Magic: The Gathering Battlegrounds
I can't imagine many things more boring than a straight-up Xbox version of the Magic: The Gathering card game. Luckily, that's not what Battlegrounds is. Instead, it's a real-time RPG that features all the creatures and spells found in the superpopular card game. And I guess my luck ran out: Instead of being boring, it's totally unbalanced and infuriating. It's not so bad when tackling a human opponent, since both of you will have to deal with the game's tragic interface problems. But single player? Forget it. While you fiddle around with unwieldy creature and magic menus, wander your area looking for mana crystals, and deal with laggy battle controls, your CPU opponents work with the reflexes of a god. They never miss a beat and often overwhelm you--even on the easiest levels. It pushes the whole singleplayer mode way beyond frustrating and ultimately killed the game for me. So, if you're a Magic nut, you'll probably dig this game despite the ridiculous difficulty. But casual fans (or curious RPGers) should just pass it by and invest in a couple starter decks or something instead.
Half the fun of Magic is devising your own strategy and then testing it against an astute adversary. Battlegrounds ignores this crucial element of the card game's appeal. Nearly every match in the single-player campaign makes you cast your most recently learned spell to achieve some gimmicky victory condition (attack with a certain creature, survive for one minute while hopelessly overmatched, etc.). Even in Versus mode (local or Live), constructing your own deck is cumbersome, and you must unlock spells in Campaign mode first. Weak sauce.
Want to know what a spell of Eternal Dumbness does? It inspires developers to turn a well-loved, strategic card game into a twitchy mess that sends tactics on permanent vacation. Here, Magic is about who can collect power-ups and hurl spells the quickest. In single-player mode, the game is a joke, requiring players to play out a scenario in the one specific way the developers mapped out or face defeat ad nauseam. Where's the creativity? Gone. Where's the magic? MIA.
Download Magic: The Gathering Battlegrounds
Based on the popular card game, Magic: The Gathering Battlegrounds is an attempt to capture the essence of that card game and transfer it to a video game. Although these attempts often run into difficulties either living up to high expectations or running into serious gameplay issues, Atari has found a way to achieve a certain amount of success by combining two distinct genres. Usually this is a reason to run the other way but in this instance, qualities of a fighting and RTS style of game have been combined into a decent game.
Magic: The Gathering Battlegrounds is a fighting game where you'll summon creatures and cast spells in addition to being able to physically strike your enemy. The game flows by the spell meter slowly filling, allowing you to cast spells or summon creatures. The creatures are where the RTS element comes into play as they cost a specific amount of the spell meter and will attack other summoned creatures and the enemy until they are destroyed. They can only attack one time however and then re-spawn on your side of the battlefield to attack again. When they're destroyed, crystals are left behind that increase your spell meter which helps keep the game moving instead of waiting constantly on the spell meter to fill on its own. The game requires a number of different strategies to be implemented if you have any hope of being successful and is surprisingly challenging to play.
The graphics and audio are far from spectacular but the strategy element is strong enough to keep it from becoming too much of an issue. It would have been nice to see more detail and diverse settings but generally there was enough going on that you won't focus on the graphical quality much anyway. The audio is in the same boat as more could have been done but it isn't the heart of the game either.
Magic: The Gathering Battlegrounds is a rare game that stretches outside the bounds of established genres and doesn't end up either fighting itself or becoming too watered down. Although it's far from cutting edge graphically, it puts together a balanced gameplay that fans of the card game should enjoy.
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