Developer: Wizards of the Coast
Price: FREE
Version Reviewed: 1.0.1
App Reviewed on: iPad 2

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★☆
Playtime Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★★☆

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

Another year, another updated iteration of Magic: The Gathering’s digital form. Fans of Wizards of the Coast’s long-standing, collectible card game juggernaut know exactly what they’re getting into here. But does Magic 2015 serve as a good introduction for new players into what can be a rather daunting new world? Well, it’s kind of a yes and no at the same time.

Magic 2015

As someone who already has a fair bit of past history with the game, I still felt the need to trudge my way through the tutorial in order to see how well it presents the game to newbies and, for the most part, I wasn’t disappointed. The tutorial is relatively in-depth, with a fully-voiced narrator guiding new players step-by-step through the basics of the game, though I do feel that it may have dragged on for a bit too long and that some of these lessons could have been combined or condensed. However, that could well have just been my urge to get through the stuff I already knew and into the meat of Magic 2015 proper.

But once I arrived there, the trip was relatively short indeed, ending with a head-first collision with a ten buck paywall after completing the first set of challenges. And while I understand that this is just a tablet version of the same full game releasing on Steam later this week, it still leaves a bitter taste in my mouth when I see a glorified demo marketed in a free-to-play wrapper.

Magic 2015

Beyond these pseudo-demo issues, the only other real beef I have with Magic 2015 is that it suffers from interminable loading times. Combined with the already measured and methodical pace of the game (with timers marking off each segment of each player’s turn making it creep along even more) it can make the whole affair drag on in a way I don’t recall the PC version of past iterations in this series having done. It’s all well and good for those idly playing the game in the background while watching tv or the like (something CCGs like this and Hearthstone are great for), but it’s going to prove difficult for some to devote their full attention to, simply because the load times downshift the overall pace to near-glacial speeds.

The changes from last year (and the year before) amount to little more than the usual – a new selection of cards and a redone user interface – but I seriously doubt any existing fans came in expecting major changes or innovation. That’s not what the Magic: The Gathering experience is or ever has been, really. The changes have always been in the form of new cards and, with them, new deck building options. The old guard know this and have likely already dropped a Hamilton to unlock the full version, but for the others who may be new to the franchise, hoping the big, inviting “FREE” pricetag means they actually have the possibility to keep soldiering through the game if they’re willing to put in a bit of drudge work? Well, I may have some bad news…

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