given time and the more stuff you have in your deck the less they repeat. This way you always have to think about how you’re going to face your next fight.
The quests are given out by various NPCs and can get pretty repetitive after a while. The most you’ll be doing is going to a specific place, killing a number of enemies, and then it’s just rinse and repeat for the most part.
I think the deck mechanic is a good countermeasure to the repetitiveness of the quests. Being forced to choose your spells carefully and then only having a limited amount available at a time makes the game a little less repetitive.
Some Criticism: Experience and Character Creation
There are still things throughout the game that feel lacking. One of the many criticisms that has been going around online is that there’s no experience bar in the game HUD. The only way to check your progress is through the character menu, which is a weird decision in any MMOARPG. Another aspect a lot of players have criticized is how long the tutorial is considering it’s not very informative for the first few hours.
One of the things I was most disappointed in was the character creator. With a universe as vast and colorful as Magic’s, being able to exclusively play a human character makes the game feel limiting in a lot of ways. I think it’s safe to say that anyone who has created a “fanwalker” in the past has at least considered making them a non-human race. Being given a game where you can make your own planeswalkers but not be able to properly personalize them is a big drawback.
Adding a few races for the players to choose from would be a step in the right direction. This feels especially noticeable when you consider that you meet characters of at least five or six other races like angels, merfolk, elves, and goblins throughout the game. This means that the basic models for the races are there and could be used as a starting point for some playable characters.
Both the gameplay mechanics and other aspects of the game aren’t bad by any means, but the rough edges feel even rougher when compared to other similar games like Path of Exile.
When compared to Baldur’s Gate 3, based on Dungeons and Dragons — which is also a Wizards’ property, the lack of attention to detail and other shortcomings when it comes to lore and worldbuilding is more noticeable. Baldur’s Gate has a bigger budget and is going to be a full priced game, though, so it’d be unfair to expect a free-to-play game like Legends to be on the same level.
Is Magic: Legends Free-to-Play?
On paper, Magic: Legends is free-to-play. However, the game is packed with microtransactions. There’s a store where you can buy booster packs and other advantages like class-related packs or boosts for your account and characters. You can only get these advantages with a monetized currency for the most part.
The problems start when you take a look at all the different currencies in the game and get an overwhelming total of 12 distinct types.
You have two bigger types to divide the game’s currencies into: “account” currencies and “planeswalker” currencies.
Account currencies are the ones you use in the game’s store to buy things like booster packs and upgrades. You can only get “unrefined aether,” for example, by completing missions. This automatically turns into “aether” that can be used in the store to buy spells and upgrades. This makes me question the point of making them two different things in the first place; there’s no other purpose for unrefined aether that we know of.
If you’re willing to throw in some money, you can buy “zen.” You can buy upgrades that are usually better than the ones you can buy with aether, plus booster packs and the premium Battlepass.
This takes us to “empyrean fragments.” These are acquired by buying and opening booster packs and can be used in their own store to buy equipment and spells related to the things that can be unlocked through the boosters. Right now this is just things related to the Dimir Assassin class, which you can only get from the empyrean fragments store.
And that’s only the account currencies.
The first and most basic of the planeswalker currencies is gold. It’s the most basic form of currency and is used to buy goods from merchants and pay for different services. You get it by killing enemies and completing missions.
Then we have “eternal echoes.” This is used to upgrade spells beyond level six. It’s focused on higher level players who want to increase their power, since you can only get it on the expert and master difficulties.
And finally, we have a total of six different “planar mana.” There’s one for each of the colors in the pie plus “chromatic mana” that can be used as mana of any color. These are used to upgrade structures and unlock spells, gear, and artifacts. These different mana currencies can be acquired through skirmishes in the different worlds.
There’s also a Battlepass which consists of a few basic rewards for each level up you get each season. There’s also a premium version which you can buy that includes the free rewards plus some exclusive things like armor skins and better boosts. And even more, there’s a “premium plus” version which gives you 15 levels when you buy it in addition to everything else.
It’s essentially the Arena Mastery Pass, but slightly more expensive.
Most of the items you can buy with zen don’t exactly put you at an advantage in relation to other players since they’re mostly aesthetic things. Some of them do push you a little bit further with spell boosts and rewards multipliers, though. This creates an imbalance between free-to-play and pay-to-play players which creates a pressure to throw at least some of your money in to keep up.
All of this has generated a lot of controversy. Players are angry at the way the game is monetized. It’s not exactly finished yet, but they already have at least three different currencies and most of the items in the store are bought with the premium, you-have-to-pay-for-it currency. A lot of people fear the game cares more about you spending money on pointless items than about being an enjoyable and memorable addition to the MTG universe.
Where To Now?
Infuriate (Strixhaven Mystical Archive) – Illustration by Benjamin Ee
We don’t really know much about the official release date for the full game. We do know it’ll be available on Xbox One and PlayStation 4, but we don’t have an open beta or any release date confirmation for either console. All we can do for now is wait and see how development moves forward.
I think the game has a bit too many issues it’s going to need to fix before it becomes an actually interesting way to explore the Magic universe.
My experience playing it has been plagued with the issues that other players have reported, from the performance issues to the repetitiveness of the missions that makes all of your actions feel pointless and empty. I admit I haven’t played more than a few hours, but if your game gets boring in the first hour or so, that might be a problem.
I also have to agree with the harsh criticisms people have been giving it when it comes to monetization. It feels like the only way to get things is by throwing your money at the game or grinding to infinity. And if missions get boring fast then there’s no way most people will actually grind for hours just for some skins and spells.
I’m a bit of an optimist with everything related to Magic, so I’m still hoping that the developers will listen to players’ complaints and solve at least some of these issues. Things like the emptiness of the world, performance issues, the poor character creator, or the length of the tutorial can easily be fixed. What I’m not so optimistic about is the pay-to-win setup and the game feeling at best, or being at worst, a huge cash grab.
I really wanted this to be a proper entry into the MTG story and universe, but it probably won’t be. We could at least get a fun game that lets us play as our own planeswalkers.
For now, though, you can check it out and decide for yourself if it’s any good.
Well, that’s all from me for now. While we wait for these issues to be resolved and the game to launch, we can still jump into some Arena matches and use Arena Tutor to give us a helping hand.
Have a good one, and I’ll see you in the next one!
Revitalize (Strixhaven Mystical Archive) | Illustration by Justin Hernandez & Alexis Hernandez