June 18 2009

Magic The Gathering Comes To The Xbox 360

magic: the gatheringMagic: the Gathering has come to the Xbox 360… my life may be over.

For those unfamiliar with the game, Magic: the Gathering was a customizable card game that was introduced in 1993  The basic concept was that you and another wizard did battle with cards that represented creatures and spells.  Each player had 20 life points and the goal was to drain your opponent of all 20 points by various means.  This is a highly simplified explanation of the game, but you get the basic idea.

I started playing the game in early 1994, and I was instantly hooked.  The ability to customize the decks, to build theme with themes (speed… land destruction… defense… etc) was intoxicating.  You would tweak your deck and test it… tweak… test… tweak… test and then head off to a tournament to see how you stood up against others.  You could get national rankings even, and it became an all encompassing past time.

My retail store was one of the first in the country to get the idea to sell the cards individually, and that turned into a new insanity all in itself.  Cards could sell for anywhere from a few pennies up to a could hundred dollars depending on the rarity and power, but during the height of the craze we could barely keep the three ring binders stocked, and I was one of my own worst customers.

kird apeI quit playing in 1996 as Wizards of the Coast, the company behind the game, started giving in to the whiniest of players and changing numerous rules that just made the game maddening.  As soon as you got used to a new rule, it would get changed, and keeping up with the constant changes was driving me insane.  The worst change was that they changed tournament structure to where you couldn’t use the oldest cards any more because players had been priced out of the market.  The original concept, as told to me personally by the president of the company, was that they enisioned a day where someone would play with a 15-year-old card and people would be all amazed by it and not know what it was… that theory lasted 3 years before players whined the concept out of existance.

Well, even with a 13 year abscence, I still think back to the height of the game with fondness, and I do miss it at times.  Well, someone decided it might be a good idea to put the game on Xbox 360 as a downloadable game.  Priced at only $10, how could I not give it a try?

While the game captures some of the old… well… magic of the game, I am not thrilled with the decks being locked in their construction and limited to only one color (the magic is divided in to five colors – black, blue, green, red and white – with each color having a ‘theme’ to what it does), and I was a heavy, heavy two color player back in my day (red/green was my choice, speed plus powerful spells).  You can unlock more cards by winning games, but even that is limited to only 17 cards at this time.

Wizards of the Coast has said they have not yet decided if they will release more cards for the game, since there are over 10,000 cards in the physical game now they have no lack of cards to draw from, but no word yet on the Xbox version.  I am hoping they do expand it, because even though I am not 100% happy with it, it is one easy way for me to revisit an old addiction withough breaking the bank or dealing with rules changing every five seconds.

In short, is it perfect?  No.  Is it still worth the purchase?  Yes!

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