Impression: Magic: Legends

It’s bad.

Syp is giving Cryptic some additional grace, but the open beta for Magic: Legends is perhaps the worst open beta for a game I have played. Sure, there are objectively worse ones out there, but the first impression missed so hard that it’s flying off into space.

What is Magic: Legends (M:L)? Once upon a time, it was supposedly going to be an MMO based in the Magic: the Gathering universe. Instead, we’re getting an isometric ARPG in the literal vein of Diablo. Which… is not the worst thing in the world. I have played all games in the Diablo franchise, along with Torchlight 1 & 2, and dabbled in Path of Exile. Do UnderMine and Children of Morta count? I don’t do any legendary-grinding in these games, but am otherwise fully onboard with the general gameplay.

At first blush, M:L looks just like those games. A lot of mouse clicking to move around and attack, some special abilities, extremely gorgeous backgrounds, and so on. I can forgive the 20 FPS given that it is beta – something is clearly not optimized – but there are two things that kills the experience.

First, there is no loot. At least, there hasn’t been after 2+ hours of play. There are artifact slots and such, so that I know these things exist somewhere, but items and gear do not drop from enemies normally. Sometimes there is gold, most times there is nothing. I do not need a full set of gear from every mob, but I have no real idea what the moment-to-moment motivation for the game is supposed to be without that dopamine hit, or chance thereof.

This is especially problematic given the second issue: the gameplay isn’t fun. Characters have three baseline abilities based on their class. All other abilities are tied to “cards” that you slot into your “deck,” like in traditional Magic. And just like in traditional Magic, what cards you draw are random. Using an ability causes it to both go on cooldown and be shuffled back into the deck and new ability replace it.

So… chew on that a minute. You are playing Diablo 3 or Path of Exile or whatever, and each time you use an ability, it disappears from your bar and is replaced by something else entirely. You are then stuck with those abilities until you use them on something else, or perhaps just cast it on the ground. Oh, and you are also limited by your mana meter, so it’s not like you can rapidly cycle through abilities either. Do that over and over, clearing an entire map, and enjoy the 500g and zero items you receive. Then go spend that currency buying booster packs of random abilities to slot into your deck. Whee!

I kinda get what devs might be going for here. Having dead abilities is a natural consequence of deck building; presumably you would want a deck with a lot of AoE cards if you’re farming, then swap out for more single-target abilities for bosses. Things might get better once you unlock more than two ability slots too. And by going straight for currency farming at the beginning, there is no bait-and-switch that happens to the average player once they hit the endgame.

At the same time, it feels like a colossal disaster in progress. Pushing buttons isn’t fun, the loot isn’t fun, and the monetization strategy isn’t fun. How much can realistically change in Open beta? If the answer isn’t “the whole damn thing” then Cryptic is in trouble.

Posted on March 31, 2021, in Impressions and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Yea that sounds like a complete nightmare. The card/ability system would be fun in a turn-based game, but not realtime. Also 20 FPS would be an instant uninstall for me in 2021. Games that dip below 60 FPS at this point better be amazing, beta or not.

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  2. Wow. Sounds awful. I can’t even imagine dealing with that ability switching. Trying to remember what all the stupid little icons even mean/do is hard enough when I have the -same- ~5 abilities on my bar and I start up a game.

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    • Yeah, it’s especially bad when the abilities shuffle between the slots. Like Raise Dead might be on button #1 the first time you press it, but may end up being on #2 by the time it cycles back in. While you can hover over the abilities to see which is which, you are basically relying on a postage-sized “icon” (really just a miniature piece of art) to even know what your abilities are. In the heat of the moment, I typically just pressed buttons and hoped for the best.

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      • Honestly, that feels like a nightmare.

        I can see what they want to do, having played MtG since about 1993. But… Yeah ouch.

        It seems like it would work so much better if there was a “Draw” point. Perhaps getting to a new screen (like PoE) or a ticking timer or something that would let you hit the button at a non-actiony time or something. It might still suck, but I’d at least try that.

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  3. > that it is beta

    An open beta is not a beta, it’s a marketing event.

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